A.R.T. (Animals R Terrific) Art Workshops
Art for Animals' Sake (AFAS) provides art education workshops for elementary and middle schools, community centers, and students of all ages, promoting compassion and proper care for animals and companion pets.
AFAS is designed to be fun, educational, and interactive; but the most important aspect of the program is its potential to instill compassion for animals by captivating the youth through art.
AFAS educates workshop participants on responsible animal guardian techniques while unleashing their creative side. During this time, artists connect with students on a personal level, improving their artistic talents and helping them understand more about how to properly care for animals. The result is an expressive and tranquil experience, where animal owners can share their experiences and gain valuable educational information. Lessons include art mediums such as painting, drawing/cartooning, and photography.
Art education plays an important role in childhood development. It helps children to develop into complete human beings. Research shows that through art activities, children develop life skills, including communication, problem-solving, social and emotional skills, through self-expression and creativity. Art also provides a way for children to communicate with others; children are able to express their feelings through artwork even when they do not comprehend words yet. In addition, art provides children the ability to make their own assessments and teaches them that a problem may have more than one answer.
When exploring art, children face some questions and start to practice problem-solving skills on their own, like “this tape isn’t holding—what should I try instead?” Children can therefore develop problem-solving skills through art works. Finally, art can help to develop children’s social and emotional skills. Through artwork, children become willing to share with one another. Participating in art further helps children to control their emotions.
Art can also influence a child’s performance in school. There are some studies that show that exposure to art education will affect a student’s academic performance. For example, eighth-grade students who had art classes for longer periods from kindergarten through elementary school tend to have higher test scores in writing and science than the students who had shorter art periods. Another study illustrates that students who take art courses in high school tend to get higher GPAs in math than students who did not take art classes. Furthermore, art education has a positive impact on SAT scores as well: “In 1993, SAT takers who had four year’s study in the arts scored 53 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 37 points higher on the math portion than did the students who had no arts coursework.” As seen through these studies, it is clear that art education strongly influences a student’s performance in school.
Filling the void
In recent years, schools have moved toward standardized testing. This has profoundly threatened the role of the arts in schools. In the 2006 Fiscal Year Education Budget Summary, it was proposed to make cuts of 35.6 million dollars in art education.
Today, this number has dramatically increased. Because of the budget cuts, schools increased the time they devoted to tested subjects, like math and science, leading to cuts in the time and spending on non-tested subjects, such as arts and music.
Art departments are often the first area for budgets to be cut because parents are more concerned with other subjects. In addition, budget makers and politicians only focus on math and reading as the standard of education; however, they fail to see the benefit of art education.
Animal Abuse in our Communities
Animal abuse is a prevalent and saddening issue at a global, national, and local scale. While there is no one specific definition of animal abuse, Black’s Law Dictionary defines cruelty to animals as “The infliction of physical pain, suffering, or death upon an animal, when not necessary for purposes of training or discipline or (in the case of death) to procure food or to release the animal from incurable suffering, but done wantonly, for mere sport, for the indulgence of a cruel and vindictive temper, or with reckless indifference to its pain.
The majority of animal abuse and cruelty is burdened on dogs, though cats and other animals suffer its cruel sting as well; of the 1,880 animal cruelty cases reported in the media in 2007, 64.5% (1,212) involved dogs, 18% (337) involved cats, and 25% (470) involved other animals. Of course, in reality the number of animal abuse cases is a lot higher since these numbers do not include cases not reported in the media.
As of November of 2012, there were 17,008 reported cases of animal abuse in the United States; in Washington State, there were 304 cases. Abandonment and neglect is the number one form of animal abuse in both the US and WA. This has lead to high populations in animal shelters across the nation, which leads to more problems for these animals.
Link to abuse later in life
A lack of empathy plays a significant role in both animal abuse and is closely tied to school bullying. This issue raises extensive public attention because there is a significant correlation between acts of cruelty to animals as a child and serious, recurrent aggression towards humans in adulthood. This link between animal abuse and adult violence is especially prevalent in domestic violence. Many studies on this link demonstrate the severity of this connection.
“According to Henry (2004a), individuals who reported abusing animals in childhood also reported greater involvement in a variety of delinquent behaviors in adolescence and adulthood—including higher rates of participation in violent, property, and drug-related crimes.” In addition, “these individuals who engaged in cruelty to animals (who are less powerful beings than they) were much more likely to support violence against women and children (who are perceived as less powerful members of society).” With 70% of animal abusers also having records of other crimes, this connection seems quite clear. To be more specific, 100% of sexual homicide offenders examined had a history of cruelty towards animals, and 63.3% of men who committed crimes of aggression admitted to cruelty to animals. Moreover, many school shooters committed acts of animal cruelty before turning their aggression on classmates, teachers, and parents.” The report continues, “As the deputy manager of animal cruelty issue for the Human Society of the United States, Dale Barelett, states, “the research shows that most mass murders and serial killers are likely to have animal cruelty in their childhood background.”
Nearly 13% of animal abuse cases involve some sort of domestic violence and the Humane Society of the United States estimates that each year, nearly 1 million animals are abused or killed in connection with domestic violence. With 71% of domestic violence victims reporting that their abuser also targeted their animal, its no wonder that women in abusive relationships fail to leave their abuser for fear of what will happen to their pet after they leave. In addition, animal abuse is more likely to occur in homes in which child abuse also occurs.
Youth bullying a sign of things to come?
Animal abuse is also strongly correlated with school bullying. With dramatic examples like the shootings at Columbine High School, educators and psychologists alike have sought to examine the factors around this phenomenon. According to Stomp Out Bullying, a national program for kids and teens dedicated to stopping this violence, "Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes. 1 out of 4 kids are bullied and 43% of teens, 97% of middle schoolers and 47% of older teens 18-24 are cyber bullied." In the case study, “Bullying and Animal Abuse: Is There a Connection?” researchers Bill C. Henry and Cheryl E. Sanders of the Metropolitan State College of Denver pose that both bullying and animal abuse are indicative of a lack of empathy toward other living beings.16 In the end, “empathy appears to play a significant role in both animal abuse and bullying, and lack of it has become a marker for researchers looking at children who may be prone to both animal abuse and bullying.” Furthermore, boys and girls who reported participating in direct school bullying were twice as likely to have committed some form of animal abuse when compared to their non-bullying peers.
While animal abuse may be one of the cruelest and most revolting crimes in society, it is also one of the most preventable. By seeking to instill empathy for animals through its art programs, AFAS strives to not only end animal abuse and reduce the number of animals in shelters, but also make a positive impact in the lives of these children, helping them become valuable and contributing members of society.
End neglect before it happens
The goal of AFAS is to prevent the neglect and abuse of animals by fostering a more compassionate world and teaching respect for all living creatures through creative artistic expression.
AFAS focuses on building empathy for animals in children and young adults by engaging them in artistic activities. This unique approach to animal advocacy provides the participants with activities while simultaneously conveying a valuable life lesson. While various animal rights organizations assist in rescuing and caring for animals who have already suffered abuse, AFAS cuts to the core of the issue, helping the youth to understand the need for proper animal care and abuse prevention tactics. By working in conjunction with underserved youth programs, such as Seattle-based “Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets,” AFAS is not only able to serve as an instructional program, but also as an outlet for those without a supportive community.