The Impact of the Arts: Donna Collins and Panel Offer Insight
Fridays at Findlay, the breakfast lecture series at University of Findlay that encourages educational opportunities for community members and professionals alike, returned for the season on October 25th with Donna Collins, Ohio Arts Council’s Executive Director, and a panel of arts-minded individuals who are passionate about the impact and influence that the arts have.
The presentation, titled, “The Arts: Their Impact on the Brain, Heart, and Bottom Line,” widely extolled the virtues of the arts and their many benefits. Collins told a story about a senior center, where a man had been living for ten years while not uttering a single word. “He had nothing left,” Collins said. “The staff were saying, ‘he’s probably going to die anytime now.’” That day, however, there was a musician playing and a woman singing. Collins described how the man lifted his head and began to “speak,” singing words from the song. “Nothing else had moved him for ten years,” Collins said. “That’s the kind impact the arts can have.”
Panel member, Sarah Crisp, Founding Executive Director of Awakening Minds, a non-profit in Findlay that exists to “provide therapeutic, educational and developmental programs to all ages and abilities,” echoed the thoughts of Collins, saying that the arts and, specifically, music can literally help to bridge the gap of understanding in certain situations. “Many residents can understand something far better if you sing to them,” she said. “What we see is that it literally awakens the mind.”
Collins mentioned several statistics that support the science behind the impact of the arts on the brain and the heart. She explained that scientists tell us the arts have a profound influence on the developing brain, and more specifically, the pre-frontal cortex that is responsible for higher order thinking and motor skills. The arts help students of all ages, she said, to draw conclusions and comparisons, to form constructive criticisms, and to analyze alternative viewpoints. The arts improve physical health by helping to release stress, strengthen mental capacities, and boost the immune system. Art therapy is used to assist in treating a wide range of Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, traumatic injuries, and chemical dependencies.
The bottom line, Collins explained, by referring to a study done by Bowling Green State University and commissioned by Ohio Citizens for the Arts and the OAC, is that 41.4 billion dollars are brought by the arts to Ohio’s economy; that nearly 290,000 jobs are created in Ohio, and that $1.57 billion in state and local taxes and $3.05 billion in federal revenue is generated by the arts.
With the positive impact that the arts bring to the table, Collins suggested that we should be talking about them much more often, and that they should form a part of every students’ education. The fact that the arts are a part of everyday life for nearly everyone without many people realizing it, said panel member, Ron Tulley, Ph.D., Dean of UF’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, supports Collins’ suggestion. Tulley said that the arts are more or less imbedded into every person’s life experience in some fashion, and that, while the economic impact has been clearly defined, we’re really just beginning to see and understand the scientific data that supports the myriad of cognitive benefits that they have.
Another advantage, according to panel member Heather Clow, Executive Director at Marathon Center for the Performing Arts, is that the arts can provide a sense of belonging for those, young and old, in need of it. “It’s the community that the arts create,” she said, “that shared experience that is extremely important.”
The session wrapped up with some questions from the audience, most of which touching specifically on students and how the arts can and should be incorporated into curriculums and home life away from school. It was reiterated that, while the arts can help to move along and improve a student’s education, they can also be of great help if a student has lost their way for whatever reason. “Everything you do to function,” Crisp said, “that’s your brain and heart. When you lose that ability, the arts can help.”
The Fridays at Findlay lecture series continues on November 22nd, with Jerry Blevins, a local product who is a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.