Visual & Performing Arts



The arts are essential to a complete and competitive education for all Illinois students. Students today live in a world characterized by rapid advances in technology, the potential to collaborate on an unprecedented scale, and an abundance of information. The arts equip students intellectually, emotionally, and socially to thrive in this ever-changing environment. 

Through the arts, students acquire 21st Century Learning Skills such as critical thinking. They explore a variety of symbolic codes and mediums, synthesize knowledge from subject areas as diverse as mathematics and social science, and devise innovative solutions to problems. They access new ways of thinking and learn to consider, evaluate, and value multiple viewpoints. 

Arts education prepares students for success in college and career. It increases test scores across subject areas and results in higher levels of literacy. Over 70 percent of companies rate creativity as a primary concern when hiring, yet 85 percent of these companies cannot find the creative workers they seek.

Arts education also helps close the achievement gap. Low-income high school students who have arts-rich experiences in high school are more than three times as likely to earn a B.A. They are also more likely to obtain promising employment, volunteer in their communities, and vote. The arts promote self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-reflection, while at the same time teaching students how to empathize with others and communicate effectively. The arts classroom is often a school’s most democratic space, where students of all levels learn to respect each other’s unique contributions and to work collaboratively. 

Perhaps most importantly, the arts have shaped every culture. Artists produce the images, plays, dance, stories, and music that make communities unique. The arts prepare students to live in our diverse, global society by exposing them to other cultures and to their own cultural heritage. Through the arts, students also create meaning in their lives and in the lives of others. 

(excerpt from the Illinois Arts Learning Standards Initiative, VanderBrug, et al., 2016. Full report available at