So, I am going to speak from the heart here and from personal knowledge and experiences. I am worried about the future of art education. I know that in my district, art teachers have been cut or reduced in the last couple of years. One school cut my friend and replaced her certified position with an uncertified one, meaning anyone off the street can come teach art. A co-worker came to me and said she heard on the news that Eagle County, in our state of Colorado, was cutting all art, music and PE from elementary through high school. I have not been able to confirm that but I did see this one quote in an article from Vail Daily, referring to Eagle County schools:
‘In a meeting Thursday, art teachers were told to prepare a curriculum so someone who's not an artist could teach it.’
Really? That’s like asking a science teacher to prepare a curriculum for someone who hasn’t studied science. Nobody would ask a science teacher to do that, so why are we diminishing a certified art teacher’s position to that of crafter who can follow step-by-step instructions? That is not art.
I understand that we have an economy that cannot meet our every need. I understand that we need to be more frugal and make some changes to live on our diminishing budgets. However, as someone who believes in what she does, I can’t stand seeing this taken away from kids. My chest aches when I have new students who arrive from California, Oregon and Washington who have never had an art class! How can education cuts be made without affecting our programs? Do our communities know what is happening? Do we need to advocate more?
Art is not just fun time for the kids. Art is teaching and training students to be the thinkers of tomorrow. Any successful entrepreneur is an ‘out of the box’ thinker. That creativity is what differentiates the creators from the robots. I understand that many of my kids will not grow up to be ‘artists’, and that is fine. I don’t feel sad about that because I don’t think the only benefit of art education is giving the kids the ability to make a pretty picture. The main purpose of my program is to foster the student’s creative critical thinking skills. My classroom is one place where they are free to explore their ideas. They are not held back. My favorite thing to tell the kids is that they aren’t wrong. Their artistic choices are not wrong. They almost don’t know what to do with themselves when given such freedom, but once the ideas start flowing, they can’t be stopped! Art education validates their ideas and creations; it gives them the chance to explore without fear.
I feel so lucky to be at the school that I am at. I am thankful every day that I ended up here 6 years ago. I am surrounded by a staff and administration who thank me constantly and completely support my program. As sad as I am to see art being cut in other places, I am so happy and grateful that my students have access to it. I am a lucky girl and I know my principal will fight for the arts in his school with every last ounce that he has. I just wish every school was as lucky as I am to have him.