Does art really make you smarter? Yes, according to a recent opinion piece from the New York Times. In 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, AK, an area where many children had little or no exposure to the arts. Local schools immediately signed up to take advantage of the museum’s free field trip program; the demand for these trips soon outweighed what the museum could reasonably provide. J.P. Greene, Brian Kisida, and Daniel H. Bowen of the University of Arkansas wanted to know whether these field trips were really of any benefit to the students, so they worked with the museum to arrange tours by random lottery in order to study the difference between students who did visit the museum (the “treatment” group) and students who did not (the “control” group). The results were a strong endorsement of arts education.
After just one trip to the museum, students in the treatment group scored higher in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and interest in art museums compared to their peers in the control group. These differences were especially pronounced in students from rural or high-poverty schools; these students showed “gains that are two to three times larger than those of the total sample” according to the Education Next article. At a time when arts programs and field trips are being cut from school district budgets, this research demonstrates the vital impact that the arts can have on developing young minds.
At Arts to Grow, we believe firmly in providing deep, meaningful engagement with the arts to less-advantaged children so that they may develop an enduring love of learning and become future leaders in their communities. Please join us in bringing arts programs to more children in 2014.