When you study other countries, one of the things you learn about is their culture. When you visit a museum, one of the ways you discover their history is through works of art. Listening to the music made by a particular group gives us insight into their world. Their stories and dramatics provide us with tangible language and fables from a time or place inaccessible any other way. These things are important. They leave a lasting legacy for those who come after us. The arts mirror the things a society values, reflecting a unique vision that defines us as a group. They give us an opportunity to learn in ways that textbooks and lectures cannot.

With schools being forced to downsize arts programs in favor of improving testing scores and because of draconian budget cuts, something has to fill that void. A community arts center can be the answer. You don’t realize all the different skills one can learn from a place like this.

For example, anyone can help us build sets. Students learn practical math and measurement skills in addition to assembly and teambuilding lessons. They may have to do research in order to create the appropriate set if we are doing a period production, or use problem-solving skills to figure out the best design. If it is a musical, it is another good way for students to learn math. Music is complex and involves lots of timing and fractions, and things like singing or dancing provide a tangible way for students to learn. And through arts programs like painting and sculpture, they can learn about different time periods, color theory, and various design techniques. Using their creativity can help students develop focus, empathy, confidence, and fine motor skills. Plus, all of these things provide an outlet for their creativity, a space place for them to express themselves and feel valued.

Another great benefit to a community arts center is that it is a place for anyone in the community to come and belong. As opposed to a faith-based approach or political orientation of some other community organizations, we accept all members of the community. We run different programs, some which are age specific and others that welcome all members of the community. The idea is to provide a welcoming place for everyone and bring the community together. And our productions include anyone who wants to be involved. Here at our center, we also support local businesses by having them sponsor different events or provide food/drink services. This brings the art and business community together under one roof, which we have found to be mutually beneficial.

In other words, community centers celebrate arts and culture, unite people together, provide entertainment and education, and can give people an outlet for their creativity.