By DAVID LIMBERT
The arts are vital for personal and academic growth, but there is a lack of time, money and resources dedicated to the area in schools.
Sport is highly prevalent in South Africa, and everyone understands the value of sport, not least because, children for generations and across the land have taken to the playing field to kick a ball, run on the track or hit a ball flying over the fence. But there is a disconnect between those who are lucky enough to experience the value of the arts and those who are not.
Theatre arts and sport command the same disciplined team-building and communications skills and provide the same adrenaline-fuelled confidence. And when it comes to careers, it doesn’t matter how many qualifications you have; if you can’t communicate in the workplace, you’re on the back foot.
According to researchers, studying the arts also improves student capabilities in the sciences, maths and reading. So it’s a vital element in the education system. But how can we invest the time, skills and resources into the arts to secure meaningful change? One simple step is to put the arts on the same footing as sports and dedicate a certain number of hours a week for creative learning taught by drama teachers.
Mentorship is also incredibly valuable, especially in terms of the technical skills required to create the right sound and lighting experience. A lot goes on behind the scenes to create a theatre production, much of which falls under the heading of technical services, and although technical in name the execution is more creative. Lighting and sound enhance performances; it creates mood, gives an audience goosebumps and places them on the edge of their seat. Without technical creativity and skills, productions would be a less immersive experience.
Schools have limited funds and resources, and if private organisations with the equipment, skills and means to mentor students it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Students are empowered and taught responsibility, leadership and teamwork, the training filters throughout the school system as skills learned are applied to smaller schools productions (house plays and assemblies, etc). Out of school, these young people whose passion is ignited then use their skills in local community theatre as they get more involved and build on what they have learned.
The corporate offering the mentorship is not only fostering goodwill but preventing brain drain within the industry as the experienced masters retire. By spending time with young people, professionals in the arts can spark an interest in the entertainment industry, and expose newcomers to experiences and potential careers they may have never considered. Plus, working in entertainment allows you to travel the world. You meet the most amazing people, see some interesting sights and get to flex your creative muscles to wow audiences on a weekly, if not daily basis.
In my opinion, as artificial intelligence develops and grows in the workplace, the new currency will be emotional intelligence which is another benefit of the arts. Honing empathy and creative leadership skills will empower a new generation of cultural heroes. From the Chinese government to the Harvard Business Review, around the world researchers and commentators are observing how cultural offerings benefit young people, recognising the value of non-cognitive activities and replicating them in formal institutions.
If we are serious about finding the Wayde van Niekerk of the film world, and the Chad le Los of the theatre world, we must begin to fight the prejudice against the arts.
David Limbert is head of creative services at Magnetic Storm. for more information, go to magnetic.co.za.
*This article was first published on April 23, 2019.