In May 2018, the Arts Education Partnership published Music Matters. This was the first in a four-part series of special reports that used ArtsEdSearch to illustrate the many benefits of arts education. The Arts Counts series went on to publish Visual Arts Matters, Theatre Counts and Dance Counts in the following years.

Aside from the well documented support the arts give to academic achievement in other subject areas, themes emerged about the many other ways the arts improve students’ lives in and out of the classroom.

The arts have a significant impact on a student’s understanding of their identity and culture:

  • Self-concept and identity: Inclusive theatre education programs can provide safe spaces for young people to explore who they students find their personal identity in conflict with others, while discussing their personal visual artwork, English learners increase their listening, writing and speaking skills.
  • Cultural heritage: Students are better able to connect with their own cultural heritage through a wide array of culturally responsive music and improvisational opportunities, while dance mentorship leads to a stronger affiliation with the social fabric of one’s community.
  • PerseveranceTheatre directly helps students become agents of change in their lives, while students involved in music lessons surpass their peers on tasks measuring perseverance.

Music, visual arts, theatre and dance each contribute a great deal to the development of a variety of skills by students:

  • Learning skills: Students who engage with visual arts make positive gains in critical thinking skills, while theatre strategies not only actively engage students in their learning process, but also offer additional pathways to assess learning.
  • Motor skills: Music instruction helps develop the parts of the brain associated with sensory and motor function, while engaging in dance education programming during early childhood positively influences a child’s physical development.
  • Early development: Children in early childhood education programs who received dance instruction made notable gains in language acquisition, while there is also a correlation between visual arts training and awareness of spoken language in young readers.
Cover for AEP's Theatre Counts resource. The cover is purple with white text. It has images of people from theatre experiences pieced together with jigsaw puzzle borders
Visual Arts Matter Report Cover

Dance Counts

Explore how dance education promotes early development of language and literacy, supports long-term academic growth and builds connections to community. This report demonstrates how dance education:

  • Promotes early development of language, literacy and social and motor skills. ​
  • Supports positive academic and personal growth, which can build a sense of identity and personal agency.​
  • Builds relationships and connections to community and cultural heritage.

Music Matters

Explore the demonstrated effects of music education and how it helps students develop the foundational capacities for lifelong success. The body of evidence that identifies music’s positive impact on student success continues to grow and support the findings that music education:

  • Equips students with foundational skills to learn
  • Bolsters student engagement and achievement in other academic subjects
  • Develops the abilities essential for lifelong success
Cover for AEP's Theatre Counts resource. The cover is purple with white text. It has images of people from theatre experiences pieced together with jigsaw puzzle borders

Theatre Counts

Explore how theatre education promotes identity development and growth, builds empathy and relationships, and empowers students to transform their understanding of their place in the world. The featured studies show theatre’s positive impact on student success and bolster findings that theatre education:

Visual Arts Matter

Explore how visual arts support students’ academic success both within and outside of school settings by cultivating learning skills, boosting academic achievement and enhancing the educational experience of traditionally underserved students. The body of research AEP examined suggests that participating in visual arts can:

  • Cultivate skills for learning.
  • Boost students’ academic achievement.
  • Enhance the educational experience of traditionally underserved students.
Visual Arts Matter Report Cover

Physical Copies

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The Arts Education Partnership appreciates the generous support from the Hewlett Foundation, the National Alliance of Music Merchants and the Country Music Association Foundation for the preparation of these reports.

Hewlett Foundation logo
AEP also thanks National Dance Education Association, National Dance Institute – New Mexico, the Educational Theatre Association and the American Alliance for Theatre & Education, the National Art Education Association, Crayola, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the National Association for Music Education, The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Art and the Vh1 Save the Music Foundation for serving as reviewers and providing photos for these reports.

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits