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Arts in Education

Given the importance of art education in the community and its benefits in developing and strengthening critical thinking, communication skills, collaboration and creativity in each child, how can we work together to support the arts in our schools?

“How can we best prepare our children for the future? Arts.” –Craig Cheslog, Principal Advisor to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In response to the statewide changes in education focus, the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE) launched the Local Advocacy Network project, which supports local advocacy efforts in over thirty California communities. The newly formed Napa County Alliance for Art Education sponsored by the Arts Council Napa Valley through a start-up grant from the CAAE will convene leaders together and work to sustain and build a base of community support for arts education as an essential component of a comprehensive education for every child in Napa County.

On December 3rd, Arts Council Napa Valley along with Napa County Office of Education and the California Alliance for Arts Education hosted an early morning breakfast to garner support for arts education in Napa County schools.

In pursuit of their role, art advocates focused on one question:

“Given the importance of art education in the community and its benefits in developing and strengthening critical thinking, communication skills, collaboration and creativity in each child, how can we work together to support the arts in our schools?”

“In 1961 a class of students all received arts education as a core class in academics. Today, over 50% of students are not enrolled in music due to less access to music classes and unequal access to arts education.” –Joe Landon, Executive Director California Alliance for Arts Education. The need for more art education programs is apparent. Elena Toscano, former teacher and current administrator, asserts that even without music courses, music can be developed in the classroom. Elena Toscano, says, “It is possible for all teachers to integrate music into education”. As a teacher, Elena used music tapes to educate children and exposed children to music by taking them on field trips to concerts.

The arts are a huge benefit to student’s education. Statistics show that the arts promote involvement in school, teach morals, diversity, tolerance, discipline, and benefit students in other areas in school, such as science and math. Karen Burba, Psy.D from University of Michigan, says, “Art is a way for children to learn interpersonal skills. They do this by sharing their ideas and giving feedback to each other on projects. It also builds confidence since works of art are displayed and put in various competitions…it can be used to teach tolerance, morals, mathematics, physics, and perspective.”

However, there are many challenges faced with art education in the schools, such as, state funding cuts, locally managed budgets, need of a central organizer for arts education curriculum and assets, absence of training for teaching the arts, and lack of opportunity available for arts as a new Common Core standard.

The Arts Advocates of Napa County agree that it is essential every child have the opportunity for an arts-rounded education. In working to make this possible, groups were formed to determine methods and needs to improve art education in Napa County.

In order to keep children involved in the arts, building on mentorship programs and implementing arts courses that are culturally relevant to students is indispensable.

Mentorship program ideas consist of music festivals involving all ages performing together. Building that program with all art genres would better produce encouragement and community within the arts.

Culturally diverse arts courses that are already in place include guitar, ukulele, and digital arts classes, in addition to traditional vocal, instrumental, and art classes. Building on these diverse arts courses gives opportunity for participation in the arts for children with contemporary and diverse art interests.

Lastly, targeted fundraising is needed in Napa to support the arts programs. Spreading awareness of local arts education programs and their growth to the Napa community, local artists, and professionals is a necessity for support of the arts in Napa.

Key speakers included:

    • Dr. Barbara Nemko (Napa Valley Local Advocacy Coordinator)

    • Craig Cheslog (Principal Advisor to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction)

    • Joe Landon (Executive Director California Alliance for Arts Education)

    • Dr. Patrick Sweeney (NVUSD Superintendent)

    • Mark Morrison (Director of Secondary Education)

    • Maren Rocca-Hunt (Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction)

    • Patty Larrick (Coordinator California Alliance for Arts Education)

The arts are essential in education and provide creativity, communications skills, opportunity, acceptance, pride, and building of character. Arts are a family. To support the arts in the Napa community, advocacy as action is essential.

So what’s next? In the upcoming weeks ACNV will pull together a team to form the Leadership Committee, this committee will meet early in the New Year to review the notes from the Breakfast and decide on a 2014 Action Plan specific to Napa County’s needs. This new team will focus on developing a countywide plan to advocate, network and support arts in education.

For examples of work from other local arts education networks in California, visit http://artsed411.org/LocalAdvocacy.

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“No one is more qualified than Napa’s local community members to support the arts.” –Joe Landon.