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Studying Art: A Window to Understanding the World

by Sam Payne, host of “The Apple Seed,” on BYU Radio

I spoke the other day at the commencement exercises of a performing arts school. While preparing my remarks, I landed again and again on a phrase that The Apple Seed audiences hear me say sometimes when I’m talking to storytellers on the air. I speak about the work of a storyteller being a window on “the world and its things.” Art, I guess, is an entity in and of itself. But more than that, it’s a window on things. A depiction of things. A framing of things to help us see.  And as I prepared my remarks for the Commencement, I thought a lot about that. The students hearing my address, it occurred to me, have begun to grasp what the best disciples of the performing arts learn: that understanding the performer’s craft is a window to understanding the world. It does a student great good to play or sing or dance well. But if those pursuits also amplify the degree to which a student comprehends the world and its people and things, a student has gained the lasting treasure that the arts can give. 

The mission statement of the school where I spoke states a goal that I like a lot: that students will graduate having come to recognize and utilize the arts as a key arena for life learning—becoming conscientious, ethical, and active citizens.

I hope that passage in the mission statement actually characterizes the students to whom I spoke as they go into the world to live and work. I like the thought of living in a world with such people in it.

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