We can’t think of a better topic for this month’s Back to School theme than a subject near and dear to our hearts, and something we’d like to see brought back to every school: the arts. Architecture melds art, science, engineering, math, writing, history, and drawing. So architects inherently understand the value of a well-rounded education that integrates instruction in the arts.

Since 2008, our founder William Duff has served the non-profit arts organization Young Audiences of Northern California as a member of its Board of Directors, acting as President for four years. He first became involved because of the mission of the organization: to create art experiences that inspire young people, expand learning, and enliven communities. As the child of a teacher who was exposed to a wide range of arts instruction during his childhood, Duff was disheartened to learn just how little arts exposure many children in Northern California receive.

“We know that students who have art in their lives do better in school, and life, than those who don’t, and that teaching artists provide students with compelling models of achievement,” says Kris Murray, Executive Director of Young Audiences of Northern California. Young Audiences is a national organization that identifies accomplished dancers, actors, storytellers, singers, and visual artists who can also engage students in the classroom, and helps them bring their discipline to schools. Last year, Young Audiences of Northern California brought art to over 22,000 children in Northern California through school assemblies and residencies.

Duff uses much of the arts training he received when he was young in his daily practice. Research supports that students learn eight unique “studio habits of mind” in visual arts studies, including:

1) develop craft, becoming more technically proficient
2) learn to engage and persist
3) envision mental images and new ideas and forms
4) express personal vision and meaning in their work
5) observe their own work and that of others, noticing what they might have otherwise missed
6) reflect on their process, intent, and decisions, learning to judge their own and others’ works
7) stretch and explore, taking risks and capitalizing on mistakes
8) understand the art world, past and present, and how their work fits into it.

“I still use every one of those habits of mind, both as an architect and as a business owner,” Duff says, “and I’m grateful that I had avenues to develop them early on in my education.”

As for Young Audiences of Northern California, it continues to pursue its goal of bringing art back to Bay Area students. This year, Young Audiences will work with schools to make the arts a part of learning in all subjects, while enlivening campuses with inspiring and illuminating performances.

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