The Joy of the Arts: An Interview with Michael Brandwein

Lisa: With shrinking arts funding, arts educators have been forced to emphasize how the arts can positively influence academic success. These concerns have come to overshadow the idea that the arts can have positive effects on many aspects of our lives including helping us find balance, relaxation and joy. When I sat down with Michael we talked about the arts for the pure enjoyment of it. Here is what Michael said…

Michael:  Joy is what art brings. If a parent were to say, “Why have my child in an art camp or an art program of any kind?”  — one reason is simply because it does something for the spirit, it creates joy. It has done so since the beginning of recorded history.

Lisa, I know you’re a fan of Daniel Pink and his book A Whole New Mind. One of the things that Mr. Pink points out in that excellent book is that people need to learn joyfulness. And that joyfulness is more the product of the right hemisphere of our double-hemisphere brains. Music and art and play, help people express themselves in a joyful way and in a spiritual way, and in a way that other kinds of academic learning may not bring out in us. For that reason alone, the arts are a wonderful thing for children to enjoy and have success in.

I remember how significant it was to learn that Winston Churchill was a painter. My understanding was, he was certainly not a world-class painter, but he painted, and painting helped his brain and it helped him relax. Should someone have told him, “Mr. Churchill, you’re not good enough to be able to succeed as a painter”? – No! Painting was good for him. Einstein played the violin. Did he play it brilliantly? No.

We need to give a message to our children that you should experience arts not because you’re going to be brilliant at it, but just to enjoy doing it. We have lost the joy of dabbling in something. There are too many people who when asked, “Can you draw?” They say, “No.” What a negative — you know, you can teach me how to draw a person’s face. You can teach me to draw a flower. It won’t be a work of art in a museum, but it will teach me that if you break it down into steps, this is some kind of success that I can have.

I love the arts for that reason. I think it’s a really terrific and powerful tool that shapes children to help them for the future and to make them feel good about themselves as well.

Lisa: Michael makes a crucial point, in that the arts can make kids feel good about themselves. To some, it may sound like fluff, but the reality is a child’s own self-image greatly dictates what possibilities they see in their life and for their future. When we find joy in an activity it becomes a source of motivation and inspiration, and can often help us discover new things about ourselves. As young people are always in a state of growth and development (even though they don’t often realize it), it is important for them to experience the joy of the arts. It can open up possibilities for them that the never knew were there.

I encourage my readers to share what their joy in the arts is by commenting on this post. If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that mine is dance! What’s yours?

Learn more about Michael Brandwein