Vista VAPA: A Critical Element of Student Achievement

In the race for core academic excellence, some fail to recognize the true value of student involvement in visual and performing arts.


Natalia Maverakis

Parents appreciate Vista del Lago student Lauren Downing’s artwork piece

The relevance of core classes, such as math and English, are obvious, but few people understand the relevance of the visual and performing arts (VAPA).

To be successful in classes that require critical thinking, students who have the creativity to see situations at other angles have a distinct advantage. For example, a study conducted in 2000 on the benefits of drama in the classroom showed that drama improves story understanding, reading achievement, writing and oral language skills.

When asked why drama is beneficial to students, Mark Cornfield, Vista’s drama teacher, said that it furthers writing capability, reading, oral interpretation, and builds confidence and self-esteem.

Music also plays a huge part in bettering students. While various studies have different takes on what exactly those benefits are, most agree that music does improve test scores.

“The highest level of learning is creativity… all classes should have some creative aspect,” said Vincent Martini, one of Vista’s  guitar and contemporary music ensemble teachers. “What we’re trying to do here is give students the opportunity to express themselves through visual and performing arts.” 

The other side of musical performing arts is under Elicia Spencer. When asked what makes VAPA such a unique learning experience, Spencer said, “Students learn not only about themselves, but about humanity,” adding that it gives students a way to connect to different cultures and time periods.

Another large part of VAPA is drawing and painting. “In a visual arts class, you have to think in a completely different way,” said Gayle Martin, a drawing and painting teacher at Vista. Considering its importance in teaching students new ways to approach thinking and problem-solving through art, you would think VAPA-sponsored events would have larger turnouts, at least rivaling sporting event attendance. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

However, Martin said that the fact that sporting events have more attendance than major VAPA events is not necessarily anyone’s fault. There is a “communal excitement”  when it comes to sporting events that isn’t as present in VAPA.   “It would be nice to see the day when an arts show receives  the same amount of attendance as a sports game,” said Martin, which is true for most high schools.

When it comes down to it, the relevance of visual and performing arts in high school education is apparent at Vista. Popular opinion may suggest that it is under appreciated, but at the same time, the community of people who appreciate VAPA redeems the lack of support for visual and performing arts.