This article is compliments of The Art of Education.
Several months ago, I was sitting across from a student and his dad at parent-teacher conferences. I was urging the student to sign up for art the following semester, as he had shown some very impressive skills. However, I was stunned when his dad spoke up and said, “Well, you know, it’s hard to get these sports guys to sign up for those classes.”
I didn’t get it. Last I checked, practice happened after school. I would know since I have to be ready to coach my volleyball and basketball teams after class. So why was it so challenging for this student to choose both art and sports?
Art and athletics are often viewed at opposite ends of the spectrum. But, are athletes and artists really that different?
Today we are going to hear from an artist and former athlete to help solve this mystery.
Artist Hillary Werth was a heptathlete at UCLA and a member of the US National Bobsled Team. Although some people find it difficult to draw the connection between athletics and art, for Hillary, it’s fairly easy. Both of her parents were professional athletes and artists. As she explains, “Art and athletics are literally in my DNA.”
Two Worlds At Odds?
For most of our students, the idea that these two worlds can find balance seems odd. Most often students are forced to choose which outlet to pursue. Although Hillary grew up in a household where both were embraced, there were times she was questioned by her peers. She says, “I always felt the need to prove myself because others didn’t understand my creative and athletic brain. When I realized I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, I started to succeed.” Because our students are heavily influenced by their peers, it’s important to teach them that choosing both is okay.
In fact, I’d argue that being an athlete makes for a more enriched, well-rounded art experience.
There are many common parallels between art and athletics. Hillary shares that her experience as an athlete has everything to do with the way she creates her art and runs her business. Both artists and athletes share a common trait in their pursuit of excellence and in their will for mastery. When asked about the similarities between the two Hillary said, “The passion that it takes to be an athlete or an artist are one and the same. I can find similarities from one of my athletic performances to a painting I did from start to finish.”
Both making art and engaging in athletics take hard work, practice, and drive. Both pursuits are rigorous. I often liken practicing an athletic skill to refining an art skill. A basketball player isn’t going to perfect their free throw shooting without practice. The same goes for an artist looking to get better at drawing.