Education Reform is the buzz phrase used by every stakeholder, every policy maker who makes decisions for our students – our leaders of tomorrow.
Education reform with out including the arts? An arts education is responsible for encouraging the development of visual-spatial abilities, reflection, and experimentation. What would Leonardo da Vinci say? He was planning cities and inventing flying machines between painting such great works as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. Arts education teaches and nurtures creativity, judgment, and discipline. What about the student who struggles and looks for a reason to get up and go to school every day?
Let me use, as an example, a girl who, at a young age had trouble with math and spelling and wondered how she could ever fit into an academic world. That’s when she discovered she had artistic talent – in the 3rd grade when her class made posters for Fire Prevention Week. She was completely surprised when she won a ribbon for 2nd place! Realizing that she was proficient at drawing gave her the confidence to question why she couldn’t excel any further in her newfound strength. This was a defining moment in her education as the arts made a difference in the path her life would take.
Once she discovered this talent in art she begged her mother to sign her up for art lessons. Her mother’s reply was an emphatic “No!” She stated that the week was filled with other activities such as piano and tumbling. Somehow this little girl had to convince her mother that art was her passion! She found leftover paint from a “paint by number” kit in her neighbor’s trash. She locked herself in the bathroom and made a paintbrush from a pick-up stick, scotch tape and cuttings from her own hair. She painted a bouquet of flowers for her mother with her makeshift brush on a piece of notebook paper complete with little pieces of hair to add texture. Her masterpiece brought tears to her mother’s eyes and she promptly signed the little girl up for art lessons.
This true story took place fifty years ago and the little girl in the story was me. I truly believe that my own childhood learning difficulties have guided me and my exposure to an arts education encouraged me to be successful in school. I went on to became a career Visual Arts Educator for Duval County Public Schools and am proud to have helped many students develop a passion for learning. Today, I continue my life’s work as a Museum Educator at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.
Art saved me and it can help save other children who have academic struggles. It is my opinion that the arts are at the core of education reform and are a vital part of a well-rounded education for every child. Please join me in my arts advocacy.