Why does representation matter in the arts?

on February 22, 2021

Researchers across human development-related fields agree that learning, wellbeing, and success in school, work, and life are deeply interconnected. P.S. ARTS works within the public education system in our pursuit of social justice because it provides a broad-scale opportunity to create generative spaces for youth that foster learning and wellbeing and, therefore, success. We work through the arts because an abundance of research connects arts education to healthy development, increased college and career opportunities, and personal fulfillment (Deasy, 2002; Hetland et al, 2007). While we recognize that providing access to a robust education is an important first step, we know that the quality of the curriculum and instruction also matters – this includes representation of diverse peoples, perspectives, and cultures.

Representation is critical in the arts and in education. Children’s early experiences shape what they understand of the world and what they imagine to be possible. In this time of social distancing and civil unrest, P.S. ARTS strives to help students feel connected and build understanding through art. This year, our program-wide theme is “Weaving the Threads, Connecting Our Stories”, inspiring our students to share stories and discover how they connect to form personal identity and weave the fabric of communities and cultures. Below are some examples of the questions we ask in our classrooms to shape enduring understandings.

How do the stories we’ve been told influence our experience of the world? 
How do we know when a story is true? 
When do stories narrow our perspective? When do they expand our perspective? 
How are stories different from documentation? 
What unique learning can come from stories told only through music, movement, or images? 
Does anyone have a story that is all their own? Does everyone?

These questions are meant to broaden our ideas of representation, leading us to stories that expand our perspectives, helping us to see the world more clearly. 

To learn more about our 2020-2021 school year program-wide theme click here.

P.S. ARTSWhy does representation matter in the arts?