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Blue Dog and Art Education: Does putting the arts at risk put kids at risk, too?

Blue Dog, by Patience, 2007 (Please do not reprint, use, or reproduce.)

The other day we got a note home from school about the art program. We get notes from the school practically every day, promoting this or that cause, cajoling for volunteers, or asking for some sort of donation, but this one caught me.

In our school district---which I consider to be a relatively wealthy district, with a high tax base and amazingly generous donations from individuals and the community---the school lacks (won't allocate?) the funds to provide the art teacher with the supplies she needs to teach our children about art.


A subject I consider essential.

I come from a family of artists. I've created and sold art. For a while, it was my income. Luckily my husband provided one too or I might have starved, but that could also have been my lack of marketing ability (and motivation). Luckily my ancestors were craftier.

When my great-grandmother became a single mother, she used her artistic talent to provide income for her family. Her daughters carried on the tradition. I am often awed by their talent. My great-grandmother was a painter, largely of landscapes, slightly impressionistic.

My home is filled with art. There's the Girl Reaches for Moon by a Costa Rican artist we met while vacationing there. The two-piece set by San Francisco artist Zanne Christensen. Quite a bit of my own work. Unexpected favorites that cross over both my love of literature and art, such as Herman Hesse.

Art teaches us about perspective, geometry, taps into our creativity, enriches our eye, our view...and so much more.

Did You Know?

Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are:

* 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
* 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
* 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
* 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
* 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem

Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to:

* Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently
* Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently
* Read for pleasure nearly twice as often
* Perform community service more than four times as often

Source: Americans for the Arts ("Living the Arts through Language + Learning: A Report on Community-based Youth Organizations," Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, November 1998)

What an incredible list! The arts give so much to children!

How can our schools not have enough money to teach art, let the children create art...not have enough money to provide the needed supplies?

The list said that children who get three hours of the arts three days a week gain those benefits.

Patience's school provides one period of art per week and one period of music per week. Period. That's not even two full hours.

We do have two local art education programs that are fantastic, and fantastically expensive. So much so that we don't participate; it's beyond our budget, and there are so many locally who earn even less than we do.

What do you do when you can't afford to buy an arts education?

Why, when it comes to money allocation, do districts appear to short-change the arts?

If schools (and parents) want a program that steers children toward positive, esteem-building, and motivational activities and away from things such as drugs and sex, here's your answer: the arts.

If the district had put money towards the arts instead of spending approximately $30 per classroom for plastic red ribbon week wristbands, I think the art teacher might have at least most of the supplies she needs.

Instead, I got a note. A note that on the front requested money or item donations, and on the back, in small font, had a list three columns wide for the entire length of the letter-sized page of supplies the art teacher needed.




And so on.

Patience painted Blue Dog in art class, and her teacher selected it for this amazing site called Artsonia.

She has a story about the painting, of course. It's never just a picture.

What story do you see there?

Isn't it cool to just gaze and imagine?

Art is so valuable. How can we begin valuing it in our schools again? How can we ensure that our children get a rich arts education too, and that the teachers have all the supplies they need, without having to beg from parents?

What do you think about art and art education...what's your experience with it in your schools?

For more information see: Americans for the Arts

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Suz said…
I loved to paint and draw as a kid, but the art programs in school were so poor or non-existant that my parents paid for classes outside of school. Since the art museum didn't have many classes for people my age, my parents lobbied to have me take the adult classes, where I would sit at my easel with my mom in the back of the room.

I thought that school art was boring and it was. The teacher had too many kids. The kids didn't take it seriously and who could blame them. If the school doesn't value art enough to fund it, they're sending that message to everyone.
Anonymous said…
I love the picture!

I loved art in high school. I was in love with an artist for four years during college and I am still amazed at the talent of some people and what they can draw, paint etc.
Anonymous said…
I had a friend who dropped calculus to take art, a move her parents fully supported.

Have you considered forming an art-cooperative with other like-minded parents? With nine kids involved, you'd only have to host/teach once every two months. It's not the same as having a qualified teacher in the schools, but perhaps you could see it as the kids teaching one another.

