How ARE We Doing on the Arts Education Front?
It's almost "back to school" time....it's hard to believe. But we thought it was a good time to take stock of the status of arts education around the country, since we've been such a staunch proponent. That's not to say that we are experts, by any means, but we've heard some encouraging news and seen some positive movement on the arts education front. As part of the Fazzino Arts Education Initiative, we've published interviews with some wonderful art teachers and we'd love to hear from more of you about what's going on at the grassroots level. Last month, there was an article in our local newspaper with the headline "Arts Revival: School Districts Begin Restoring Programs." It was really an article about the pending school budget votes, but it indicated that perhaps we have turned a corner. For some reason, when the money gets tight, the art programs are the first to get cut from the educational curriculum. It's interesting to note how many people often object to those cuts, but when push comes to shove, the arts are seen as secondary in importance to core subjects such as math and science. But attitudes are changing. "We're seeing a trend across the country of increasing priority for arts funding in schools," said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the cultural adviser to the White House created in 1982 by President Reagan. "For a long time, the arts were seen as a flower that you give to children when they succeed. But we believe the arts aren't a flower, they're a wrench, part of the tool kit to help these schools turn themselves around." We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Another testament to the importance of the arts to our society is the good works done by an organization called Art Starts. In their own words: "Over the past twenty years, Art Start has become an award-winning, nationally recognized model for using the creative arts to transform young, at-risk lives. Art Start kids live in city shelters, on the streets, are involved in court cases, or surviving with parents in crisis. Through Art Start’s daily creative arts workshops taking place inside some of the city’s loneliest places, at-risk youth collaborate with local teaching artists and educators who donate their time and guidance to nurture the youth’s creativity and talents." They recently announced a new artist-in-residency program for the homeless in NYC so that homeless artists can take advantage of art classes, job workshops, socialization groups, and other resources. Their artistic talent will be recognized and help them open doors that otherwise would have remained closed to them. And recently, we featured an educational software company called Plan Bee in the UK that uses artwork to teach kids all sorts of principles including problem-solving, urban planning, and architecture. Time and time again, it is proven that creativity is key...it's the key to personal growth, societal development and advancement, innovation, healing, relationship-building, and communication. We are, by our very nature, creative beings who invent ideas and then make them happen. Without the arts in our school and in our social programs, how are we supposed to nurture THAT? We are encouraged by recent developments and will continue to advocate for programs that value the artistic part of our humanity.