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The art of the matter

As students herd back to school this fall, countless traditions come with the season: buying the notebooks and backpacks, packing school lunches, peeling kids off the iPad for earlier bedtimes. Another, less happy tradition: bemoaning the state of arts education in public schools. It’s no secret that the Clark County School District isn’t exactly flush with cash, and in times of tight budgets (ahem, all the time in a state with a wobbly, three-legged table passing as a stable tax structure), art and music classes are often the first to go. Consider this portion of the program your standard battle cry for improving arts education funding. Because, whether you’re an idealist or a pragmatist, you’ve got to admit the catalytic power of the arts on youth: In addition to teaching them about truth and beauty and the radiant nobility of the human soul and all that, education in the arts has also been shown to prime those spongy minds for learning math and science as well. (I dimly suspect I might have a balanced checkbook today if only my trigonometry teacher had played piano.)

But what repeatedly struck me as we put together our annual fall culture guide was how many of our local arts organizations and institutions — in addition to, you know, doing their main thing creating beauty and keeping the radiant nobility of our souls humming at proper calibration — commit time and energy to entire programs dedicated to inspiring and teaching valley youth. Amid the tussle of the larger issue of properly funding schools to include courses in art, music and performance, these groups are the boots — or, rather, the ballet slippers and violin bows — on the ground in our community right now. They’re not just stimulating hungry young minds. They’re also creating tomorrow’s audiences and tomorrow’s performers — pretty important, wouldn’t you say, in a city with entertainment sizzling in its DNA? The show has just begun, but so what: Give them a standing ovation now.

As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.