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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The importance of art in the Brazos Valley

Photo by Ishika Samant

The MSC Art Gallery gets ready for their upcoming display premiering Wednesday, April 27. 

It can be all too easy to neglect the arts in favor of STEM, but the arts play a large — and often unnoticed — role in the community. 

There are many different ways to enjoy art, including listening to music, baking, reading and even watching a favorite Netflix show. In fact, students who participated in arts classes often have higher pass rates on exams of up to 15%, according to the State of the Arts report by Texas Cultural Trust. In the Brazos Valley, art galleries, such as DEGALLERY and The Purple Turtle, find great passion in teaching others and providing a safe space for exploration and creativity.

Telecommunication and media studies junior Mary Katherine Smith said she loves art and uses art galleries as a place of self-reflection. 

“I’ve never actually been in [the Forsyth Galleries] before, even though I’ve been on campus for a while, but I really enjoy art,” Smith said. “I felt in the mood to connect with the pieces and do some introspection, which brought me out here today. It’s been nice.”

Smith said she would like to see more variety in the art pieces around Texas A&M because they bring many mental health benefits.

“Art is a reflection of our thoughts and our feelings,” Smith said. “To be able to see it, you find identity in certain pieces. You feel a sense of belonging and connection.”

Due to A&M’s large focus on STEM fields, Smith said she appreciates the art galleries on campus, including the Forsyth Galleries in the Memorial Student Center. 

“As a liberal arts major, to have places like that where we also feel heard and can connect with the right side of our brain is important,” Smith said.

Dary Dega, Ph.D., is the president and owner of DEGALLERY. Because of her academic background, having a doctorate in neurology, Dega said there are benefits to people in a variety of jobs practicing art.

“I see a lot of people — engineers, scientists, politicians — who do art additionally as relaxation. It’s a huge upgrade,” Dega said. “A lot of engineers who start to do art classes do everything with symmetry and it doesn’t have imagination. Everything is like math.”

Not every issue in the workplace can be solved using a set formula, according to organizational consulting firm Best Practice Consulting. When a company faces a new issue, high creativity levels in a workspace lead to increased productivity, engagement and teamwork. The arts are a highly effective way to increase creativity, according to a report by Arts & Business.

Anyone can be an artist, Dega said, and DEGALLERY offers classes for anyone looking to improve their creative side, which can open new opportunities in the future. 

“This can be hard for people,” Dega said. “But, people who do art can do all sorts of different jobs because of the upgrade to the right part of their brain … I see that as keys needed here to be successful.” 

Art educator and owner of The Purple Turtle, LeAnn Hale said the arts are important to the Brazos Valley to help create a community where people will want to live. 

“If we don’t have a well-established art community where we live, we’re not going to attract more people and people who would really value being a part of that community because they’re gonna live somewhere else,” Hale said.  

The Purple Turtle focuses on art classes for children, and Hale said art encourages kids to take chances, and if they do fail, learn from their mistakes in a constructive way. 

“When you give [kids] a task like this, an art challenge, there’s no answer,” Hale said. “Often, they’ll get started on a project and it doesn’t work at all. I talk to them about how we’ll tear it up, burn it, dance around it and not do that again. Because of that, kids learn at a young age that it’s OK to take chances and create something … and being OK if it’s not great that first time.”

Art was a valuable source of escapism during COVID-19 and ultimately showed the importance of keeping the arts alive, Hale said. 

“If COVID[-19] showed us anything, it’s how much art is valued,” Hale said. “For that whole time that we were all shut in, that’s what we binged. Whether you were reading, learned to play an instrument, enjoyed music or cooking … all of those things are art.”

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