Just a wierd, random thought.
S said…
Our district sounds nearly identical to yours. And surprise, surprise, same thing. Per week: one period of art, one period of music, one period of gym. And on gym day, there's no recess. Because that would just be too much time not filling out worksheets, right?

Patience's art is so, so lovely. I am impressed. And not surprised that you're an artist, too.

What CAN'T you do, friend?

But, back to the topic at hand. It's shameful. Yet another in the extremely lengthy list of the ways our country is currently failing our children.

dharmamama said…
You asked:
"Why, when it comes to money allocation, do districts appear to short-change the arts?"

They don't appear to shortchange them - they DO shortchange them. And it's because... art's not on the test. The almighty test.

With plenty of research showing the benefit of art & music education, because it can't be measured like a math score, that research won't be taken into consideration.

It's one of the many reasons we no longer participate in the system - because it IS a system, and takes decades to change, if it changes at all, and my kid was there NOW. Not decades from now. He's an artist, as well as empathetic, compassionate, and kind. None of those things are valued and supported in the system. Who he was wasn't valued and supported. (I'll stop here. I could go on and on...)

I love, love, love Blue Dog! Patience could probably sell prints!
Kyla said…
Excellent painting, Patience!!!

You know, I grew up in this system, not THAT long ago, and I wasn't involved in the arts in HS or middle school when it was optional, but I don't have memories of it from elementary either. I don't know if that is because it didn't pique my interest as a child or because the programs were suffering like they are now. I remember music and gym classes from elementary, but not art. Is that strange?

I try and get BubTar to participate in art here at home because I think it is a good exercise for his perfectionist side. If you are creating something brand new, there can't be any expectations of perfection. I want him to know that perfect isn't always the goal. I think that is the very reason he is a bit resistant to it.
Unknown said…
wow - that painting - wow! I won't comment more - this may turn into a post next week. It's been in my brain recently.
Anonymous said…
What a terrific post! Blue Dog is outstanding!
Anonymous said…
I don't think there's an easy answer to this whole sucks, to say the least...Art is absolutely essential to our children's education, as is music. I just think it's sad that the schools are struggling so much in general...I had to send in Kleenex for my daughter's classroom because the school can't afford to buy it. Crazy.
Magpie said…
Shite, Julie. This hits home for me. One of the ironies is that "arts in education" is a big buzzword in philanthropy circles...there's money out there for arts programs for kids. So, for the school to be hitting up the parents for paper and stuff is doubly wrong. They ought to budget for it, and if they can't, they should be looking elsewhere.

I work at a non-profit that's attached to a public school (or it's attached to us). Almost all we do is supply arts education to the kids in that school.

And yes, it's damned important - kids need art, society needs kids who know art.
Leslie said…
There is such a fine line between what schools SHOULD be supplying and what is considered extras. In this case, it is such a shame that you are getting a flyer home like that -- it's embarrassing for your district., because those requests are bare minimums... a couple of years ago, I got together with some other folks in town and we formed an Educational Foundation that now gives grants for innovative and exciting educational projects - nonprofits in town as well as teachers and the school district can apply for grants - for projects that reach beyond what the district would pay for to help stimulate and excite our kids' minds. It's been a great addition to our community (although we have our own struggles being an all-volunteer organization!).

It IS frustrating for you - especially when your child clearly has amazing talent!
It is frustrating that the schools prioritize the way they do. My children are not particularly artistic, but I would still like for them to get more of a feel for the creative side of things than they do now. It does add an extra dimension to and appreciation for life.

Your daughter is truly gifted.

painted maypole said…
yes, yes, again I say YES!

and I think you are on to something with the "won't allocate" sports never get cut, do they? science? no.... it's the arts.
Laura said…
You have to stop and wonder what the school system is coming to? Those stats are amazing and startling at the same time.

The painting is wonderful. What a talented little person! Must take after her mom.

thanks for sharing.
Gwen said…
Love the colors in that art work.

