A Few Words from Debbie
Supporting Arts Education and Providing Solutions
As the African Proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child." During my interview for my current Arts Council role, I was asked my opinion concerning the 2013 decision by the Lansing School District to eliminate all 27 certified art and music specialists in all 22 elementary schools and how I might handle this. My initial reaction then was the same that I hold today...we need to establish and keep building a better and more trusted relationship with the school district, and we need to find ways that the Arts Council can be part of the solution to make sure that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, have access to an arts education.
Our belief...every child attending Lansing schools should have access to a comprehensive, balanced and sequential in-school arts instruction program, which is taught in partnership by highly qualified art and music specialists, classroom teachers and community art providers. A quality arts education curriculum is crucial in preparing our youth; we must offer them a broad knowledge base and equip them with creative-thinking and problem-solving skills as a way of fueling innovation in an ever-competitive and evolving world. Statistically, we know that the arts are responsible for improved motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness and academic performance––all essential for children to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.
So for the past year and a half, we have been building a relationship with the Lansing School District superintendent and the innovator team members. We've been listening to our members who are helping to direct our work and who themselves continue to work within the Lansing schools. We've also been molding and shaping community solutions that certainly won't replace art and music in our schools but can help to supplement them in these financially challenging times. And we've been writing grant applications (lots of them) to address the long-term sustainability of a new strategic direction for the Arts Council in our Young Creatives program.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that just a few weeks ago the first of our grants was awarded and that we were recipients of a $15,000 grant from the Rotary Club of Lansing to institute our Young Creatives: Artists-in-Residence Program. This program will create opportunities for students and teachers to work side by side with teaching artists in a selected art form such as music, dance, theatre, and/or the visual arts where they will experience the rigors of a specific discipline and its full artistic process during the school day. We will be creating an artist roster, which will be available by early fall, and we anticipate being able to create at least 10 artist residencies in Lansing elementary schools between September 2015 and May 2016.
But let me be clear--our advocacy message concerning returning certified art and music specialists to the classroom is still very much alive. We know that the Lansing School District is still under tight financial constraints, but the Arts Council and our stakeholders will continue to advocate for partial restoration to add six art and six music specialists back into the classrooms over the next two years. Over 8,000 elementary students are counting on it! In the meantime, a little bit more art will be coming to them during the school day, thanks to the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and our funders who believe in the importance of this work.
Deborah E. Mikula