A hands-on occasion

Published 1:40 pm Monday, September 26, 2016

On Saturday, the doors to Arts of the Pamlico’s Turnage Theatre would swing open and closed to a constant beat. Entering and exiting were people of all ages, from 3-year-olds to those well into their elder years. All these visitors were there for one reason: to experience art.

This was the inaugural Hands-On Art fall festival. The turnout was phenomenal. What was also phenomenal was the fascination, expressed clearly by those who were watching art being created before their eyes. That fascination grew as artists coached younger participants taking a turn at the potter’s wheel or with a paintbrush.

It was truly a hands-on experience.

The connection between art and education has been documented clearly. Children who have access to the arts have better academic outcomes, higher career goals and are more civically engaged no matter their socioeconomic background, according to research by the National Endowment for the Arts. Taken from four datasets — three of which are maintained by the U.S. Department of Education; the other by the U.S. Department of Labor — the impact of arts on youth is staggering. For example, 71 percent of all eighth-grade students plan to earn a bachelor’s degree, but that number jumps to 74 percent for at-risk eighth-graders who have had high exposure to the arts. It drops to 43 percent for at-risk youth with low arts exposure. At-risk students with access to arts in high school are three times more likely to actually earn that degree than those who don’t.

Since 1982, the NEA has been tracking the arts. One of the most disturbing statistics is that between 2002 and 2012, attendance of performing arts events, as well as museums and galleries, has declined significantly. The number of people who read literature has also dropped, according to the NEA. Those who live in rural areas are less likely to attend arts events, most likely because of access to event venues, but the percentage of people creating art doesn’t change, regardless of whether a person lives in the city or the country.

Residents of Beaufort County are fortunate, in not only having accessible arts venues, but in that Arts of the Pamlico is working to engage people in the arts with events like the Hands-On Art festival. Engaging them early could lead to a lifelong appreciation of the arts and passing the mantle to a future generation of art lovers.

Art needs a future generation. Arts of the Pamlico’s hands-on efforts to instill that love should be applauded.