Ananya Rama Balakrishnan
At AES, we celebrate a lot of things. Sports and service are the foremost in the things that our school’s culture exalts (although, we keep getting fifth place, so…), followed by academics. The arts are definitely a large part of AES culture, but the problem is that while they’re celebrated by adults and the students who are directly involved, the wider student body doesn’t appreciate them to the same degree as sports, for example. This is understandable– the arts don’t garner the same level of community, they’re not as exciting as team sports. One can’t really fill up a gymnasium with riotous kids to watch a concert in the same way we can for sports, we can’t really compete as far as painting is concerned, and theater is hard to hype up to the same level as basketball. But it’s still very important to pay attention to the arts, and also to appreciate them– it is important to be “art allies”. This means a person who supports the arts, even if they don’t necessarily care for participating in them. Here’s how to best do that:
Show up. Be it concerts, plays, or exhibitions, there’s no better way to support the arts than to witness them, and in order to do that, we need to put time into watching. Go and watch the theater productions, go and listen to the concerts, go and walk through the art exhibitions. There’s something in these that is capable of speaking to anyone, and it’s important to appreciate that!
Get educated. It’s easiest to appreciate things that you know about, so make sure you know things about what you’re looking at or watching. Perhaps do some research first, if that is something you’re interested in. For example, if you’re watching a play, perhaps look into its history first– and if it’s based on a famous book or movie, consider reading or watching that just to get a better idea of the themes present and the ideas that are being developed in the stage adaptation.
Talk about the things you see. Discussing what you like, dislike, and are interested is easy to do regardless of what you’re looking at, and it’s especially helpful in cultivating a deeper appreciation for the arts and in cultivating an idea of what went into the preparation.
Form opinions. Art is often in the eye of the beholder, so what you think is extremely important. If you think an idea expressed in a piece of work is particularly impressive, make note of it and think about why– and do the same if you think the opposite. Though it may not always be super prominent in the arts at the high school level, art always expresses something, and forming an opinion makes it easier to create a deeper understanding.
Though a lot of us don’t partake in the arts, it’s important to recognize those who do and to support them. By being an art ally, you not only support them, but you also develop a better appreciation for the arts in general. This, in turn, helps you, as the arts are vital to our wellbeing– be an art ally not only for the people around you but for yourself.