Blog: Tamara Real

Tamara Real has both a passion for and understanding of the arts. As the Executive Director of the Arts Alliance, her non-profit organization has made it mission critical to develop, nurture and sustain Washtenaw County's artistic community. Tamara will be writing about the local challenges and responsibilties to maintaining creative inspiration and expression.

Tamara Real - Post 4

Arts and cultural activities provide an unparalleled opportunity to understand ourselves and the world around us. Community, business, and other leaders are increasingly coming to recognize this and contemplate how they can harness the power of the arts to address some of the challenges that face us.

For example, a recent study conducted by The Conference Board, an organization that serves the interests of Fortune 500 companies around the world, noted that students who take part in arts and cultural activities during their years in school are more likely to have the skills needed for 21st century jobs. In fact, some employers are even looking at applicants' resumes for experience in band, orchestra, theater and the visual arts as predictors of future success. Employers, such as the folks at Marriott and Glaxo-SmithKline, find that exposure to arts and cultural activities gives young applicants one of the most desirable skills in today's ever-changing world: the ability to deal with ambiguity. 

Think about it: a student raised exclusively on No-Child-Left-Behind-there's-only-one-right-answer testing is going to have a hard dealing with situations where there's no one right solution and indeed, the tried-and-true answers of the past no longer apply.

Locally, organizations such as the Ann Arbor Art Center and the Two Twelve Art Center in Saline offer many dynamic programs that complement in important ways the educational experiences our young people receive in school. 

In October, the Ann Arbor organization will present an exhibition and series of activities that explore creative reactions to some of the most inhuman behaviors man has visited upon his fellow man. Through visual arts, performances, and food, the Ann Arbor Art Center will explore the Armenian genocide and other catastrophes.  Certainly, there is no one "right answer" to these sorts of tragedies and this program will give participants a chance to consider how they would react to such calamities.

In Saline, the Two Twelve Art Center runs a lively program called "Art Van Go," that enables local youth to work with practicing artists on arts and cultural activities during the summer months. The Art Van Go mini-van takes artists and supplies into Saline parks where young people can develop their conceptual thinking skills by making arts projects.  (It may seem like a little thing, but just painting a picture with simple watercolors demands lots of decision making: what to include, what not to include, how big is one element (a flower, for example) in relation to another element (a house), etc.) This valuable program gives kids a chance to express themselves and experience success in a fun and non-threatening manner, an important opportunity indeed.

In Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan University and the Riverside Arts Center are exploring ways they can collaborate to offer arts education programs to area residents. The What Is That Gallery (is presenting skills-building workshops and classes, and emerging community leaders are demonstrating their resourcefulness and ingenuity by crafting new programs, such as the Shadow Art Fair, to response to the needs and interests of a new generation.

Throughout all these examples, arts and culture is the common thread. By using arts and cultural activities as tools, folks in our county are teaching us about the horrors of the past so that we don't repeat them, building creative thinking skills in our children, developing new skills among arts practitioners, and identifying community needs and developing new activities to address  them.

Folks are undertaking all these initiatives because they love doing this work and believe in it passionately, not because they have to ...and certainly not because they're being paid a ton of money!

What's not to like about that?