Why arts education is our priority

“Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence”

” …Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it’s closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual’s life — according to the report, they “can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing,” creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.”

(above excerpted from http://www.edutopia.org )

The selection above underscore our commitment to furthering arts education in an under-served community where stringent cutbacks means only 40% of schools have arts programs.  Outside schools, there are scant, if any, resources to develop artistic talent.

That’s why at a recent Board of Directors retreat, we decided to enhance our commitment to arts education centered around three key areas:

  1. Offsite outreach:  The strategy of “fishing where the fish are” reinforced the importance of taking our programs where folks go after school, work or on weekends (such as social clubs, festivals, fairs, etc.).  This addresses the issue (or excuse) of accessibility: the rationale many use for not participating.  Hanging our artists’ work offsite such as at Cochise College also reinforces our effort, as does our new scholarship program for their top art students.  Of course, we will continue to hold our on-site classes weekly.  (Check out our Facebook announcement on right sidebar.)
  2. Community partnerships:  Our partnerships with local schools and community clubs showed us that the sum is indeed greater than the parts.  This year, we are extending our outreach to senior and mental-health agencies who have sought these programs, sharing budgets for greater impact.
  3. Pro instructors:  We have built a small team of commercial artists, plus former and current arts instructors who are paid a stipend for teaching art classes.  This incentivizes teachers to “bring their best”, raising the bar for our programs.  In a community where volunteers are a challenge to find and retain, unemployment is high while pay rates are low, this strategy works for all.

This initiative would not be possible without donors such as the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.  The Santa Cruz Community and Shipley Family Foundations are also supporters we count on to expand this effort.

The Nogales Superintendent of Schools, Alfredo Velazquez, also deserves a special shout-out for his commitment to continued funding for our Summer kids ARTVENTURE program  that has more than 100 student signed up.

Mr. Velazquez is not alone in his philosophy about arts education. Check out this news brief from Phoenix:

“Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, made it his goal to provide high-quality, comprehensive arts education to all K-12 students. Horne, a classically trained pianist and founder of the Phoenix Baroque Ensemble, hasn’t yet achieved his objective, but he has made progress: He pushed through higher standards for arts education, appointed an arts specialist in the state Department of Education, and steered $4 million in federal funds under NCLB to support arts integration in schools throughout the state. Some have restored art and music after a decade without them.

“When you think about the purposes of education, there are three,” Horne says. “We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.”

Even with the level of support from our foundations and school administrators, we could not do it without our valuable members and local residents!

We invite you to join with us in this important initiative by donating to our Educational Fund (ARTBRIDGE – click on right sidebar logo image) or by calling us at 520-287-5515 to share your ideas.

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