Greater Good has grown more quickly, reaching a far wider audience, than we ever anticipated when we launched the magazine five years ago. We’ve been privileged to see the magazine become an important resource to so many readers, and our foremost goal is to continue to serve you, and many new readers, for as long as possible.
Now we’re poised to take an important step with you toward that goal, extending our reach while also promoting the magazine’s longevity. After this issue, Greater Good will shift from its current print format to being an online-only magazine. We’ll start publishing new, web-exclusive material this spring, and make the full transition to our expanded online format this summer.
We believe this move will unleash the full potential of Greater Good, offering a greater variety of practical tools and thoughtful perspectives, while also establishing a stronger community around the magazine.
Though this will be our final print issue, we won’t be leaving print altogether: In January of 2010, we’ll publish the first in a series of Greater Good books, featuring some of the best material to have appeared in the magazine.
For more on our shift online, please see the letter on the opposite page, or visit our website, greatergood.berkeley.edu. And if you send us your email address using the card inside this issue, or by signing up on our website, you’ll receive new Greater Good articles and multimedia content, delivered directly to your inbox. (We will not share your email address with anyone.)
The enthusiasm of readers like you is what has driven Greater Good’s rapid growth over these last five years, and it’s the key to our future success. We’re truly grateful for your continued support.
* * *
In this issue of Greater Good, we devote much of our focus to the science and practice of art. For years, the arts have seemed perpetually to be on our national chopping block. Federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has dropped by nearly 20 percent since the early 1990s. At the same time, we’ve seen arts programs pushed to the margins of school curricula, or just cut entirely—casualties of shrinking education budgets and the growing emphasis on standardized test scores in the post-No Child Left Behind world.
These trends seem only to be intensifying in the current economic climate, when arts programs, like so many others, are in dire financial straits.
But at the same time that the arts have faced such steep cuts, research has been documenting the varied and profound benefits that the arts provide. In this issue, we examine a wide range of this research, exploring the arts’ social and emotional benefits, as well as their benefits to our physical health—and perhaps even to students’ cognitive and academic growth.
This last point is a thorny one, with many scientists debating whether the arts actually have crossover benefits to more academic disciplines. Karin Evans examines this debate in her article, highlighting new studies from neuroscience that explore how the arts might affect kids’ brain activity.
In her fascinating essay, Ellen Dissanayake explores why humans have demonstrated such a strong and enduring urge to make art, and she traces the roots of all art to the bond between mothers and infants. Reporting on a series of recent studies he helped conduct, Keith Oatley shows that fiction improves our abilities to understand other people, and can even have measurable effects on our emotions and personality. Meera Lee Sethi looks at the medical benefits of the arts, profiling an innovative Florida program that makes art integral to patient care. And in a series of provocative accounts, seven leading artists explain why they make art, what they get out of the process, and what they hope their art gives to others.
Of course, even once we recognize the myriad benefits of the arts, it can still be hard to find the time and resources to make the arts a part of our lives and the lives of our children. That’s why, in her closing essay, Greater Good Science Center Executive Director Christine Carter outlines six simple, research-based steps for nurturing kids’ artistic creativity.
What Christine and our other contributors make clear is that, no matter where the stock market goes, art can—and must—be a part of our lives.