Why art is good for you

I want to start by saying that I do have some credibility when it comes to this topic. My entire life has been centered around the arts. Visual arts, performing arts, you name it, I have art-ed it. I began dancing when I was 5, acting when I was 7 and have been drawing and painting since I could hold a pencil. Naturally, like anything else you have been exposed to your whole life, art has shaped who I am today.

Visual art has taught me how to make something my own. If I’m given a blank slate, it’s up to me to create something out of nothing. A piece of paper is a piece of paper, but with the correct materials, it can be anything. This is a lesson I’ve carried with me. If I don’t like the piece of paper I’ve been handed, art has taught me that it is always within my power to make that paper my own. Whether it has to do with friends, or classes, or my grades, being an artist has shown me that I have the power over my life.

Dancing has taught me how to breathe and to appreciate small moments. Just a replacing a pointed toe with a flexed one can change so much about a piece. It can make the dance more cutting-edge, more mysterious; it can confuse the audience or intrigue them. In dance, the small changes are what matter the most in order to affect the overall style and emotion the piece is trying to convey. It’s the transitions and the technique that can make or break a dance. It’s the little things that create the whole person.

Theater has taught me how to make the most out of any situation, in a similar way to the visual arts. When you’re on the stage and delivering your lines, you feel an overwhelming sense of vulnerability and pressure. The outcome of a show—whether it’s amazing or horrible—all of a sudden is left in your hands, in what you have to say. But then you feel the thrill of hundreds of sets of eyes waiting for your every move and you forget about the pressure and all you can think about is giving this moment your all. Just like with visual art, you have the power and you choose what you’re going to do with it. I have also been through the situation that every actor cringes at the thought of. Having your co-actor forget their lines. I remember the three times this has ever happened to me with perfect clarity. In those moments, I doubted myself each time and stood there, frozen for a second, a smile painted on my face. What to do. Do I let us—both my co-actor and myself—both stand there, looking like idiots, or do I scramble for a cover up? The obvious answer is a cover up. Save the show, save a friend some embarrassment. So all three times, that’s what I’ve done. I have stood there, in the heat and the stress of the moment, and I have thought to three lines ahead and two lines back, and I have delivered a line in order to give a hint, or just to continue the scene. 

In the real world, life isn’t always a gentleman. Sometimes it will throw unexpected situations at you, and laugh and take bets on how you will end up back on your feet. I don’t think that it is up to fate or a higher power whether or not you will make the most out of sticky situations. It’s up to you, and what you have been trained to do your entire life. My entire life, I have been given blank slates and tricky scenarios and have been asked what to do. Art has helped prepare me for the real world in ways that just can’t be put into words. Art is my identity. Because of art, I am who I am today.

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