The Arts garner a special place in academics, as in history. While possessing their own intellectual thrust, the Arts lie at the heart of what it means to be human— fulfilling our inherent desire to create, build, and emote our ideals, angsts, dreams, and utilitarian needs within a larger, interdependent social construct.
Fast forward to today’s competitive academic environments and you will find governing bodies recognizing, with ever more certainty, the value of Arts Education as a vital component of a child’s holistic learning repertoire. The recent passage of a new bill in Washington, D.C.—The Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces no Child Left Behind—supports the flexibility for students to learn creatively and for local districts and states to create schools that embrace the arts. And furthermore, this bill is a testament to the acknowledgment that Artistic Disciplines embody qualities such as imaginative thinking, ingenuity of application and individualized expression that directly align with coveted qualifications in a 21st century workplace, as in life.
Closer to home, South Pasadena Unified School District stands committed to this mindset having secured Visual and Performing Arts teachers at each of the five school sites, thus creating a viable opportunity to develop a succinct Arts pathway for broad and robust skill-based instruction from T/K through 12th grade. One would think that this is an exciting time to be a student within our school district as we continue to configure curricular options to meet the needs and diverse interests of our student bodies. However, there is one significant problem, the Arts pathway is not sustainable under current conditions.
As the Visual Arts Teacher at the elementary level, this year signifies my 4th year with SPUSD, though my 11th year as an invested parent, Art Docent, and Artist-in-Residence prior to hire. I came on board with an ambitious agenda for the Visual Art Program’s sustainability that is rooted in developing engaging, thematic art lessons that escalate in skill-based complexity, level of critical thinking, and refined craftsmanship at each grade level, T/K-5th. Working with children, ages 4-10, I have come to understand a basic truth… when children are provided with a consistent, conceptually-supported and engaging instructional learning environment, they will not only meet the learning objectives, but surpass them in profoundly clever, awe-inspiring and dexterous ways. Unfortunately, at the elementary level, the Arts instructional learning environment is non-existent, thus jeopardizing our best intentions for sustainable growth of Art-based Programs, namely Visual Art, Music, and Theatre. Like Mary Poppins pulling a lamp out of carpet bag, I transport the entire comprehensive state of the Visual Arts Program on an art cart that measures 20”w x 30”l, and 3 levels high in all weather conditions and over uneven terrain from classroom to classroom across our linear campuses in 40-50 minute, fast-paced sessions. Beyond challenging one’s physical stamina, what is truly lost is valuable instructional time due to set-up and clean-up factors, a child’s association with art as hurried and fractured rather than contemplative and experimental, and most profoundly, the absence of an Art haven—a place of wonder and acceptance on each campus for every child— as the proper instructional learning environment necessary for success, growth, and sustainability of Arts Programs and the pathways that stem from them. Just imagine for a brief moment a Visual and Performing Arts Pavilion on each campus where performances and art exhibitions thrive and abound. Imagine a jewel at the heart of each campus to ignite creativity and showcase every child’s inherent gifts through singing, acting, dancing, painting, sculpting and story-telling. And with these new structures will come the essential instructional supports of technological capability, proper voltage and ventilation to acquire ceramic kilns, storage for artifacts, props and instruments, a stage for performance art, and plumbing for sinks!
By voting YES on Bond Measure SP this November, the Visual and Performing Arts Programs can thrive accordingly along with other vital infrastructure needs and upgrades. Knowing that an interdependence exists between exemplary, state-of-the-art schools within our district and increased property values within our community, voting Yes on Measure SP not only entices new families to move into our community, but will allow us to tout with transparent certainty that we are a desired and valued destination to call home in Los Angeles County.