The Artistic Edge: How the Arts Help Kids in Life


The newly released book “The Artistic Edge” by Lisa Phillips, was recently brought to my attention, and I had one of those moments where I quickly ordered my copy as fast as I could! I am usually not so quick to pull the trigger on something, but the message spoke to me. Day in, and day out, art educators are trying to justify what we do. Connect art to core subjects, administer standardized tests in order to have “data” to validate our program, the list goes on. But what if validation of our art program, and all the arts for that matter, lie within something deeper: Success in Life. This is something parents, administration and the community can understand. They can latch onto it. This is called “The Artistic Edge.” Phillips’ book and website of the same name, reaches out to help teachers bring out and promote this artistic edge in their students to help them succeed in life.

I just started reading my copy of the book, and am excited to dig in further. Perhaps this is becuase the message has such connection for me personally. Performing solos in the school musical gave me the confidence to get up and speak to hundreds of art teachers at a conference last weekend. Putting together an art exhibit in college gave me the confidence to know how to edit, curate and know when something is “done” or when I should keep working. I use these skills every single day, and those are just a few examples off the top of my head.

I am sure you all have  a story that is similar- and know students who aren’t necessarily the most talented artist, but need the confidence that exhibiting a piece of art in the school art show can bring, or the discipline and accountability that finishing an intricate printmaking project can demonstrate. It’s all connected, my friends, and Phillips does a wonderful job bringing this message to everyone who needs to hear it.

For more great articles regarding this topic, you might also like to check out Phillips’ website, The Artistic Edge, linked above.

Please share- What “Artistic Edge” can you thank the arts for giving you?

How can we spread this message to parents and the community at large?  

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • There are many things that I would like to thank my art education for, but the biggest is knowing that there are multiple, even infinite solutions to a problem.  That little pearl of wisdom has helped me to lead a happy, creative life.  I see obstacles as a challenge, a time for brain-storming and problem-solving, not a means of defeat.  (I need to check out this book!)

    • TheArtisticEdge

      Hi Heather,

      I’m really happy your arts education led you to that pearl of wisdom! It’s living proof that embracing creativity helps develop those leadership skills that lead you to success!

      Hope you enjoy the book!

      Artistically yours,
      Lisa Phillips

  • My time in the business world has led me to believe that two of the main assets which can make you successful in almost any position are…

    1) The ability to communicate convincingly, clearly, and concisely.
    2) The ability to think creatively outside the box, to think of the solutions no one else has.

    The arts play a huge role in developing both of these abilities, IMHO.

    • TheArtisticEdge

      Hi Derek,

      That’s exactly what I hope more business people learn to believe. Arts education equips future employees with skills that are necessary when it comes to selling oneself in an interview, proposing innovative and imaginative ideas and even helping in thinking of new and exciting ways to run a company!

      Artistically yours,
      Lisa Phillips

  • Novak Amanda

    I MUST. Read this book (and so should my principal). I was reading her “about” on the website and it is exactly what I heard from someone in our district.

    Okay – so let me back up. One of the schools I teach at is an Arts integration schools – which means kids make connections between subjects through the arts. So they might be learning about movement and layering in dance class – then they come to art and we look at layering and overlapping – the in writers workshop they talk about layers in their writing and some kid might say “layers! Like when we have one group in dance do one movement then another group does another near by so it is different but works together” which then later translates into variations in music class. It is fascinating to watch kids make these connections on their own.

    Now, back to what I read on the Edge’s site – she talks about her performing art classes helped her feel more comfortable presenting to a group (Jess – I think you mentioned this as well.). I had a parent of two of our students – she teaches Art at one of our middle schools,. She told me that teachers can always spot the kids from this particular Elementary school before they even check a list, because they are naturals at presenting to the class. They don’t seem nervous, scared or embarrassed. It took me by surprise for a short moment and then it made perfect sense. Kids at this Elementary present and perform in front of each other almost daily. They might do some re-telling of a story in drama or maybe some improv – maybe in dance they are asked to work in group to make up a series of movements they perform for the class – in music the compose a song to a specific beat. All these small performances add up to confidence, communicating, and being at ease in front of others.

    I fully believe people under estimate the power of the arts.

    • Amanda,
      You always have a great way of putting things, and the testimonial about the students from the arts school says it all! The little daily things we practice, as you mentioned, prove to have huge benefits later in life! 

    • TheArtisticEdge

      Dear Amanda,

      So glad you were inspired by the website! Hope you enjoy the book!

      Artistically yours,
      Lisa Phillips

  • Valentine W.

    Thanks for the resource- definitely something I’m going to look into. You mentioned the need to justify education in the arts to administrators and policy-makers, and I’m sure no art educator needs to be reminded of their memorized speeches to address this issue. I would be interested to know if this book addresses the potential economic benefits of the arts in the 21st century.

    The amount of art created through and for media, entertainment, and advertising alone is astounding, and the demand for entertainment will remain an expanding economic sector in the next generations. The same argument that was introduced by Regan in “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 – that STEM courses are essential to America’s future economic prosperity- is still, for the most part, being argued today by politicians. However, what the 1983 presidential report failed to account for was the internet and explosion in visual and interactive media. By Regan’s own logic, our economic interests lie substantially in the arts as well, and this Regan understandably failed to calculate.

  • Susan Legere

    I can’t wait to read this! Thanks for the tip!

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