STEM education is important, but art is essential

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Oscar Wilde said, “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”

Bygone days: Art deco head formerly part of the State Theatre facade.
Bygone days: Art deco head formerly part of the State Theatre facade.

The arts are a very important aspect of life. Art is an expression of our creativity and allows us to go places that only we can truly imagine, it inspires our creativity. And as Edward de Bono said, “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” The arts allow us to imagine the possibilities, art allows us to dream, and “art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

It is sad to see so many school systems removing art-related instruction because it is seen as something that is not important. Instead these systems are adding more STEM-focused classed to “better prepare students for the world and the jobs of tomorrow.” While I agree that we need STEM-focused training and that many jobs and career paths require skills related to these fields, I believe it is a mistake to rid our schools of art-related instruction.

The arts allow our creativity to flow and us to opens our minds, which is a skill needed in an innovation economy. We need to be creative to be innovative. The ability to problem-solve involves being able to think creatively and formulate solutions, and art helps us do that. The fact is that not everyone will be in a STEM-related industry. Everyone is different, and while we should make STEM-related courses available – and provide basic training in these areas to all students – we should also provide courses as well as support those who choose a career in the creative arts.

The Palace Theatre.
The Palace Theatre.

Manchester isn’t known as an arts community. I have heard stories and have seen pictures of the many theatres that used to call MHT home, but haven’t seen many art galleries. (And only one of the large theatres – the Palace – remains). But thanks to the efforts of the New Hampshire Institute of Art as well as some local artists and supporters, the Manchester arts scene is growing. There are now a number of places where one can appreciate art, including the Currier Museum of Art, New Hampshire Institute of Art, Art 3 Gallery, Studio 550 Art Center, Studioverne, Langer Place, and even City Hall. There is also the free Open Doors Manchester trolley that brings people to various galleries and museums several times per year, which promotes art and gives people the opportunity to enjoy it. I have even seen an increased number of public art pieces in various parts of the city, which hasn’t happened in quite a while. (I’m sure that many of us remember the “lollipops” that used to grace the front of the formerly-named Hampshire Plaza).

Open Doors Trolley connects residents with the arts.
Open Doors Trolley connects residents with the arts.

Manchester’s art scene is on the move.

While MHT may not have the art scene that cities like Providence, Boston, or Portland, Maine do, it is growing – and remains uniquely Manchester. It seems, however, that the arts are not showcased. Outside of followers, friends, and those who search for events, one doesn’t know much about art happenings in the city. It seems that this is the case with MHT; that something blossoms but not many people outside its borders know about it. It’s either that the sphere of influence is small or there is no desire for “outsiders” to enjoy the great things that the city has to offer.

New Hampshire Institute of Art
New Hampshire Institute of Art

One way to showcase the arts in Manchester would be to hold a festival. The festival could be a weekend or several days to start and grow from there, (I envision eventually several weeks or a month-long event). I envision somewhat a cross between the former Jazz festival and Riverfest, except with more culture. The festival could be sponsored by local media outlets, such as WMUR TV and Rock 101 radio. Local businesses could also sponsor the event. The festival could be held at multiple sites, including the Arms Park(ing) area, Hanover Street between Chestnut and Elm, Veterans Park, the Verizon, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, and Derryfield Park. Several venues could also be included, such as the Palace Theatre, The Majestic Theatre, The Currier, NHIA, and local galleries. A portion of Elm Street could be closed, say between Veterans Park and Brady Sullivan Plaza. Event parking could be free and available in several locations in the downtown area, such as the Victory and Center of New Hampshire garages and along Commercial Street as well as at Energy Park. The event could be called ManchFest or something that signifies the celebration of MHT’s unique culture.

This of course is one idea – and one that I’ve previously written about – but is something worth considering to both promote and grow arts in the city.

My hope is that the arts scene in Manchester continues to grow and flourish. I also hope that we don’t make the mistake of encouraging (compelling) everyone to train for a single industry because it is seen as a better career path as we look from the present.

Losing art would be a travesty. Life without art is senseless.


ChicoineAbout the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.

Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at brian.chicoine1636@gmail.com.


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About Carol Robidoux 5282 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.
  • Absolutely agreed.