Do We Underestimate The Power Of “Wow, I Didn’t Know You Were So Talented”?

I had mentioned before that I will be presenting part of a pre-conference professional development session at the Arts Midwest Conference next week. I was going to make a shameless plug for people to sign up, but I see it is sold out (woo hoo!…oh wait, also increased pressure!)

The session deals with Arts Midwest’s Creating Connection/Building Public Will For Art and Culture program that I frequently discuss.

One of the central tenets of the program is helping people recognize their capacity for creativity.

As I was developing the content for my contribution, it occurred to me that one things we lose by having less art in K-12 schools is the affirmation and validation of one’s capacity to be creative. Basically, the experience of having someone walk up and say some permutation of, “Wow, I didn’t know you were so talented.”

It seems like a simple thing to stick your kid’s art up on the refrigerator, but the effect is likely cumulative. And when the opportunities for creativity stop, so does the reinforcement.

Obviously, not everyone is going to reveal a great talent or have an inclination to apply themselves.  I suspect that when art instruction, and more importantly, active creative expression, is a regular part of a child’s education rather than intermittent, the child grows to take their basic creative capacity as much for granted as they do their basic mathematic and reading ability.

This may seem blatantly obvious but I remember a time when I mentally conceded that if kids at least got exposure to the arts in school, that was acceptable.  Even that is disappearing now. Now I realize a compromise of that nature gives up development opportunities that can never be regained.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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