My home is full of original artwork, signed by the artist, beautifully framed and prominently displayed. I’m no art connoisseur, but I think the pieces are marvelous. So does my daughter, who is the artistic director of our home and the artist of most of the pieces in our exhibit.
While our exhibit resides in our home, it’s certainly not the only one in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge is practically bursting at the seams with artistic outlets. With an endless amount of musical and theatre performances going on around town, opportunities to be a part of art exhibits, and dance companies everywhere, it’s no surprise that Baton Rouge is an artistic place to raise a child.
What’s the Big Deal?
There is a wealth of data indicating that involvement in the arts leads to a variety of benefits. Molly Buchmann with Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre, shares, “Art helps kids find out who they are, not who we want them to be. Art improves children’s abilities to problem solve and create. It helps children develop self-confidence by showing children the value in art and in themselves. Art brings happiness, and for some, it changes their lives. The arts put us in touch with our humanity.”
Children who participate in the arts develop and use cognitive and emotional skills simultaneously. The physical actions of the arts can aid in both fine and gross motor development and coordination.
Katie Goodlife, owner of Throw Me Something, a local art and pottery studio, shares, “For many kids, art is the only way they are able to express their feelings.” For children who are introverted, art gives them an opportunity to really let their feelings out. Art is so important for some children that child therapist Tara Dixon of Heal Your Life Counseling uses art therapy with her young clients. “Art therapy helps children connect with and express feelings they may otherwise keep inside.”
Where Do I Begin?
With so many opportunities to participate in the arts in Baton Rouge, how can you help your children choose what works best for them? Doug Gay at The Real School of Music suggests starting with other parents. “Starting in a place with people you personally know and trust, who are raving about it, is the best way to begin.” He continues, “I also recommend contacting the arts learning centers and getting a feel for everything from how they answer the phone to how they describe their programs. Listen for the passion in their voice.”
Buchmann points out, “Different arts can build different skills. In performance art, like dancing or playing in an orchestra for a performance, children build skills for teamwork, dependability, and looking at both small details and the larger picture. With arts such as painting or sculpting, students will learn perseverance, diligence, and an eye for detail. All art lends itself to symbolism and evoke emotion.”
What Do the Kids Think?
For most children, participating in the arts allows them to express themselves, giving them an opportunity to learn new things and meet new people.
Jessica Wilson, who has been heavily involved in the arts since she was a small child shares, “Having been involved with the arts for most of my life, they shaped me into the person I am today. Piano lessons and singing in choir helped to foster my passion for music, which I turn to in any special occasion or any mood. Acting classes and performing on stage instilled a confidence in me that I don’t know I would have gained anywhere else. As an adult, most of my friendships have been made through the theater. The arts have given me everything, and I will be eternally grateful.”
Encouraging children to have the arts be a part of their lives is important. It allows them to tap into their creative side. Local mom Bridgit Didier comments, “Lola is a naturally creative soul. It is in her DNA from her dad, not me whatsoever. We learned early on how important it was to not only allow Lola to be creative, but to also nurture it. We have tried to put Lola in situations and environments that give her access to arts, whether it be at school, local camps, or community activities. Giving her access to creativity feeds her soul.”
Want to Try Before You Buy?
Several artistic outlets in Baton Rouge offer a try-before-you-buy approach. If your budding artist is interested in dance classes, reach out to The Dancer’s Workshop for a sample class. If music is more his jam, call The Real School of Music, whose mission is to empower children through music.
One of our family’s favorite pastimes is strolling through the LSU Museum of Art on Free First Sunday and talking to our kids about what they see. While I am no artist, I can still ask questions like: “How does this painting make you feel?” “What is your favorite piece of art in this gallery?” “If you had to live inside one of these paintings, which would you choose?” “If we could take one of these sculptures home, which would you choose? Why?”
From this, we learned that our oldest wanted to take oil pastels class and the little one wanted to try a mommy and me painting class. Whatever you decide to let your child try, be sure to focus not on the actual piece that they have created or participated in, but the passion and creativity that fueled their creation and production. ■