Again, this makes me value our school, as imperfect as it is, since the kids have art twice a week and music twice a week, with opportunities to get more involved in both during recess available to everyone. And, they also manage to fit in three sessions of gym, Spanish, daily recess .... and still have "good" test scores. So: not all public education is shortchanging children.

Too bad Chicago has no clean air and I live near a Superfund site.
When do we as a society realize that the money we spend on the future generation directly impacts the quality of life for everyone? How can it be that someone who plays football for a living extravagently out-earns someone who teaches our kids? And how is it that in communities if you threaten to cut the sports programs everyone goes up in arms but when it's music or art or science there is just a few peeps? Good post and I love Blue Dog!
Lawyer Mama said…
I love P'd Blue Dog. It's amazing. You should watermark that sucker or something so no one can lift it without allocation.

I want to hear the story behind Blue Dog.

Art was never my thing. Dude, I can't even draw semi-decent stick figures. But how else can we learn to appreciate art? It's oh so important. Just as important as English or math.
Anonymous said…
I remember in my primary school a vibrant and rich creative emphasis - and it was only a small-town school. However, due to the large indigenous population, that also meant (I think) that the school received additional State and Federal funding. Which could be spread around.

That wouldn't be the same these days, alas. Seems to be indemic.
Mayberry said…
She's really talented, Julie!

Right now in K, my daughter gets one art and two music periods per week, plus the artsy/craftsy things they do in the course of the day. The school also offers a once-weekly "art club" in conjunction with the YMCA (so it costs money). Interestingly, it initially was not open to kindergartners (they're "too little", they "can't focus") but when some K parents protested, K kids were allowed in on a case-by-case basis.
Melissa said…

I wish I was surprised. Where I'm at, and mind you this is an EXEMPLARY school, the kids rotate through Art, Music, and Drama in nine week intervals. They alternate days with PE. And we get the supply requests, too.

What's even scarier is that we are now getting these requests for the SCIENCE LAB and that we are going to have a group of parent volunteers to augment the science curriculum. But we too spent all that money on red ribbons and shtuff....
Julie Pippert said…
Suz, art is one of Patience's favorites, just in general. However, any time we do a "best and worst" chat after school she never mentions art class. I found out about Blue Dog through an email from artsonia.

The local university and the local art alliance both offer wonderful programs for children.

We've participated, but only briefly during the summer, because it's very, very costly.

*** is incredible what some people can create. It amazes me too, especially when I see it in my own children. Do I think Patience will grow up to be an artist? I doubt it, but can't completely explain why---a variety of factors. Do I think her artistic ability and interest will always serve her well? Absolutely.


Emily R, how funny you mention that. We are in a mom's co-op and we do lots of neat things. Coming up soon one mom neighbor---who is an art teacher---will (hopefully) be hosting an arts & crafts event where kids make their own holiday decorations. We do a lot at home. I don't know if you recall the painted children post? LOL. We have a variety of paints and art supplies here, and both girls have an easel.


SM, I know, it does sound like our districts have a lot in common. Sounds pretty identical, actually.

I know, those worksheets and teaching to the test worry me.

And it does feel like a failure, one I take on personally a bit because it's that sort of complacency thing. We've had it happen to us, but also, we've let it happen, too.

But I struggle with how to balance using my words (lol) with not generating negative consequences that affect my kids.

Also, not sure how I can put my actions where my mouth is, here. LOL

P.S. I can't cut food, I can't add quickly in my head, I can't do a flip...LOL.


dharmamama, yes,it is a system, and so I understand a degree of compromised universality it must include, but I think it's passed that and moved, well, you've read. LOL I continue to consider what is best and weigh pros and cons.

I think you make a good point about why it is not valued: it can't be as easily quantified.

This reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, where art education was highly, highly encouraged for the kids in the story. Later, it turns out it was done to prove their humanity.


