Art Education: The Foundation of a Successful Workforce

Phoenix Community Alliance’s Creative City Symposium

How does an education in the arts play a role in a structured workforce? This is a topic that a Phoenix Community Alliance panel of educational professionals brought to the forefront during this year’s Creative City Symposium, Thursday night November 7th, 2019 at the Kimpton Palomar Hotel. 

Mayor Kate Gallego marked the day Creative City Symposium Day. The Mayor was quoted saying, “It’s such an exciting time in our city.” Gallego continued, “we want to invest in the city of the future…arts and culture and higher education are at the top of the conversation.” With such a developing and vibrant urban core, Mayor Gallego is looking to bring more options to the city. Her hope is to grow and invest in our downtown and our community while building up this great city in partnership with Phoenix Community Alliance.

At the event, we explored the kinds of advantages that young people accrue when they are exposed to an education in the arts and how Phoenix would benefit from building a more creative workforce. Panelists recognized the myriad of ways that an arts education and creative styles of learning have come to play a central role in emerging economies in the 21st century. 

Moderated by Head of School at the Arizona School for the Arts and High Rising Schools Education Committee member, Leah Fregulia led the panelists through a conversation exploring the link between a student’s educational foundation in the arts and the benefits it has to integrate those skills in a modern workforce.

How Arizonans Link Arts to Education

Many people think that if their kids get an arts degree, that they are going to be a struggling artist. Although this may be your first conclusion, flip this topic on its head and realize how an education in the arts can lead to solutions in a scientific and structured world. Being around people that are highly creative helps in a current workforce.

At the symposium, a few statistics were analyzed regarding Arizona’s attachment to arts education and arts in our workplaces. 80% of Arizonans believe that arts help students perform better academically. 72% of today’s CEOs globally believe that the number one industry skill of what they are looking for in the workplace is creativity. 

The esteemed panelists invited to speak were chosen based on the creativity they use in the workplace and how their work could not be done without it.. 

Art as a Collaborative Enterprise

Founding Director for the Center for Science and Imagination at ASU, Ed Finn, is focused on creating more inspiration and inclusive visions of the future. The first step in creating a sense of responsibility for the future is to unlock creativity. “You have to give people a sense of empowerment and the tools to imagine a world that they really want to live in,” Finn said. “By cultivating creative skills you give people permission to be more imaginative,” Finn continued.

Acknowledging that creativity and problem-solving are the foundation of everyday life skills for students can lead to a higher economic impact for future employers where the investment will pay off. 

Students involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and more likely to go to college. By having a background in arts education, students tend to have more empathy with a project. A diverse team leads to a productive team, and an arts education is first to include diversity.

The Future of Arts Education in Schools

With the focus changing away from the arts in traditional schools, we run the risk of losing art programs with the development of technology in today’s society. 

Arnold Levin, Strategy Director for Gensler, mentioned, “Business organizations see creativity as the most important traits that they look for in employees – but art programs in schools are being diminished.” 

This is a dangerous slope for the future of our educated workforce and you “…shouldn’t have to go to a specialized school to get that kind of creative environment,” Levin continued. There is an importance to creativity in problem-solving and we all know you can’t outsource creativity.

Opportunities are being missed for students in today’s world due to the preponderance of technology-focused organizations in larger cities. This is similar to Phoenix, where parents who come from data-driven enterprises don’t see the value of art, therefore, art programs get eliminated.

Universities and corporations know what economic research demonstrates: that art now plays a central role in fostering powerful economic gains and promoting social progress in a thriving city. 

When referring to business needs, Levin said, “There is a desire and need for creativity in terms of problem-solving that is lost when you don’t have an education that gives you that mindset and framework.”

How the Arts are Incorporated in Health Sciences

Executive Director of Corporate & Community Relations of the UofA Health Sciences, Allison Otu, brought to light the need for creativity in a health sciences educational platform. 

To figure out complex problems, you must foster creativity to be a leader and this relates to all areas of focus. Otu said we must “…encourage our children to fail and learn and use that creativity next time” in order for them to possess the leadership skills to process quickly and execute in the workforce. “Creativity is so important to leaders and leadership so it is important for our kiddos to be able to have the opportunity to learn and experience at an early age,” Otu finished.

Throughout the UofA biomedical campuses, arts and humanities are wrapped into the curriculum. The arts-integrated “…curriculum is used to help medical students sharpen their skills with observation and description to foster critical thinking and improve communication skills,” Otu said. Students are taught to use the arts to hone their observation skills in the field in order to diagnosis a patient when medical equipment isn’t available, like looking at a work of art. 

Arts Playing a Role  in the Future Job Market

As parents or educators, we have no understanding as to what the job market will be like in the future for today’s students. It’s possible that jobs available in 30 years haven’t even been invented yet.  Imagination and creativity are the backbones of resilience, giving us the ability to adapt to the disruption of the economy while training future students with fundamental creative life skills.

The fusion of the arts and the sciences overcomes barriers, allowing us to connect with others. In today’s world, education in the arts can fulfill our current need for creativity in the digital realm. Developing digital online spaces that are friendly and encompassing is a need for our society. Forging a design background with a digital platform may be the birth of students that will lead the charge and become digital designers, digital urban planners, and digital urban-friendly architects. 

Phoenix Community Alliance has invested in the success of students in Downtown Phoenix through founding High Rising Schools of Phoenix. As a community of schools in Downtown Phoenix, High Rising Schools of Phoenix has some of the most incredible learning institutions in the nation. 

Each of our schools meets the highest standards of safety and have thorough academic programs that set students up for success. Ranging from teaching a traditional curriculum to education specified in technology to the arts, High Rising Schools of Phoenix soar to success with the teachers and students that make up these wonderful institutions.

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