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Preliminary research suggests that adults who engage in arts learning programs receive academic benefits from their participation, and that adults also continue to reap academic benefits of childhood arts education in later stages of life. In one study, musicians who had intensive early arts education exhibited significantly increased performance learning a second language and greater improvement in expressive fluency compared to non-musicians lacking such arts education (Petitto, 2008). In another study, participants in a community mural project gained mathematics skills through the creation of art (Kang Song & Gammel, 2011).
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The arts provide avenues for adults to use creativity to solve problems, consider social issues, and express themselves. A qualitative case study of arts-based executive leadership training institutes found, for example, that participants challenged themselves to think more creatively to developed new strategies for leadership (Katz-Buinincontro, 2005). In other studies, participants in community-based arts programs used the creative process to investigate social issues such as prejudice and racism (Clover, 2006; Grace & Wells, 2007).
Problem Solving and Reasoning
Studies connect arts learning among adults with a variety of reasoning and problem-solving skills. In one study, for instance, research with older adults found connections between theatrical work and reduced cognitive decline associated with aging (Noice & Noice, 2006). Working to memorize and act out lines from a script helped study participants with problem solving and word recall. In another study, adult participants in an arts-based executive leadership program used creative capacities developed through the arts to navigate and manage problems (Katz-Buinincontro, 2005).
Preliminary research suggests that the arts are an avenue for adults to develop and exercise leadership skills. One study found that arts-based executive leadership training helped adult participants develop leadership skills including challenging their own perceptions, navigating and managing problems, and developing interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies (Katz-Buinincontro, 2005).
Self-Awareness, Self-Concept, and Self-Expression
Studies find that adult learners who participate in arts programs gain increased self-understanding and self-confidence while also developing their communication skills and capacities for emotional expression. One study, for example, found that a project that used storytelling to address social, economic, and political issues with adults who had low educational attainment helped participants to transform their feelings of inadequacy into positive perceptions poising them for educational success (Wiessner, 2005).
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Social and Civic Outcomes
Childhood arts education is connected with later adult participation in the arts. A longitudinal study found that young people who have arts education are more likely to participate in the arts as adults, and to create or perform works of art (Rabkin & Hedberg, 2011). Another study based on survey research connects early participation in extracurricular music with the development of attitudes toward music that individuals carry into later life (Pitts, 2008).
Community and Civic Engagement.
Research finds that the arts are a medium through which adult learners can develop deeper engagement with their communities. Several studies documented ways that adult participation in the arts helped to engage and build community among sub-sets of groups as well as neighborhoods. One study found that community members’collaboration on a large-scale ecological mural project engendered community conversations and cultural exchange (Kang Song & Gammel, 2011). In another study, a storytelling program engaged adults with low educational attainment in arts programming, which addressed social, economic, and political issues within community constructs (Weissner, 2005). Research suggests that community arts programs need to take place in a safe setting to allow for the building of community through collaboration and recognition of accomplishments (Lowe, 2001).
Research finds connections between community-based adult arts education and greater understanding of others, tolerance, and openness to collaboration. One study found, for example, that community members reported that they changed their perspectives and re-evaluated stereotypes because of a community mural project that engaged them in exploration of social issues relevant to the neighborhood (Kang Song & Gammel, 2011). Another study found that participants in two community arts programs developed capacities for using the arts to navigate issues of minority sexual orientation in mainstream society (Grace & Wells, 2007).