|What are the stakes?|
During my prolonged odyssey around the Bronx as an ATR, I have been in many schools that offered no or very limited art classes. Most troubling, some of them had Art (in one of its varied forms) as its main focus (and often included in the name of the school) and was the reason many of the students enrolled there. I was recently in a school where I came across many such students. The kids were complaining about not being able to express themselves so I talked them into making a presentation to the principal for the creation of a mural. He agreed and the kids were happy. I brought in drawing lessons and we would work on drawing during their lunch period. Many of the students were eccentric, eccentrically attired, very attuned to the art world and I throughly enjoyed them. They were frustrated and angry at being lied to and being stuck there for the rest of the year . Many were discipline problems for their regular academic teachers, but not for me (Thank God). They were genuinely happy to have an artistic outlet. I was shocked at how talented many of them were, especially for being primarily self taught. It seems that Art is always considered the least important class and as such is cut for almost any reason. Budget constraints, lack of available room (because of a lack of space from co-locations - often from charter schools) and the prioritizing of academic subjects. I'm referring primarily to visual Art, but this also pertains to all the arts - Music, Dance, Theater, Film and even writing. We have some amazingly talented kids out there that are being thwarted in their desire to learn. Having these programs creates a positive outlet for adolescence and is uplifting to them and society. If we don't expose students to the cultural richness of our shared humanity, those cultural aspects that enrich us all will start to disappear. We have only one classical radio station left on the radio, no more NYS opera, and a lack of art galleries and museums in many areas. It's time to change this. I can't find up to date stats on this problem. This is the most recent I could find - http://gothamist.com/2014/04/07/arts_education_crisis_nyc.php . Let's all push for change - tell your UFT reps, write emails and support the arts where and whenever you can.