Let’s Celebrate National Arts in Education Week

As the new school year begins and we approach fall in this special place we call Northeast Wisconsin, it is important to remember the impact of education in our homes, schools and communities. For decades, research has shown that when students participate in the arts as a part of their education, they go on to succeed in school, work and life.

Designated by Congress in 2010, the week beginning with the second Sunday in September is National Arts in Education Week — a national celebration of the transformative power of the arts in education. We are celebrating here in Green Bay, and would encourage all supporters of arts, culture, and education to join with us — as well as our elected officials and education leaders.

At the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, we have a wide range of vibrant visual and performing arts programs. In the coming academic year, alone, we will have 4 to 6 curated art shows, 26 music events and 4 to 5 original theatre productions with about 20 performances. These programs provide a unique education stressing problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity for our UW-Green Bay students. Our graduates go into a range of careers including many that go into arts education and share their passions with our children. The UWGB arts programs also provide wonderful opportunities for the Green Bay community to engage in an array of exhibits, performances, and concerts throughout the year. Last year the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts hosted 15,600 Pre-K-12 students from 67 cities and 23 counties in a daytime education series, and more than 98,000 patrons attended a performance at the Weidner Center. We encourage you to take advantage of all of the art events, both on campus and in the community.

Recently, in Washington, D.C., the new Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law —replacing No Child Left Behind. This new bill fully supports the arts as part of every students’ well-rounded education. It provides the flexibility for students to learn creatively and for local districts and states to create schools that embrace the arts. What we know is simple: students attend school more often when they have access to the arts, parents and families engage with the schools when schools embrace the arts, dropout rates decrease, grades increase – and the halls are filled with artwork, songs, drama and dancing.

And, we’re not alone in this belief. According to a public opinion poll, released in March, 9 out of 10 Americans believe that the arts are essential to a student’s well-rounded education.

However, so often we see that access is void in communities across our state and the country. In that same public opinion poll, 67% of Americans believed that there was not sufficient access to the arts for their students to reap the benefits. Additionally, there is study after study that indicates the opportunity gap in arts education, specifically along racial and socio-economic lines. We must stand together to fight for equity in access and delivery of arts education to the young people in our community our state, and the nation.

Mosaic Arts Inc., the local arts agency serving greater Green Bay, is in the final stages of developing an Arts Education Program for K-12 students. We believe students should have ongoing and equal access to learning through all the arts including dance, music, theater, visual arts, and other art forms. However, equity and access are an issue for too many students. Mosaic is working with greater Green Bay area schools to plan programs for implementation beginning in 2017, including in-school residencies and performances as well as field trips to approved art facilities. The goal is to deepen existing arts experiences through the program. We envision a community where all students take part in high quality arts learning to ensure that the next generation receives a well-rounded education that includes all the arts.

The Arts Education Program is designed to build partnerships between artists, teachers, community arts providers, and students in order to create arts-enriched learning experiences; establish and coordinate programs to enhance and expand arts education in schools; engage families and communities in celebrating student work through exhibitions, performances and community events; and create awareness of the value of the arts and how the arts impact our lives.

As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we should take pause to cheer for our accomplishments, but we should also remember the work we have to do. How can our district help provide equitable opportunities for all of our young people? How can we use the new law to create arts-rich schools? How can we support parents, families and the community in providing more opportunities for engagement? It’s up to us — the arts education community — to take a stand and lead. Join UW-Green Bay and Mosaic Arts, Inc. as we continue to advocate, provide access and promote the arts both in our schools and our community.

Scott Furlong, Dean College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, UW-Green Bay

Tina Quigley, Executive Director, Mosaic Arts, Inc.


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