Even In Trying Times the Arts are Central to Children's Aid Society
Why is it that whenever funding is cut from education, in spite of the evidence, the arts become the first casualty? Is it because they are still widely classified as affective and expressive, rather than academic or cognitive? Often, the arts survive as only add-ons to education, as curriculum enhancements, rewards to well-behaved students, or electives for the talented and affluent.
The narrowing of the curriculum brought about by No Child Left Behind and difficult financial times has had a devastating impact on the arts within the public education system. Although the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is not an arts organization, throughout our history the arts have been indispensable, not just an add-on, even during this challenging economic time. The CAS 12th Annual Children’s Art Show, held on April 25, illustrates the agency’s strong commitment to the arts. Over 180 student-artists from pre-k to high school participated with different media art forms such as drawing, painting, sculpture, video, digital art, photography and music.
The goal of the exhibit is to stimulate, nurture and promote the arts among students, parents and staff. The show is curated by specialists and the pieces that need framing are professionally framed. The planning process takes about six months. Art instructors at CAS community schools and centers select the best work produced by their students (over 400 pieces this year) and then professional curators choose the best amongst the best. Nothing is left to chance.
For the last 11 years the show took place at the NYC National Arts Club, the iconic temple of fine arts where some of the most important artists in America have exhibited; this year, due to a scheduling conflict, we had to look for another venue. And we rose to the occasion by transforming the gymnasium at CAS’ Milbank Center, in Central Harlem, into an open art gallery; hundreds of students, parents and community members enjoyed the exhibit.
Debate over the impact of the arts on learning has persisted since the mid-1900’s when drawing and singing became part of the United States school curriculum. At Children’s Aid Society’s community schools and centers there is no debate. Exposure to the arts, arts education and education through the arts remain essential even in trying times.
We believe that the arts are a critical component of education, and should be fully integrated into a school’s curriculum, instructional plan and expanded learning opportunities. A sustained dosage of quality arts education will have important short-and long-term effects on student achievement and has proven to re-engage disconnected students (Why the Arts Belong in School) and deepen the relationship of families and communities to education and learning.