How can the arts improve the quality of life?
by Mary Wright, Program Director, Workforce Readiness Initiative, The Conference Board
How can the arts improve the quality of life? That was the underlying theme during all of the presentations at last month’s interagency conference---The Arts and Human Development: Learning Across the Lifespan. It was interesting to hear so many people engaged around envisioning the arts as something beyond experiencing or creating something beautiful, such as painting or music, but rather as something that can be used as a tool to more effectively deliver health care, education, or social services. And, how the integration of arts leads to better outcomes; there were examples of improved early learning, higher educational achievement, increased teacher and parent engagement, enlivened elderly, better citizens, and enhanced business performance. As a co-author of Ready to Innovate (www.conference-board.org) I was pleased to have been invited to share the results of our work, which outlined that although business values creative employees and often does seek them out, there is not a uniform way to recruit these folks nor do businesses uniformly offer training or experiences that might encourage/enhance creativity. I am heartened to see the renewed interest in the topic. Maybe this indicates that business is moving beyond its focus on survival and can now look for new and innovative ways to improve and expand their business. It is also encouraging to see the collaborative efforts occurring in communities to include arts as an integral part of programming to improve outcomes. It is also great to see the beginning of a partnership between federal agencies to see how each other’s expertise can be used to enhance both department’s operations.