[email protected]

May 20, 2011, Friday

An evening of culture

This week my son and I spent a wonderful evening at a modern dance performance. I have to admit that I was hesitant at first to ask him if he wanted to attend the event with me, knowing that he is not too wild about ballet.

However, I thought that he might find modern dance interesting since he has recently expressed an interest in learning hip-hop dance. After making sure that modern dance would be different from ballet, his next question was if I thought there would be other children in the audience as well. As it turned out, there were a handful of other children about his age who attended the performance along with their parents. It was a relief to him to see other children there so that he did not feel out of place as the only child among adults.

I enjoy taking my son to cultural events when our schedule permits and it is always good to see other parents who take the time and who make the effort to expose their children to the arts. There are many benefits of introducing children to the arts, beginning at a young age. The human brain is made up of two parts -- the right and the left hemisphere. The left side of the brain is used for logical thinking and analytical processes. This side of the brain is usually developed more at school as students learn math, language skills and science. The right side of the brain is related to emotions, creativity and intuitive processes. The right hemisphere is engaged when creativeness is in play, such as in the arts. The two hemispheres of the brain are most effective when both sides are working together. If children are exposed to the arts from an early age and encouraged to be creative, then the right side will develop alongside the left side and both hemispheres will be better able to work in tandem.

In addition to the purely physiological aspect, there are many more benefits when children learn about and participate in the arts. They will learn to think more creatively and with a more open mind. Their observational skills develop more as they learn to analyze and interpret through their understanding of the arts. Through the arts, children can learn to better express their feelings, whether through theater, song, dance or painting. The arts can help children expand their problem solving, language and vocabulary skills as well as their ability to think critically.

The arts can help expand a child’s view of the world. The arts offer children the chance to see the world through another person’s eyes. This, in effect, helps them understand that there is not always only one right answer, but that there are often differing points of view to consider. Children learn about their immediate environment as well as the larger world, and other cultures and languages, through exposure to the arts.

One of the most important lessons that can be learned from the arts is that learning can be fun. When creativity is encouraged, children are more eager to learn. The arts are a wonderful way to teach children while letting them have the freedom to express themselves and learn at the same time. Children can find their own special type of self-expression through the arts as they experiment with the various disciplines within the art world.

My son is at an age when he sometimes feels uncomfortable if he is the only youngster among a group of adults. I can understand that feeling because I often feel the same way if we attend an event together with an audience comprised of almost all children. So, we try to balance it out by attending functions that are of interest to us both. Some performances we go to are geared only for children, while others are more geared to an adult audience. Across Turkey, especially in the larger cities, there are numerous museums, art galleries and performance spaces offering plays, exhibitions and classes. Many of the municipalities have ongoing art classes and sponsor inexpensive, or often free, performances for families. For those of us who find themselves on a tight budget from time to time, the free cultural offerings of the cities are a wonderful way to bring the arts into our lives without stretching the family budget.

After the performance we attended together, my son told me that he enjoyed his first modern dance performance and that he was glad he decided to go along with me. I was glad that he was willing to accompany me, and I was even happier that he has learned about and now appreciates another art form. Perhaps it will inspire him to learn more about the arts.

Send comments to [email protected]

Previous articles of the columnist