A year ago on Quartz a list appeared by former Stanford dean, Julie Lythcott-Haims, outlining what every 18 year old should know.
I briefly toyed with the idea of doing a post about how the arts, especially performing arts, provided experience in most of these areas. Among them were that an 18 year old should know how to: talk to strangers; manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines; handle interpersonal problems; cope with ups and downs, and must be able to take risks.
While, “contribute to the running of a house hold,” another on her list, may not appear to exactly fit into the performing arts, in her reasoning she says this teaches “respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.” Those are skills you pick up when working as an ensemble.
As I was reading the article, I was envisioning kids in school, after school and summer arts camps/programs acquiring these skills since that is where arts experiences would likely teach these skills prior to someone turning 18.
So when I hit the eighth thing an 18 year old should know, “be able earn and manage money,” I realized that wasn’t something most arts programs would teach kids.
But if we are going to talk about the need for artists to manage and monitor their own careers,including finances, maybe elementary budgeting and accounting skills should be introduced to teen and even tween students.
Oh, but that is such a yucky, boring topic right? The kids want to have have fun making art, that will just scare them away.
I am not suggesting that you pull out your college accounting text. You can introduce cost and pricing in a fun way at an age appropriate level.
With younger kids, you start out saying – You made this painting or ceramic piece and now it is time to sell it. How much will you sell it for? How many do you think you can make in a week? How much could you make if you sell every thing at the end of the week?
This type of instruction hits on the cross-discipline approach schools are looking for these days. You can also get kids excited by the idea of how much money they might make.
Any kid can have a lemonade stand. Cool kids sell paintings, pottery and tickets to sidewalk performances!
Later you introduce the concept of material costs and time invested into the mix and take a more sophisticated approach to pricing. In certain situations maybe you have high school students participate in budgeting production costs for costuming and set building for performances. If they are involved in making the decisions required of a budget cap, all the better.
By connecting the idea that art has monetary value, you create a greater appreciation for art in students when they are young. It isn’t just something you do for fun and shouldn’t expect to be paid for.
While this runs counter to the idea that art should be created for its own sake, not with the goal of remuneration, the absence of this instruction hasn’t prevented people from claiming the arts should be self supporting.
Still, executed poorly the focus can be all about maximizing commercial viability over illustrating a connection between basic economic skills and art. Kids shouldn’t be given a message their work is bad simply because no one has bought it. And let’s not drag 14 year olds into the debate about doing something for exposure vs. being paid.
Given that not every person in an after school program or summer camp is going to enter an arts career, involving some basic economic considerations in art instruction when kids are young can shape attitudes and perception about the validity of arts and cultural endeavors over the long term.