Youth Shares Own Experience Growing Up in the Arts

Hello My name is Sharon Espana-Montes (Vianney) and I am a tenth grader at City Neighbors High School and a member of the Bmore Youth Art Advocacy Council. As a member with seven more students we are creating an advocacy campaign to meet with state and local leaders under the supervision of our educator Miss Sheena Morrison of Arts Every Day. We engage with each other as activists who share our experiences in the arts at our schools. Below is my own story experiencing an issue growing up in the arts:

I have always been passionate about visual arts, I would say since I was in my mom’s belly. Here in the United States as well as in Mexico the word “ Art “ is associated with a hobby or something for pre-k kids. But art means something more for me. My artistic life began when I was a little kid. I always felt bashful when it came to socializing and found ways to communicate my feelings in my art. If I was happy I would draw a princess or if I was anxious I would draw people harming themselves.Now that I am older I realize that I expressed myself  through my  drawings because I was afraid to speak about my feelings. I tried to enter the art world by myself, but stereotypes about the arts like “ being ridiculous or lazy because I wanted to study a career that was so easy” and people much older than me stopped me from trying. I was a little girl without support.

When I started middle school and high school my priority had to shift to my academic classes, for example algebra, government or English.Those are the courses that adults considered more important. A  phrase that I always hear when it comes to a career in the arts is, “ Don’t  choose an art career because it won’t bring you money, or that’s ridiculous.” Some members of my family say that I must choose a career in a field where I can make money, for example as a lawyer or a doctor. Then I would be well positioned financially and not have to worry about how I will take care of myself and my family or buy a home or car. 

I would not be happy choosing a career just for the money. Studies show creativity is the number one skill that employers look for in workers. I would rather put my effort into something that I love.  I want to be a space engineer and use my creativity to contribute to new ideas in space travel and technology. There are a variety of things that we can learn through the arts.Studies show that  the arts can help boost academic learning in fun and surprising ways. Art can be applied to any topic at any school and also to our daily lives.  They help build executive functions like memory and self-control and the arts help us to heal mentally and physically too.

Knowing that these things are true, now we have to find ways that help parents, teachers, counselors and other decision-makers to understand this too. I thought that here in the United States I could have the opportunity to receive art classes as one of the important core subjects but that did not happen. Fortunately, because of the impact of the pandemic and available technology, students can receive art instruction through online class without asking teachers or parents. I still have an interest in the arts. And as a student I believe that I  have the right  to learn and practice the arts in a positive environment where everyone understands and acts on the knowledge that I am engaging in valuable and important work.

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