As Illinois cuts its education budget and school districts look to tighten their belts, cuts to arts programs are often near tFamily, holiday and child concept - close up of little girl andhe top of the list of cuts. At the Illinois PTA Spotlight event at Milliken University this past Saturday, both Milliken President Dr. Patrick White and Laura Ledford, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, emphasized how the arts support children’s education in skills employers are looking for. Their thoughts echoed the benefits of arts education covered in an article at Edutopia.

The article focuses on how the arts are a great way for students to develop leadership skills. Leadership opportunities for students in school are often limited to conventional roles such as student government and team captains, but by developing leadership skills through the arts, additional opportunities for students to take on big issues can emerge. Here are seven ways that the arts can help students build leadership skills:

  1.  Creativity: Creativity is not just about expression and aesthetics, but also about problem solving. It is one of the most important skills a leader needs.
  2. Risk Taking: Being truly creative and seeking out new ideas requires a willingness to take risks and to face potential failure. The arts provides students with the opportunity and confidence to try new and unorthodox approaches.
  3. Learning to Be Yourself: Leaders are often out in front of the crowd standing on their own. Doing so requires a leader to know who they are and what they stand for. Artists are often known for their ability to stand alone away from the crowd.
  4. Understanding the Power of Myth and Symbols: In art class, students work with shapes, archetypes, icons, and other cultural keys. Great leaders recognize the power of myth, stories, and symbolism in explaining complex ideas or issues that are often hard to express.
  5. Observational Skills: Great leaders can read the room, sense moods and attitudes, and observe the world around them. In the arts, students are encouraged to be keen observers.
  6. Project Planning: In the arts, students commit to projects that might not be finished for weeks or months later, whether it’s a painting, a musical performance, or a stage play. Bringing such projects to fruition require students to develop planning skills such as goal setting and scheduling and to develop the resilience required to see a project through to the end.
  7. Collaboration and Appropriation: While many arts projects depend on individual performance, many others such as plays, concerts, or marching band require artists to work as a group. Employers consider the ability to collaborate with others one of the key skills that they look for in a potential employee.

For more detail on how the arts build leaderships skills, be sure to check out the full article at Edutopia.