While participating in arts programs has obvious benefits on someone’s creative potential, the positive effects of engaging with art go beyond enhancing one’s creativity and self-expression.
In fact, a recent study from New York University Steinhardt has found that being part of an art program can go a long way towards enhancing awareness of social justice issues and increasing engagement in social action among the youth of color. Additionally, the researchers have found that white youth involved in arts experience greater awareness and understanding of social inequity.
“Critical consciousness is a framework for understanding youth’s beliefs, feelings, and actions around social injustice,” says lead author Deanna A. Ibrahim. “Youth from minoritized communities—including youth of color and sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth—systematically face injustice in their daily lives. Previous research tells us that for youth facing injustice, developing awareness and action around inequity can lead to improved well-being, as well as school and career success.”
As part of the study, the researchers observed 2,537 adolescents in Massachusetts over two consecutive academic years (2015-2016 and 2016-2017). Using questionaries, the team measured changes in critical consciousness and other constructs among young people who were involved in various extracurricular activities such as sports, arts programs, and academic programs.
Previous research has found that arts programs contribute to improved civic engagement and awareness of social justice by providing space for self-expression, social interaction, and collaboration. The new study, however, is the first one to explicitly link youth’s engagement with arts programming to growth in critical consciousness.
The findings offer more evidence on the importance of arts programs, showing how this form of education can contribute to critical consciousness and improve developmental competence.
“This study shows that arts programming can be an important place where students can develop awareness and action around injustice, and that art can help more privileged youth become aware of injustice and more marginalized youth take action against injustice in their communities,” says Ibrahim.
Source study: Journal of Youth and Adolescence — The Art of Social Justice: Examining Arts Programming as a Context for Critical Consciousness Development Among Youth
Additional resources: Journal of Civil Society — Impact of the Arts on Individual Contributions to US Civil Society