Ever since the age of eight, arts education has become a part of my weekly and daily routines. Now attending an arts school, it is very fair to say that my involvement with the arts has significantly shaped who I am not only as a performer, but as a person. Yet, I find it more and more common for arts education (and education in general) to be taken for granted.
Where would I be without the arts teachers that have dedicated so much time and effort into helping me pursue what I love? Where would I be without all of the friendships I have made working in theatre? Where would I be if I hadn’t been given so many wonderful environments to express myself through art? These questions are extremely difficult for me to answer, and frankly, I hadn’t even begun to ask them until I took a trip with Theatre on a Mission to an orphanage in Bondo, Kenya, where for the first time I was exposed to an area where taking a dance class or a voice lesson was not just “second nature”. In fact, it was pretty much unheard of.
As we began to infiltrate the theatre-related games and activities into the daily schedule at the orphanage, I began to have my doubts whether or not we would ever really be able to get the kids to harness their creativity and imaginations with us (and the language barriers definitely were not assisting with that obstacle either). Yet, within a short period of time something seemed to click. Through these seemingly silly games and activities, a mutual understanding and trust was established between us all, and I no longer saw any fear, confusion, or hesitation behind the eyes of the kids at the orphanage. Instead, I began to really see their incredible senses of humor and vivacious personalities come to life, and all of those limitations of our different languages and cultures seemed to vanish when we were all finally opened up to an environment of willingness to express ourselves and just laugh.
Over the course of a few rehearsals, every single one of them was able to successfully participate in the play that Theatre on a Mission wrote for them, performing as monkeys, elephants, fish, and lions for several different local schools and a bunch of their peers. They were total rock stars! Unfortunately the time came for our team to have to return to the U.S, but what those kids were able to accomplish within a few short weeks still lingers in my mind. If they were able to accomplish all that, imagine what they would further blossom to be if they had been given the opportunity for a substantial arts education from a young age!
And with that in mind, I really have begun to see the true significance of art and the duty we all have to share it. Regardless of what someone will choose to pursue, an arts education will benefit them. Arts education provides a person with communication, social, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills that they can apply to any career path or life situation they encounter, regardless of what language they speak or what culture they live in. Arts education breaks barriers and brings people together, and I was lucky enough to witness that first hand in Kenya. Arts education and the power it has is priceless, and I will forever be thankful to Theatre on a Mission for teaching me that.
Written by Sydney Leiser