The Norman Transcript

August 9, 2013

Arts foster well-rounded individuals; communities

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Art museums, art galleries, arts education programs, community theater, live performances, festivals, public art: It doesn’t take long looking around Norman to see that this community supports the arts.

With year-round activities, this “City of Festivals” takes the arts pretty seriously. Because Norman fosters the arts, Norman fosters community.

And that’s no accident. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, “arts participation and civic engagement are measurably linked, with arts attendees and literary readers more than twice as likely as others to play sports and attend sports events, do exercise and outdoor activities, and volunteer in their communities.”

This month’s events — like the unveiling of Norman Public Arts Board’s bike racks, Firehouse Art Center’s Midsummer Nights’ Fair, Cleveland County Free Fair and a plethora of exhibits and programs at MAINSITE Contemporary Art: Home of the Norman Arts Council, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Sam Noble Museum, Norman Depot, Riverwind Casino and more — ensure that Norman is a vibrant, healthy community where residents take care of each other.

Former NEA chairman Dana Gioia wisely said, “something happens when an individual actively engages in the arts — be it reading a novel at home, attending a concert at a local church, or seeing a dance company perform at a college campus — that awakens both a heightened sense of identity and civic awareness.”

Though it’s something many of us know instinctively, research proves that the arts are irreplaceable in fostering well-rounded individuals and communities.

Unfortunately, NEA research indicates young adults are becoming less involved in the arts. Correlated statistics find that there are also declines in young adult literacy, participation in sports and physical activity, and volunteerism.

On a surface level, participation in the arts — no matter your age — encourages creativity, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, self-confidence and a whole slew of other qualities.

But the arts go a step further. Artistic engagement calls us to ask questions, to think and to act, to connect with others. Arts inspire activism.

According to Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau approximately 60,000 were in attendance at this year’s Norman Music Festival. Paired with the Fred Jones’ annual 50,000 guests, Sooner Theatre’s 14,373 audience members for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Sam Noble’s annual attendance of over 155,000 and 366,000 at the 2013 Medieval Fair, Norman is a shining example of arts participation. But there is always room to improve.

Support the arts and you also support the individual. Support the arts and you support a community. With the summer wrapping up and the fall rapidly approaching, many arts opportunities abound. Do your part to enrich our community: Grab a friend and participate in the arts. You’ll be better for it, and the rest of us will, too.

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Have any suggestions for us? Comments? Praises? Give me a shout out at hcruz@normantranscript.com. I’d love to hear from you.