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Why Arts Education Is Important


Many of us involved in arts education feel the “case for arts education” has been made. And made again. Studies are rapidly piling up that show both the intrinsic value of arts education, its impact on academic learning and the positive effects that employment in the arts has in the economy.

However, we realize that because we are actively involved every day in teaching in and through the arts, we have a natural affinity for and easily latch onto this information. We understand that we must continue to purposefully share the case for arts education and bring the proof of its value to others daily.

We have two primary ways of discussing the value of arts education. First, we want to emphasize the impact arts education is having on overall K-12 academic achievement and preparation for postsecondary education. Second, we want to refute the common perception that “you can’t make a living as an artist,” which leads to an obvious and, to us, dangerous corollary: Why teach the arts?

To learn more about why arts education is important, download our full report or report summary.


Studies measuring creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving and reasoning all find these functions increase and improve when arts education is added to the educational mix. (10) Dancers tested better on memory and motion processing than non-dancers and musicians demonstrated better auditory-visual discrimination and aural recognition than non-musicians. (11) Another study has found that through visual art studio classes, students develop habits of mind for sustained focus, imagination, close observation and articulation of their decision-making process. (12)

Correlative studies also show a strong relationship between arts education and:

  • positive emotional development that leads to stronger abilities to self-regulate
  • deep engagement in learning
  • motivation to learn for understanding
  • a decrease in disciplinary issues in schools
  • self-awareness, self-concept and self-expression
  • self-efficacy and self-confidence (13)

Research on students involved in arts education shows that they learn how to communicate effectively, practice constructive criticism and listen better. In a large-scale study, arts programming helped to prepare youth to apply their skills directly to employment opportunities. Another study showed that students who participate in arts education as youth stay in their local communities as adults and contribute to economic and civic growth. (14)

ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, said in a report that “studies also show that participating in the arts can actually boost student achievement in other academic areas. Therefore, arts groups are partnering with schools to provide professional development for teachers interested in integrating arts instruction across content areas.” (15)

Click here for citation notes.


Literacy and language development
Arts learning in music, drama, media arts and spoken word relates to high achievement in reading and writing and high verbal SAT scores. (1) Music training relates to stronger performances in learning a second language with greater improvement in expressive fluency and competency. (2)

Mathematics achievement
Studies find a relationship between music and high mathematics SAT scores. Relationships also exist between dance and media arts learning in high school and high achievement in math. (3)

Overall academic achievement
Research suggests a significant positive relationship between arts study and high school students’ overall academic achievement as measured by standardized tests and student grades. (4)

Research finds that students who experience arts integrated curricula meet or significantly exceed state and district standardized test averages, even in schools with high populations of at-risk students. In addition, a notable study finds that arts integration programs do not lower test scores, suggesting there is no negative impact on academic achievement in core subjects from an arts-integrated curriculum. (5)


Perpich’s study confirms this trend. Two correlations between student achievement and arts education were identified in Minnesota. First, a positive relationship exists between a school’s Focus Rating (part of the Minnesota’s Multiple Measurement Rating or MMR) and higher levels of arts education (as measured by the arts education index).

Second, there is a positive relationship between a school’s scores for the Graduation Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD) reading assessment and higher levels of arts education. These positive correlations still hold when controlling for other “confounding” variables such as income, minority status or geography. Higher levels of arts education coincide with higher Focus Ratings (MMR) and GRAD reading scores.


There is a strong body of research that demonstrates ways in which the arts contribute to academic success for high school students from low socio-economic backgrounds, English-language learners and students with special needs. These populations demonstrate the greatest relative improvement in academic achievement when participating in the arts. (6)

Other research provides evidence pointing to a relationship between arts participation in high school and increased attendance and reduced dropout rates. (7) Students from low socio-economic backgrounds, who participate in the arts, also have an increased chance of attending college and completing a postsecondary degree. (8) English-language learners are significantly more likely to pursue a college degree if they attend an arts-rich high school. (9)


In addition to correlations between arts education and academic achievement, there is a demonstrated need for creative and innovative thinkers in our society.


The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us – fostering creativity, empathy, and beauty. The arts also strengthen our communities socially, educationally, and economically – benefits that persist even during a pandemic that has been devastating to the arts. The ten reasons on this document show why an investment in artists and arts organizations is vital to the nation’s post-pandemic healing and recovery.

Source: Americans for the Arts

The creative industries are America’s largest export with more than $60 billion annually in overseas sales. Ninety-seven percent of employers say creativity is of increasing importance but 85 percent of employers concerned with hiring creative people are unable to find the applicants they seek. More than 904,000 U.S. businesses are involved in the creation and distribution of art. Creativity-oriented jobs have gone from just over 10 percent of the economy to more than 30 percent.

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


“Creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking.”
—IBM study of more than 1500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries


Interviews with industry leaders looking at employment trends through 2016 for arts-related jobs predicts that:

  • Employment of artists and related workers is expected to grow 16 percent, faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Employment of game designers is projected to grow by 14 percent.
  • Employment of art directors is expected to grow by 12 percent.
  • Employment in the motion picture and video industries is expected to grow 11 percent.
  • Employment of interior designers is expected to grow by 19 percent.
  • Employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow by 13 percent.
  • Employment growth by arts-centric businesses since 2007 was 11.6 percent, more than four times the rise in the total number of U.S. employees of 2.4 percent.

Sources: Americans for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Entertainment Software Association


In 2007, “Artists Count: The Economic Impact of Minnesota’s Individual Artists,”  showed that there were 19,676 artists surveyed, that their economic impact in terms of their own spending was $295 million, that they supported 5,937 full-time-equivalent jobs and that they generated $24 million in state and local revenue. The study also showed that artists are engaged in their communities, volunteering and voting to a higher degree than the rest of the population.

“The arts, culture and entertainment sectors are critical to the economic vitality and livability of this region. Clearly, a community that offers these amenities provides a huge draw for companies that may want to do business and for employees who will want to live and work here.”
⎯ Cynthia Lesher, President and CEO, Northern States Power Company – Minnesota

“It’s important to note that while it is no surprise that the Twin Cities metropolitan area supports a robust arts and culture economy, the report also shows a significant economic impact in every other area of Minnesota. The eleven regional reports demonstrate that the excellence, scope, and diversity of cultural activity in every corner of the state go beyond contributing to Minnesota’s quality of life: the arts and culture make a significant contribution to the state’s economy. The return on state arts and culture funding is dynamic. For a very small investment by the state of Minnesota, the arts and culture industry can be leveraged to create jobs, to revitalize both neighborhoods and rural communities, and to educate our children while helping to drive Minnesota’s economy.”
⎯ Sheila Smith, executive director,  Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, introduction to The Arts: A Driving Force in St. Paul’s Economy 2006. Read the 2018 report here.

In 2018, the city of Minneapolis released an updated report examining the creative sector in its economy. Read The Minneapolis Creative Index 2018 to learn more about the vital role creative jobs play in the metro area.