Even something as simple as a sculpture can elevate quality of life in a community, according to Peter Dolese, interim executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City.
"What makes a good city a great city, a lot of times, is the beauty of a community, and public art, in my opinion, is one of the ways a community is enhanced," Dolese said. "You see a sculpture out in the middle of a plaza "? you see children playing around it, people looking at it, enjoying it "? I definitely think that increases the quality of life."
At Wilson Elementary in the Oklahoma City Public Schools district, test scores have improved, and attendance has increased from about average to around 95 percent since the school introduced its arts integration program, said Principal Beverly Story.
With arts integration, the students are more engaged in the learning, which increases subject matter retention, Story said. The arts are also better suited for many children's learning styles, which are often kinesthetic, rather than auditory or visual.
"They have to touch it and feel it and experience it in order to learn it," she said. "And the arts is a perfect vehicle to teach children."
PLAYING THE FIELD
Art affects people on a practical, emotional, financial and even spiritual level, said Jennifer Gooden, program coordinator at the Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City. Along with Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the alliance recently organized fresh stART, a free art studio for the city's homeless. The program was inspired by similar efforts in Austin, Texas, and Albuquerque, N.M., where some participants earned enough from the sale of their art to pay for an apartment or buy a car.