What inspires young people to learn? What draws older children to focus and create a product or performance of originality and excellence?
How can we provide quality learning environments for young people conditioned to beleaguered schools, limited economic and recreational resources, and too many families trying to parent in the face of conflicting demands on their time, emotions and financial resources?
These and other questions are often asked among concerned parents, educators, juvenile justice officials, religious leaders and policy makers.
Studies have found that localities and organizations that focus their activities in the arts enable young people who engage in these programs regularly to improve their academic standing, increase their abilities in self-assessment and motivation, and raise their sense of the importance of planning and working for a positive future for themselves and their communities.
Learning in the arts can no longer be regarded as "extra," "trivial" or possible only when the basics are in place.
The arts are basic, for they push leaders to pose problems and find solutions, to link thought and action, and to recognize the consequences of individual behaviors on group interactions and achievements.
Current thinking and demands of communication in the continuing information-based workplace reveal the kinds of thinking necessary for civic, economic, technical, inventive and social challenges and point to society's keen need for more learning of the kind existing within the arts.
Within the Virgin Islands, environments must be created that enable educators and professional artists to see art involvement in school and non-school activities as viable and compelling options to learning.
What about the costs of these actual programs? This is a relatively easy question to answer.
Once physical space is available, the costs to support young people's involvement in the arts are surprisingly low. In figuring costs, one must take into account that young artists are not drains on resources — they are resources.
Ideally, each young artist gives back to the community and surrounding institutions in a variety of ways that are incalculable — education, counseling, entertainment and as role models.
As we in the community and the new administration embark on the threshold of a new millennium, we must remember that the arts enable us not only to honor our past but also to imagine our future.
The arts have always inspired us with new insights, discoveries and achievements. Through poems and plays, dances and documentaries, stories and songs, paintings and philosophies, the arts have touched our lives and enriched our spirits.
In this increasingly diverse society, the arts help us to appreciate and understand one another as individuals while deepening our common bonds.
As we prepare to mark the end of this century and the beginning of a new one, it is most important that we preserve, embrace and nurture the work of established and emerging artists.


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