You don’t have to convince art teachers of the power of art education. Over my twenty plus years as an art educator I saw the magic in my room. It was the child who excelled in my class but struggled in other subjects. It was the child who came to art during lunch, after school, and during study halls because they were experiencing a creative burst. It was the child who brought their camera with them everywhere. It was the child who pulled me aside during a museum field trip to ask if the artwork was real, and wanted to know how museums could afford to operate. It was all the children who knew art fed something in their soul in the same way I always knew it fed something in my soul too.
I was also won over by the value of art education for those who felt they had no particular skill or talent in art. Those students often saw the most growth. “I can’t draw!” they would declare. “Did you write your name today?” I would ask because if they put pen to paper they too possessed the skills to create. I didn’t become an art teacher to teach children who didn’t need me. Could you solve for x in math class without your algebra teacher’s help? For most of us, we need instruction to learn. In my classroom students learned skills that gave them confidence, resilience, and grit.
According to Americans for the Arts website, I’m not alone in my support for the arts in education. Their Harris poll states “93 percent of Americans believe that the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education.” Interestingly, they also cite, “72 percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring.” Yet, arts are often the first to be cut when schools are facing shortfalls. And it’s not just about curricular decisions but how well art teachers are equipped to teach those classes.
A storm is brewing
I have yet to meet a teacher who didn’t reach into their own pocket to supplement school supplies. My first year of teaching I had approximately 130 students that I saw daily for 185 school days and I literally had no budget that year. My supply room’s shelves were almost as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. I would like to say that state standards dictated my curriculum but instead my curriculum was often defined by what I could scavenge or buy inexpensively and make into a lesson. I communicate daily with art teachers who face similar experiences; full classes of students and no budget or an inadequate budget for a subject area reliant on material consumption.
While budgets can be challenging in even good times, a financial storm is brewing. According to a January article in Education Week, 31 states face budget shortfalls of $30 billion or more and education will undoubtedly be substantially impacted. Not only will schools have reduced funding but they are also facing increased expenses from pandemic related school closures. In my home state, Massachusetts, Randolph Public School District has cut their entire K-12 arts, music, and physical education programs and staff from their 2020-21 budget.
Be part of the solution
Fortunately, teachers have options today that were unavailable to me when I started teaching back in 1993. In that time, the internet has entered the scene. With that, new funding options have emerged for teachers, schools, and parents who support schools and the arts. Display My Art offers up a unique option to help subsidize schools and art programs. DMA offers schools a fundraising opportunity by turning student art into custom keepsakes. Students can be excited to see their work transferred onto a card, apron, mug or any number of items. Parent’s can be excited to have an original one-of-a-kind product to use, keep, or gift. Teachers can use their own lessons or use a lesson from the www.displaymyart.com. It’s truly a win win situation.
You might be an art teacher wondering how you might make ends meet. You might be a school administrator looking to supplement your school’s budget. You might be a parent looking for a fundraiser to help support your child’s school. Whoever you are, let the magic of art education propel you forward to support our schools in ways that lift and inspire.