As schools around the nation struggle to find funding for arts programs, often cutting the arts entirely, the Salt Lake City School District continues to find ways to keep the arts vital.
Tonight, the district will hold its first Fall Into the Arts event, a free celebration of the accomplishments the schools have gained through the support of Beverley Sorenson and the Friends of Art Works for Kids organization. The district plans to make it an annual event.
“We believe that arts teach creativity — they can enhance other content areas,” said Rosanne Henderson, supervisor of Fine Arts Education. “Children are learning about sales and science. If they dance that concept, or draw or sing that concept, we believe that art integration will help academic areas.”
While Henderson admits there has been resistance — lawmakers cut funding 37 percent after the economic downturn — support has grown ever since. In 2010, lawmakers propped up the program with $658,000 and followed that up in 2011 with $4 million more in the program’s fourth year, hoping to acquire more data on the program’s effectiveness.
The data compiled so far have been positive. There currently are14 specialized arts instructors across the district who work with full-time teachers to incorporate art into daily lesson plans.
The principals of the participating schools were polled, with 100 percent reporting a positive impact on their school — 68 percent reported an increase in math and language-arts skills, while 70 percent noted higher levels of discipline and student attendance.
Still, Larry Shumway, the state superintendent of public instruction, said art programs are good for their own sake, not just for improvements in math and science.
“So many people think public education is solely an economic proposition — that we only have kids in school so that they can eventually get good jobs,” Shumway said. “I think education is much broader than that — it’s about a whole child, a whole person, a whole culture.”
He added that while the Legislature tends to look for data showing impact in the classroom, the impact on the student is also of high importance.
“I think we have art in our schools so that young people understand the most important human values of culture, beauty, art and literature that make a person whole and make our culture what it is,” Shumway said.
The Fall Into the Arts event will be held at Washington Elementary School today from 4 to 8 p.m., with a multitude of activities planned. Art from students will be on display, there will be several performances throughout the night and an American Indian storyteller and dancer will be in attendance to keep children entertained. Henderson noted several food carts will be available as well.
She also emphasized that the event is not a fundraiser. Admission is free — the organizers want the community to consider it more of a celebration of what art has brought to Utah students.
“We’re not going to be collecting money,” Henderson said. “This is about awareness, about the love of art and the joy it has brought to the children. We simply want to continue these art programs.”
For art’s sake
P Fall Into the Arts will be held at Washington Elementary, 420 N. 200 West, Salt Lake City, today from 4 to 8 p.m.
The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program has contributed more than $50 million to keep arts sustained in Utah schools.
Several arts organizations will be on hand with information on how to get more involved in community arts programs.