Luis Valdez, the famous playwright, once said: “To whom does the future belong? It belongs to those who can imagine it.” There is no doubt that through the visual and performing arts, our students can give their imaginations life, and in doing this, they create something that never was before. They are fully capable, with our guidance and support, of designing a future that is richer because of their contributions.

That is one of the reasons why, even in times of increased focus on accountability and student achievement, we cannot, we must not, leave the arts behind. The arts can be a path to a new future that uses all of the power of our imaginations. Someone once said that if we can imagine it, we can build it. Imagination is that powerful. And artists, many of whom live in the bodies and minds of our own students, can unleash a powerful imaginative and creative force that can show us the way to a better world, and better lives for us in that world.

Works of art, and those who create them, should be at the center of our efforts to improve our schools and our society. But the arts are not only about imagination. They’re about the courage to create a world worth living in . . . to create new worlds that can embrace all of who we are and who we can be as human beings. After all, as Vincent Van Gogh reminded us, what would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?

As administrators, as teachers, as parents, as community members, the responsibility rests with us to nurture the creativity and imagination that lives in our children and our youth. We can help them transform their imaginings and their dreams into art works that all of us can treasure and appreciate and use to enrich our own lives. By our actions, we must say to them that we believe that dreams have the power to move the heart, and when we can set those dreams free, through the arts, we can change the world for the better. When we implement and support powerful and comprehensive arts education in our schools, we will provide paths and bridges to new, more profound understanding of the vital nature of arts education for each and every one of us.

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