While I was visiting a small community in Latin America, I discovered a successful art-oriented nonprofit organization. Members and volunteers of Fundacion del Nino Simon (in Spanish) worked hard to provide quality art programs for children for many years. One of the art activities that I really enjoyed was the Festival del Papagayo,or Kite Festival. Every child designed, elaborated and flew their own kite as a symbol of freedom. Families in the small city of Chirgua, Venezuela, not only gained appreciation for the arts through the festival but they became more united as a community. They were art advocate fighters against the poverty and political challenges of this rural area.

After that experience, I realized three reasons why we should become art advocate fighters in our own communities, and why it's healthy to embrace your creative outlets.

1. Art provides opportunities for self-expression

Arts are symbol systems as important as letters and numbers. When we create art, we appreciate beauty and empower our emotional intelligence. Art integrates connections between our body, mind and spirit with meaning and purpose. As food is necessary to maintain a healthy body, art is necessary to maintain a healthy communication in community.

When art is present in the community, people can break communication barriers and express their desires and feelings through new content and productions. Art is a way to express personal thinking and communicate new ideas, values and beliefs.

2. Art contributes to building communities

Art is part of the cultural capital of societies. A good book I recommend is The Forms of Capital by Pierre Bourdieu. In the book, the author indicates that the social assets we create as communities are necessary to promote social mobility. Progress of communities can be measure by the access of their social capital.

Art products are a form of social capital and they are fundamental in building communities. Cultural nonprofits and other art organizations can be beneficial in your community because they support the economy by increasing markets, businesses and promoting prosperity by reducing levels of poverty in individuals and families. Art organizations are "peace builders" in creating bridges regardless of culture, age, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, political preference, education, favorite soccer team or any other difference. Arts unite communities.

3. Arts stimulate creativity

If you are looking to understand social problems and reach for solutions, the arts and cultural organizations are something you must consider important in your community. Art creates value to new inventions. It creates new jobs and new ways of interpreting reality. I have been teaching art to young age groups and found that art education contributes not only to stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain in charge of the creative process, but in fulfilling a human necessity of inventing and organizing elements, using materials to obtain a product and finally naming it. Creativity not only creates a mental image, it organizes and combines the elements to produce it, obtain the art work itself, give a word or words to reference and give meaning to it.

With my experience visiting small communities around the world, I observed that art and cultural productions are essential for the existence of communities and have an impact in the economic, social, educational and political development of the individuals. Effective art and cultural institutions in our communities require a lot of effort and hard work. Human and financial resources determine the existence of art organizations. Fortunately, art and cultural nonprofits in the U.S. are funded with tax deductions as well as financially supported by individuals and corporations. That makes individuals and institutions work together for the same purpose: to have a better quality life and fulfill human necessities.

As responsible advocates, it is our job to fight for keeping art programs alive, raising awareness and taking action in order to preserve the art and culture institutions in our communities. Be ready to be the best art defender, your community needs you!

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