Neepawa teacher praises power of art
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A Neepawa teacher says schools should emphasize artistic learning as much as reading, writing and arithmetic, especially considering its power to strengthen the mind.
For as long as she’s been an artist, Katy Martin has believed most people don’t see art as a serious career path. Artists are often told they need to have a “backup plan,” in case their careers don’t take off. However, when it comes to inspiring her students at Neepawa and Area Collegiate Institute, Martin said the key is perseverance and a belief in their ability to succeed.
“A lot of people think you can’t have a career in the arts and, for me, I’m trying so hard to smash that sort of stereotype,” she said.
It’s also important students understand that art, like all things, takes practice, and it isn’t an innate ability people are born with. It’s a matter of practising and trusting in yourself, Martin said.
“The only way you become proficient in anything is by continuing to do it, the hours you put in. There’s no magic trick or anything with regards to acquiring the skill.”
The main point of art, Martin said, is self-expression. Seeing how her students express themselves through different art mediums has been inspirational for her as a teacher and an artist, she said. Art also has several therapeutic benefits.
A study from Harvard University says creative activities can relieve stress and aid communication in people with cancer, dementia or depression. Meanwhile, the Canadian Mental Health Association says drawing, painting, dancing, making collages, writing and other artistic pursuits, regardless of the medium, help people externalize their emotions, express difficult feelings or open up a dialogue. Regularly practising an artistic activity, alone or in a group, helps reduce stress and increase resiliency.
“Oftentimes, you can express yourself through imagery more than you can through words, for some people,” Martin said. “Instead of saying, ‘Tell me how you feel,’ you can give people something to draw with.”
Seeing the way art can help students cope with stressful times or be an aide in expressing their emotions makes Martin more motivated than ever to speak out about why it’s so important that all schools have a robust, healthy respect for the arts and include them as much as possible in their curriculum.
Students should also know that many careers are possible through studying art at post-secondary institutions, Martin said. An arts degree can lead to a career in animation, graphic design, photography and more.
“I try to explain to kids that there are so many jobs in this area.”
Martin hopes more and more people will continue to encourage art in children and students of all ages, and not just in the early years of elementary and middle school. In the past, Martin has noticed there seems to be a cut-off age where, culturally, teenagers aren’t offered the same opportunities to create art.
“It seems like we stop valuing the arts as we get older. We value sports and push kids that way, so it’s nice to see that there is a trend where people are starting to see how valuable art is.”
Martin’s advice for any artists starting out, regardless of age, is to be brave and believe in themselves, and when they feel like quitting, take a break instead.
“On the hard days, just take it all in stride.”
Having spent the last 10 years of her life teaching, Martin is looking forward to taking a leave of absence for the next school year so she can focus on her art business.
“I’m hoping to continue taking a ton of photographs over the summer of all different landscapes of the Prairies and then doing a big series of paintings next year,” she said.
She’s also eager to exhibit more of her work during her time off from school, which she said will help her as a teacher and as an artist.
“I’m really excited to spend next year building my business but also coming back with a more robust toolkit for my students so that they can bridge that gap between art class and being an art entrepreneur.”
Martin’s paintings, which capture the spirit and beauty of the Prairie landscape, are being featured in an exhibit called Prairie Soul at ArtsForward in Neepawa until May 26, ending with a gala event that evening from 7 to 9 p.m. The gala will include a live art auction of each of her paintings.
» Twitter: @miraleybourne