As the Director of Arts DuPage, Debbie Venezia is a champion for the arts, dedicated to sharing the county’s vibrant cultural environment with residents and visitors alike. She believes art plays an important role in academic studies but is saddened that it is the first area to get cut in tough economic times.
“I am so grateful that Dylan Ladd is bringing the Academy of the Arts to Naperville – maybe it is a sign that the tides are changing!” she said.
In this Q & A, Debbie Venezia talks about the importance of visual arts in education.
Why is it important for children to express themselves by producing artwork?
Through art, children can freely express themselves and convey their feelings even though they may lack the vocabulary to do so. Art also stimulates the imagination and engages curiosity. According to the International Child Art Foundation, “Research indicates that a child who is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property—key attributes for individual success and social prosperity in the twenty-first century.” Additionally, art facilitates communication and encourages a collaborative spirit. Children working together can share resources and ideas, build social skills, and form friendships, which will help them throughout their lifetime.
How does art fit into their general education?
I think art is every bit as important as science and math in the curriculum and could be used to promote the understanding of both. Art can improve comprehension and make the subjects more relatable. By integrating art, students can visualize problems and concepts, making abstract ideas more relevant and accessible, which will help them throughout their lives. In 2016, Americans for the Arts collected data from The College Board that indicates students who took four years of arts and music classes in high school outperformed non-arts students by scoring an average of 92 points higher on their SATs.
Does producing art also provide health benefits?
Reports have shown that one out of three students today face high levels of anxiety and depression, and many are turning to art therapy to reduce their symptoms. Art has qualities that will help combat stress, facilitate a mind-body connection, and aid in the healing process. Art also enhances cognitive abilities, fosters self-confidence, and increases acceptance, leading to a greater sense of well-being and a happier lifestyle.
Do you think it is especially important for students considering entering the world of performing arts, and if so, why?
Students engaging in performing arts will experience myriad benefits that will help them on so many levels in every aspect of their lives! Performing arts will help build self-confidence, enhance communication skills, bring awareness to diverse cultures, and expand one’s imagination. Being a part of a team will boost social skills and open doors to other possibilities inside and outside the school environment. The training provides tools that will continue to positively impact the future, both professionally and personally, for all who study this powerful art form.
Can you speak a little about your own visual art education?
I majored in fashion design and minored in art, so I took quite a few visual art courses. I remember them because not only did they challenge me, but they also were the most rewarding classes in my educational experience. Through them, I learned skills that helped me analyze and interpret work for presentations, think creatively and conceptualize artistic ideas. Additionally, I befriended five fellow art students and our friendship remains strong today. One class that had the biggest influence on my life was high school Cinema Study, an academic discipline that approaches film as an art form and a medium of education. Students learned historical, analytical, and critical aspects of film while watching and discussing movies from other cultures and eras.
I later established the After Hours Film Society, a not-for-profit organization that has been bringing foreign, art, and independent film to the western suburbs for 33 years. In 2004, we launched a student film festival that gained international recognition. We just announced the winners from this year’s competition (18 students from five countries, ranging in ages from 10 to 45). In our way, we are encouraging the next wave of filmmakers.