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Seidel: Run away with cultural arts

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp once said, “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”

Personally, I think she’s spot on. Growing up in Geneva, music and dance classes allowed me to experience new cultures and ideas outside of our small town. While big theaters, galleries and museums are only a Metra ride away, it can be tough to find new ways to experience art nearby. But the cultural arts are a powerful tool in opening up our world, and having cultural arts in Geneva fosters a multitude of benefits.

Enhanced community: The basis of art is communication. Performers and artists must communicate their ideas with an audience, and communication behind the scenes is equally essential. Backstage, cast and crew build friendships, while conversations between strangers are often sparked in the theater lobby. The benefits of cultural arts also extend into the community itself. According to a study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts, “Americans who read books, visit museums, attend theater and engage in other arts are more active in community life than those who do not.”

Increased creativity: Most academic subjects and sports are based on facts (answers are true or false and games are won or lost), but cultural arts offer a more open, subjective approach. Kids who participate in the arts learn there is more than one way to perform a monologue or sing a song, which fosters individuality, creativity and imagination. With no wrong or right answers, children feel less pressure to be exactly like their peers and are more likely to take risks. Because the arts celebrate this individuality, they encourage innovation, self-expression and confidence.

Educational value: Cultural arts programs can improve memory, concentration, decision-making and critical thinking skills. For children, diligently rehearsing scenes, practicing chords and picking up choreography develop a positive work ethic.

A 2006 study by the Guggenheim Museum suggests that the arts can also improve literary skills, particularly among children who are just beginning to read. According to Americans for the Arts, young people who participate in the arts for at least nine hours each week for at least one full year are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

With all these benefits in mind, the Geneva Park District is proud to introduce new cultural arts programs at Playhouse 38, a small, intimate basement theater, and the perfect spot for performers and audience members to “run away without ever leaving home.”

Playhouse 38 is in the heart of Geneva at 524 W. State St. New summer programs include a six-week production drama camp, an audition workshop with personal coaching and other performing arts classes for youth.

This fall, expect several new additions, including adult classes, improv comedy, singing, acting and more for all ages. For information, call 630-232-4542 or visit us online at www.genevaparks.org.

• Natalie Seidel is the marketing coordinator for the Geneva Park District and can be reached at 630-232-4542. Email her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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