Why an arts education is a great investment for the future

As a parent, you want the best education for your child, but your teen is fixated on jazz and seems oblivious to anything else. And he’s good at it - that saxophone soars to the heavens every time he picks it up. You appreciate his love for music, but you really want him to focus more on his academic studies so he can prepare for a career that pays well and sets him up for life-long success.

Here’s why you should let your child pursue an arts education: Aside from the personal growth and enjoyment they gain from practicing the arts, the skills children develop through arts training—problem solving, critical thinking and creativity—are among the most sought-after skills that employers in the New Economy are seeking, according to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2020.”

Maybe it’s time to consider the best state school you may have never heard of: the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. There your young artist can toot his own horn and learn problem-solving skills that will set him up for success in life, whether he stays with music or develops other interests. He will complete his state requirements for a high school diploma, learning from a team of academic scholars, while receiving arts training from mentors who are established and practicing artists in their fields. He’ll also be sought after by the 70 plus colleges that recruit at the arts school every year.

This Governor’s School opened in Greenville in 1999 as a residential high school to offer artistically talented teens in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades the opportunity to concentrate in one of five art areas: creative writing, dance, drama, music or visual arts. The public school is tuition-free and open to any student in South Carolina through applications, auditions and art material submissions to their selected area. School study consists of academic curricula designed to engage creative minds, studio practice guided by teaching artists, and a humanities-focused component integrated throughout the school year. Financial assistance is available to offset the required purchase of a high school meal plan and a residence hall fee. 

Because these student artists live and learn on campus, away from home during the school year, they have the ability to truly focus on their art and academic studies. Governor’s School students learn how to be independent, advocate for themselves, manage their time and balance challenging workloads and schedules. They also grow as artists and individuals through continuous practice, commitment, self-exploration, experimentation and creative thinking. This prepares them for college life and beyond.

Successful Alumni
Take the example of Rachel Inman, a 2007 visual arts graduate who is now a Staff UX Design Lead at Google, where she leads a team of Google Maps UX designers, researchers, 3D visual artists, and writers focused on creating a mobile, outdoor augmented reality pedestrian navigation experience called Live View. She credits the Governor’s School with instilling in her a methodical and thoughtful creation process, an avid curiosity about how others see the world, and the importance of giving back. 

Teyonah Parris has taken her 2005 drama training to the television screen. She began her career playing secretary Dawn Chambers in the AMC drama series Mad Men (2012–2015) and starring in the 2014 independent film Dear White People. Since then, Parris has starred in Spike Lee's film Chi-Raq, in the TV series Empire, as well as in the Academy-nominated film If Beale Street Could Talk. 

In 2021, Parris landed her breakthrough role portraying an adult Monica Rambeau in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney+ series, WandaVision. She will reprise the role in The Marvels, scheduled to be released in 2022. Parris has won two Black Reel Awards and received nominations at Screen Actors Guild Awards and the NAACP Image Awards.

Lonnie Russell from Summerville, now a practicing family medicine doctor in Atlanta, Georgia, was a piano music graduate in 2011 who went on to earn a BS in Music Performance with minors in Chemistry and Biology from the University of South Carolina. Then he earned a medical degree from the USC School of Medicine and completed his residency at Emory University School of Medicine.

These are just a few of the Governor’s School’s alumni success stories. While approximately half of the school’s graduates continue to pursue degrees and careers in the arts, many find success in a variety of other fields including engineering, technology, health care, law, business and education. The soft skills gained through arts training—leadership, teamwork, communication, self-discipline, creative thinking—can be applied to any profession.

A Focus on the Whole Student
The Governor’s School experience is focused on the whole student. If a student’s basic needs are not being met, they cannot succeed. This is why the school provides wraparound support services such as academic guidance and tutoring, mental health counseling and round-the-clock support however students may need it.

Studies show that arts education supports the social and emotional well-being of students. Self-awareness, self-efficacy, self-management and perseverance, social awareness and relationship skills are central to any arts education activity, no matter the age and ability of the student or the environment in which the learning takes place. In addition, a Gallup Poll that included schools in South Carolina (as well as the Governor’s School) found that students in arts-rich schools have a higher rate of engagement and hope for the future.