In most school districts, it’s an elective, not a core requirement. But here are seven reasons why an arts education is more important than you think.

Stacey Goodman, an artist and educator from California, knows firsthand how important and empowering an arts education can be. But, as he asks in this post for Edutopia, "As educators, do we look to the arts as a way of developing student leadership?"

Becoming a leader, Goodman says, requires acquiring the same set of skills inherent to learning and practicing the arts. "Leadership is most needed when facing a complex problem or a new experience that can't be easily quantified," Goodman writes. "We need people who have the skills and abilities to work well with others, and to step forward and lead with new ideas and initiatives. No matter the subject we teach, it's important that we support students in developing to be those necessary heroes."

Here are seven ways an arts education can help students become leaders:


For the arts, creative expression is essential. But equally important — to help navigate every obstacle, stumble, and wrong turn along the way — is creative problem solving. Especially the type of problem solving that pushes the envelope "beyond our consensual understanding of the problem, pushing against the margins of what might be provable."

Risk Taking

To be a great leader, you need to be willing to go against the grain, forgo the popular option for the right one, and keep working until you find a solution that works for the greater good of all. In the arts, taking risks is not only encouraged, it's expected. And the mere act of taking that risk — and opening yourself up to potential criticism in the process — can help build traits like grit and resiliency.

Learning to Be Yourself

"Students who are nurtured through the arts," Goodman writes, "must ultimately turn inward and know themselves, face their demons, and ultimately discover their own potential."

Understanding the Power of Myth and Symbols

Incorporating symbols and archetypes into their work is a way for art students to understand the larger human story. As Goodman writes, "Great leaders have an understanding of how myths and symbols shape our understanding of a complex idea or sensibility that is hard to otherwise express."

Observational Skills

Many artists pull their inspiration from observing the world around them and reinterpreting those observations into something unique and compelling. In order to be effective, leaders need to have the same level of observation and understanding of the people, communities, and organizations they intend to lead.

Project Planning

Thinking ahead. Preparing for the long haul. Looking beyond the needs and wants of the immediate now toward those which address and meet a future goal. By planning for that end game, both artists and leaders develop the capacity for forward thinking that's so necessary to bring any big project to life.

Collaboration and Appropriation

Empathy, compassion, and understanding the world from the perspective of another. All great art requires this, as does great leadership. As Goodman writes, "Learning from those who came before you also lends itself to learning and working with those around you."

To read the post in full, visit the Edutopia blog.