Arts Education Helps Build 7 Key Leadership Skills

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.

Judging and Paperwork and Packaging, Oh My!

It’s time to start collecting all of those Reflections projects to get them ready for the next level. There are a few steps to keep in mind at this point of sigimg0the program.

Please remember that you only need to judge if you have collected more projects that you can pass along to the next level. The number you can send along is determined by the next level in your area. Check with your PTA president to see where your projects should go next – to a council, district, or region PTA. If you are allowed to pass along 12 projects in each category, and you only receive 2 film entries, they can both move on provided they have all the correct paperwork to go with the entry and they follow the program rules. If you receive 20 visual arts pieces and only 12 can move on, you will need to judge the artwork.

Potential judges are actually all around you! Art teachers, professional photographers, English teachers, journalists, etc. can be found in your school and in your circle of acquaintances. Reach out to people who have knowledge of the art type and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to find people to help.

When you set up the projects for judging, make sure the entry form is folded in half. All information that identifies the student’s name, school, etc. should be folded under and hidden. In the Local Leaders’ Guide there is a great rubric that your judges can use, along with a chart they can use for recording their scores. This rubric provided by National PTA uses a 40 point system that makes the judging easier for everyone involved.

For the paperwork, make sure that all of the student’s information is included on the form. There must be a title, an artist statement, and signatures from both the student and the parent attesting that the piece is original work and that PTA can use the project as part of the Reflections program. At the bottom of the form, the information about your dues, insurance and bylaws should be something that your local unit PTA president can help you with.
In order to protect student artwork, we are once again requiring that visual art and photography pieces are wrapped in cellophane. This is to protect the artwork as it is displayed and forwarded through the program. Each set of rules has detailed instructions on how the different categories should be packaged for the next level.

Congratulations on getting to this phase of the program! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Joan Scovic, Illinois PTA Cultural Arts Director, at or 224-400-8530.


Submitted by Joan Scovic, Cultural Arts DirectorWorld Logo Color 2(1)

Reflections is the National PTA Arts program that encourages children to create works of art in six different arts categories. The program has a different theme each year, and the theme for the 2014-2015 school year is “The World Would Be A Better Place If…”

Each local unit PTA received a flash drive with the Local Unit Packet (LUP). Among the plethora of information provided by Illinois State PTA is a section devoted to the Reflections Program. These files are also available online for download here.

One of the documents included with this information is the quick start guide. This one-page overview of the program provides helpful tips for offering the Reflections program in your school. This month’s article will revolve around how you can “familiarize yourself with the Reflections program” and “setting a due date and creating your flyers.”

Familiarize Yourself with the Reflections Program
There are six arts categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts. The LUP contains copies of the rules for each of these arts categories.

There are four age divisions: Primary (Preschool to Grade 2), Intermediate (Grades 3-5), Middle School (Grades 6-8), and High School (Grades 9-12).

In addition, there are two methods that can be used to submit artwork created by special artists. Children with special needs can enter in traditional age divisions. Qualifying students follow all general and arts category rules, but receive accommodation to submit Reflections entries in the grade division most closely aligned to their functional abilities. Alternatively, Special Artists can enter through the Special Artist Division. The Special Artist Division is non-graded and limited to students whose physical, cognitive, or mental health challenges meet ADA guidelines. Qualifying students entering this division create their own artwork in any category, but may receive non-artistic accommodation and assistance from an adult.

Children can create as many works of art in as many categories as they like.

Finally, one of the best ways to learn more about the program is to participate in one of the National PTA Reflections 101 Webinars. These webinars explain the program, how to promote Reflections in your school, judging the projects, and recognizing your students. The webinars are free – sign up for one today using the following registration links: September 9, 2014, October 14, 2014.

Setting a Due Date and Creating Your Flyers

Each local unit sets their own due date. As a local chair, you just need to provide yourself with enough time to promote the program and collect the artwork from your students at the beginning of the year. Then, once you have the artwork, be sure to leave enough time to package it all, check the paperwork, judge the projects if necessary, and meet your next deadline. Check with your local unit PTA president to find out the next level of the program in your area: Council, District, or Region. Follow the due dates set by that chairman.

The LUP contains several flyers that you can customize with your own contact information and due date. You can also create your own flyers.

Promote the program at all of your back- to- school events, during orientation events, ice cream socials, meet the teacher days—any event that includes your families! Set up a table and share the news about how the arts help children and then encourage participation in the Reflections program. Utilize your newsletter, website, backpack mail, morning announcements, social media—any outlet that will help spread the word! You will be amazed at how creative our children can be!

Stay informed

If you are on Facebook, please take a look at the new Illinois PTA Cultural Arts Facebook page: This page will include information about a variety of cultural arts topics, along with updates, reminders, and tips to help you build a successful Reflections program at your school this year.

Best of luck getting your program off and running this year! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at