Kyla, you know I struggle with perfectionism in Patience and what I like is yes, art gives freedom and flexiblity (but also? she has an image in her mind and gets SO frustrated when it doesn't come out, or match the image she imagined or saw and wants to copy---such as make her horse look like a real horse) but yes, art is a good place to model flexibility.

Art wasn't terribly encouraged that I recall when I was a kid, either. However, the arts were because I remember a lot of music and dancing.

You and Jon had similar school experiences in more or less the same place, albeit different decades LOL.

He was SHOCKED to learn that we had instrument class in my elementary school. No, not recorders, REAL instruments for band and orchestra.


Karen, I look forward to that post!!


Anne, thanks!


Karen, I agree. I see the evidence of schools struggling. I can't figure out why. Money, they always say. But...people here always vote in favor of more money for schools. Why isn't it working?

I have my theories about misplaced priorities, as one factor.

Yes, we have to send in supplies, too. I joke and call it "tuition."


Magpie, this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: More matter, less art.

Yes, "arts in education" is a big buzzword, but it begins and ends there.

I don't see evidence of it, actually, in school.

Where does the disconnect happen?


Minivan, I so agree. And how interesting about the foundation. Can you blog in more detail about that? And make to give me a heads-up so it is priority reading for me. I'd be so interested.


Err out of time for now...will try to be back later...more to say...
Mad said…
I love that painting.

I think you know my stance on this. Without art we have no culture, no community, no humanity. Test scores be damned.
Anonymous said…
In my work experience, I have watched a number of districts begin pulling kids from Art and their other culturals so that they may attend mandatory Academic Intervention Services classes, due to poor performance on State Assessments. And what does the data show happens to these students who are missing art to be remediated? Oh, well, they perform even worse on the assessments that follow, of course. Conversation...dialogue...allowing students to TALK is an essential component that impacts performance in every academic arena. And what I know is that more talk happens in the culturals than it does in the core content areas (which is another rant in and of itself) beyond the impact that this has on culture, community, background knowledge, tolerance etc... it has an sadly ironic impact on the performance levels that districts are so uptight about right now.
Christine said…
oh julie.

this has been on my mind in a BIG way lately. same thing here--one art and one music class a week.

so i started looking for classes last week. i was basically laughed at when i said i was looking for local and low cost.

the university where my husband works has a great Arts For Children program. it is a program where they teach students how to instruct the arts to kids and how to create more arts programs in the community--dance, music, and art.

but when i asked them what they offer, they told me "nothing." yep, there is NO program for kids in this town right where the university is. they told be to drive to Rochester (not far, but still a gas guzzling 30 minute drive) for various programs (expensive) there.

Kyla said…
Julie: Yes! No instruments! My niece is in Kinder and she showed me her tiny violin yesterday! I thought "Real instrument? In Kinder? She must be in a fine arts school." But she isn't. She is in public school in HISD. We didn't have instrument choices until junior high, when they split us in to band/choir/orchestra classes.

And BubTar can be the SAME way about art...but it is a good exercise to try and loosen those ties to perfection for him. Usually if KayTar and I start a project (usually messy and without form) and I draw him into it, then he is able to relax and have fun...because it isn't HIS and therefore doesn't call for PERFECTION. Oh, the woes of being a perfectionist. LOL. I wish he'd apply some of that to cleaning his room. ;)
Anonymous said…
I loved art & crafts classes in junior high & high school and vividly remember those teachers as some of my favorite and most formative. I am who I am in no small part because of these people. So, yes, in pains me to think that we're allowing these to fall by the wayside.

Even more disturbing to me, however, is the increasingly cavalier & overzealous emphasis on pushing computers on kids. That our children now start using computers in kindergarten is a bit stunning. Kids need time to just be kids. They need to learn how to interact with the world around them and develop social skills. Kids need to learn to draw or play ball before they learn video games and instant messaging.

The next generation will be enslaved by technology to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom - computers will dominate almost every facet of their lives. We have an obligation to ensure that kids have opportunities to learn how to exist & thrive in the real world before thrusting them headlong into the inescapable cyber-world.

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