Long before I ever took a ballet class as a little girl, I learned Mexican Folklorico dance as part of an afterschool program in a Los Angeles public school. Separately, my father’s work introduced us to immigrants from Korea, the Philippines, Burma and Thailand – and their native dances. His passion for Hawaii as the ultimate vacation destination meant that I had hula lessons alongside swimming and surfing lessons.  And somewhere along the line I fell in love with Irish step dancing and of course, the jazz dance of touring Broadway musicals.

My personal arts education did more than keep me on my toes: it provided a window into other cultures and traditions. It taught me about different definitions of beauty and the importance of synchronization, teamwork, endurance and execution. All of these things helped prepare me for my future.

Now, as a parent, naturally I think about the world our kids will inherit. We all want our children to live in a society that values inclusion and diversity.  We want our kids to be tolerant of differences and emotionally expressive. We want them to be active, productive citizens with the skills they need to pursue their passions in the 21st century.

Numerous studies have shown the connection between arts education and academic achievement, social and emotional development, critical and creative thinking skills, and interpersonal skills. Robert Lynch, CEO of Americans for the Arts, reminds us: "Not every young person will go on to be an artist. But they will all be better students, employees, and citizens if they indeed have opportunities to embrace their creativity." And yet, arts education programs are always among the first things to be eliminated from school offerings due to budget constraints.

September shines a national spotlight on the importance of arts education, and one of my goals at ArtsWave is to leverage even further the programs of our arts partners and teaching artists to give ever-more kids in our region the benefits of arts experiences. From conducting research in the region’s largest school districts to creating growth strategies, from investing in the programs of arts organizations to supporting the “One Stop Arts Shop” directory of local Arts Ed options, ArtsWave believes that increasing access to arts education is important for all of our kids and for Cincinnati’s bright future.