There is more to the arts than meets the eye. Yes, the performing and visual arts are supposed to be entertaining, but behind every creative endeavor exists a more profound concept without which a Community shrivels up and dies: the arts remind us of our power to innovate. The act of creation is the essence of our purpose and is essential to our progress as a humanity. Imagine what the world would be like if we just stopped creating-and I mean everything from the development of new dance works to the implementation of new filing systems at the office. Creativity is everywhere and when it stops, we stop too.

The arts demonstrate our power to innovate by providing visceral examples of how imagination is transformed into creation. It's the arts that teach us how to think beyond boundaries and inventively overcome obstacles. When widely applied, the inherent concepts taught by the arts lead to monumental progress in every arena of life-from medicine to technology to public policy. Through the arts, we learn how to develop newness in all things. As a foundation for practicing imagination, the arts are a critical ingredient to forward-thinking change.

At the core of visible change, though, is the individual's evolution-outward change is the direct result of personal development. The real reason the arts are essential to world progress is because they, in fact, inspire us to think about who we are and how we wish to be defined. Skills in self-evaluation and self-exploration are what allow us to make sense of ourselves so we know how to be of purpose to the humanity in which we live.

It is the understanding of one's potential and purpose that sets the stage for the kind of pioneering action that leads to history-making advancements. Compelling us to look inward, the arts are like a magical divining rod, leading us directly to our power to create and inspire change.

Ultimately, the wisdom gained through the arts is mastery in self-expression. The arts openly teach us that we are inherent sources of innovation and that we can dramatically contribute to a Community just by discovering what we create best-and then doing it. It does not have to be great theatre or a masterful painting-a child exposed to the arts learns skills in creativity and self-expression that might just lead her to develop a vaccine for AIDS or a revolutionary world policy that leads to a more peaceful planet. The arts are not superfluous to society; they are an underestimated force that is moving it forward.

Unfortunately, limited funding for, diminished interest in, and limited access to the arts in Communities is the product of an erroneous perception that the arts are little 'extras' that really are not all that important. Many have been misled into believing that there is not much more to the arts than a beautiful melody, a good use of color, or a stellar performance. The common perception of the arts, if we are to be honest, is that they do not really have much value beyond aesthetics. This is evidenced by the fact that hundreds of arts organizations face dwindling audiences, reduced funding, and sadly, closed doors.

The primary challenge of any arts-centered organization in America is to first compel the Community to see the value of the arts beyond aesthetics. When the perceived value of the arts is increased so, too, is a Community's investment in them. And even when times are hard, people will continue to invest in what they know is the source of their collective development. With this in mind, we have to begin to seriously reconsider the role of the arts in our Community. We have to begin thinking more about how the arts can be expanded, funded and brought to new segments of our society so they, too, can reap the benefits of the kind of personal growth that undoubtedly leads to a Community's success, a nation's progress, and the world's transformation. When more people know what the arts deliver, more will fight to keep them alive.

The arts in America are in a critical state of emergency, somewhere between life and death, and as a result, our foundation for progress is crumbling at our feet. Many people, including our influential leaders, do not recognize that the concepts taught by the arts are precisely what lead to major changes in the causes they support-protection of the environment, social equality, world peace. Supporting the arts is like rallying for all things good in the world because creativity and innovation are the sources from which revolutionary ideas come, including those that seemingly have nothing to do with the arts.

Many arts organizations across the United States are working hard to undo the damage done by policies that convinced a nation that the arts are of limited value. The way many are accomplishing this goal is by re-extending themselves, actively inviting people back to the arts through outreach work in the Community. The hope is that by re-investing in the Community, people will be attracted back to the real source of change-the arts. This is the solution to re-inspiring a Community's faith in and support of the invaluable concepts taught by the arts. It is also the solution to discovering one's own rich potential and the ensuing social advancements that come from such a discovery.

We are intended to create. The point of our life here is to leave something of our design behind, that hopefully, benefits others. The arts challenge, inspire, and change people because audiences are encouraged to answer questions about life, the world and the legacies they are creating. This concept can be adapted and applied in a very individual way because the arts hold a personal dare: know yourself. When we understand ourselves more deeply-when we believe in our ability to create-we see that we really can change the world. It is for this reason that the arts are essential to our progress as a Community-they are the gateway to knowing our power to innovate, transform and evolve.
Coastal Youth Ballet Theatre
3554 Old Kings Highway, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Copyright © 2008 - 2011 Coastal Youth Ballet Theatre
The following is an eloquent essay on the need for and relevance of arts organizations in communities. It can very well pertain to what Coastal Youth Ballet
Theatre is doing in the Grand Strand as part of its vision-mission. Without the collaborative effort from the community, CYBT’s productions would not be staged
for our growing Grand Strand audiences. We are publishing this article with special permission from the author, Mr. Craig W. Johnson, who is Executive Director
of The Center for Contemporary Dance in Florida. A recognized leader in arts education and contemporary dance performance, The Center for Contemporary
Dance, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization. Their company website is:
The Importance of the Arts in a Community
By Craig W. Johnson
LIZA MATA, Artistic Director