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The Arts in Times of Crisis

By La Mor, HOD Visual Arts and Performance

Recent events have reminded me of the importance and value of the arts: For managing our health and our hope. For sanity. For survival. 

I was lucky enough to witness first hand my students experiencing the joy to be found in playing with creating stories and characters that connected them screen to screen via their online learning platforms. 

Here you can see a story involving a meeting that a couple of teenagers try to hide from the girl’s mother:

The students even managed to make their own masks during lockdown. I was immensely impressed by their fortitude and imagination, and their ability to creatively connect during their time of isolated online learning. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues for their versatility and flexibility during the challenging period of online learning. Even our creativity was exercised and put to the test!

My recent thoughts on the value and importance of the arts were very succinctly expressed in a recent message from Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO. 

“After the earthquake in Haiti, many painters, musicians and poets emerged. We made the disaster into flowers, which we offered to the world.” With these poetic words, the Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferrière described the “creative explosion” that took place after the 2010 earthquake.

Today, the world is facing another tragedy, one that exposes our interdependence and fragility. And, once again, we are witnessing the incredible power of human creativity. 

Across the globe, the arts are proving to be a powerful antidote to confinement, an outlet to express feelings and, above all, one of the most universal ways to share, uplift and express solidarity.

Creativity builds the resilience we need in times of crisis. It has to be nurtured from the earliest age to unlock the imagination, awaken curiosity and develop appreciation for the richness of human talent and diversity. Education is the place where this starts.

In an unprecedented context where up to 91% of the world’s students are affected by school closures, more than 90% of museums have closed their doors, and artists around the world are unable to make ends meet, International Arts Education Week takes on special significance.

Everywhere, we have seen arts education programmes and activities nurture connections between people and communities. These initiatives sustain learning during school closures and inspire hope in the face of adversity. These initiatives also break a sense of isolation and help learners develop self-awareness, resolve inner conflicts and heal from trauma and loss. 

However, arts education is not only a means to deal with crisis situations. Arts Education contributes to socio-emotional well-being and improves learning outcomes. It is a catalyst for social and economic development. It is an important lever to awaken talents, which are essential to maintain and renew artistic creation, ensuring the sustainability of the creative sector. If given greater priority within education systems, arts education can be a formidable resource to open minds to the diversity of the world’s cultural expressions, by creating generations of learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are needed to build stronger, more sustainable and peaceful societies.

The pandemic has heightened awareness of the need to bring more socio-emotional and creative content into learning. UNESCO is already harnessing the power of education and culture to work hand-in-hand for physical, social and economic reconstruction. One example of this activity is the UNESCO project to rebuild cultural and educational sites in Mosul. Through our Network of Associated Schools, which includes more than 11,500 institutions in 182 countries, we also encourage activities that reflect on global issues through the arts, from environmental protection to welcoming refugees. We also work to promote cultural diversity and integrate tangible and intangible cultural heritage into education, encouraging appreciation of our shared humanity.

International Arts Education Week is an opportunity to promote learning with and through the arts to improve the quality and relevance of our education systems, nurture creative thinking and build resilience.

UNESCO  is the only United Nations agency with a core mandate encompassing culture, heritage, arts, creativity and education. UNESCO is committed to joining forces with its Member States to step up cooperation, mobilize civil society, educators and arts professionals to fully harness the potential of both culture and education.

On this day, I call upon everyone to join us in celebrating International Arts Education Week, so we can make this disaster into flowers, to offer to the world.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General UNESCO


Work from across THE ARTS during the period of online learning:

Grade 6 Masks made during online Visual Arts lessons:

Grade 6 Drama

Grade 7 artwork by Seojeong Ahn  

Grade 8 drawing by Jeehea Lee 

Grade 8 film making in Music class:

Grade 9 artwork by Healim Ro

A Grade 10 musical composition made during online lessons:

Well done to all our Art makers who did fantastic work during our period of online learning!