The truth is I don’t spend a lot of time around children. I don’t have any of my own and maybe I will some day, but children are not part of my every day world. But, I know that there are lots of children and younger people involved in the local arts scene, especially in the theatre world. And I know that there are greater numbers of them you and I don’t even know about. They are sketching during class when they should be paying attention to their teachers just because they must create. They’re also spending their free time painting or writing poetry or practicing that dance step they just have to get right. It takes the right mixture of adults in the lives of children to develop those interests.
When I was in third grade, we were tasked with writing a little story in our language arts class. Although the memory of being in third grade grows very dim at this point in my life, I remember the feeling of exhilaration that came when my teacher, Mrs. Marble, told me that my three page mystery was so well-done and interesting that she was going to have it printed for the entire school to read. Although not professionally at that time, it was the first time anything I wrote was published for people to read. And, I can say with certainty that I caught the writing bug then and that early. It also helped immensely that my parents and family encouraged my writing hobby and anything creatively that I wanted to try.
I was having a late lunch and coffee with a friend of mine this week at Chester Creek Cafe when the subject of children in theatre and the arts came up between us. Sometimes, as an editor, I get comfortable with the things I know well enough and it takes someone outside my immediate orbit to turn me on to new ideas. When the pitch came for me to include some profiles or content about young people in the local arts scene, the first thing that came out of my mouth was that it was not on my radar. But, as I began to listen and participate in the “pitch” I was hearing and exploring with my friend, the more I found myself realizing that not only is the subject of children in the arts on my radar, it is a part of my value system.
The people who are reading this probably have no conflict about encouraging the arts as a legitimate career path for their talented children. But, the unfortunate truth is that, often, in our American culture, an interest in artistic things in our children is regarded as more a pastime, hobby, or something cute they like to engage in otherwise. And, then, as they grow, these wonderfully talented children are pressed to pursue careers outside of their innate talents and interests that are considered “serious” or economically traditional. Isn’t that how the American Dream defines how we should track our life–on that linear scale?
I’ve met too many people who work in cubicles churning out mountains of paperwork who have incredible artistic talent they have either relegated to now-and-again dabbling or, woefully, have forgotten about it altogether until I ask them about it and their eyes sparkle in memory of what they loved to do before the expectations of what a proper career should be stripped them of pursuing the arts as a real career.
It’s important for parents to look at the innate artistic talents of their children and to develop those talents with professional training. And, it is time to assert and assign real value to the idea that those talents can and should be encouraged and developed into legitimate careers. There are too many frustrated painters, singers, dancers, and actors out there.
Duluth has wonderful opportunities for children and young people to develop their artistic talents. With a constellation of dance, theatre, and voice training options, we should be confident in raising and developing a generation that feels assured enough in their talents and in our appreciation and valuing of those talents to go out into the world and put all they have into pursuing an artistic career that is just as legitimate as pursuing a career in finance, law, medicine, or any of the other professions.
The real message here to parents is that the hobby or interesting talent your child has today could be the most fulfilling and self-actualizing life they will ever get the chance to live. And isn’t that what every parent desires?