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LA Schools Reinventing Art Education

By Robin Kemker
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 16, 2013 Last Updated: January 17, 2013
Related articles: United States » West
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Speakers, flanked by posters of successful L.A. talent, visit briefly as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa begins to speak. Featured talents included celebrities Tom Cruise, George Lucas, John Legend, James Cameron, Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, and Kathleen Kennedy, as well as education professionals Veronica Marquez and Monica Garcia. (Robin Kemker/The Epoch Times)

Speakers, flanked by posters of successful L.A. talent, visit briefly as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa begins to speak. Featured talents included celebrities Tom Cruise, George Lucas, John Legend, James Cameron, Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, and Kathleen Kennedy, as well as education professionals Veronica Marquez and Monica Garcia. (Robin Kemker/The Epoch Times)

As the 2008 financial crash took its toll throughout the world from London to New York to Los Angeles schools started trimming their art budgets. The arts was hit more heavily than the nationally regulated mandatory core subjects, which have minimum scholastic performance criteria.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest public school system in the United States with some 700,000 students. In early 2012, “art for the sake of art” became no longer affordable, and the LAUSD Board of Education proposed that its elementary arts budget be reduced to zero. Since 2008, the board has reduced the overall district art budget by $3 billion.

At a Feb. 14, 2012, LAUSD board meeting, an unexpected crowd of protesters filled the streets and two Hollywood performers, Matt Sorum of Guns N’ Roses and award-winning actress Debbie Allen, approached the board in support of the arts in public schools.

Sorum discussed how his music education in the LAUSD motivated him to form the band Guns N’ Roses. He wanted to sit down in a meeting with LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to discuss how the community can help the LAUSD retain the elementary school art programs.

Sorum thus created a nonprofit organization, Adopt the Arts, to raise money and provide support for the LAUSD’s arts program. There is now a growing body of knowledge linking creativity to those who have a background in some form of the arts.

“Art Matters”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discusses the Arts Matter program. Its main objective is to expand a base of new talent across all professions with a background in the arts. (Robin Kemker/The Epoch Times)

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discusses the Arts Matter program. Its main objective is to expand a base of new talent across all professions with a background in the arts. (Robin Kemker/The Epoch Times)

At the Jan. 8 “Art Matters” fundraising kickoff event, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discussed briefly the first phase of the Art Matters initiative. Several individuals and a corporation collectively provided nearly $700,000 to fund the initial phase of awareness, which included extensive ads on metro buses in Los Angeles and on local highway signage, among other places. The program will also provide tablets to all the students in this program.

After introducing the ad campaign, Villaraigosa announced the second phase of Art Matters—the main objective is expanding a base of new talent across all professions with a background in the arts in order to stimulate creativity.

California has an extensive history of hosting major music producers, theater companies, film, and other art forms too numerous to mention.

“It is a haven of creativity,” said Villaraigosa. Signboards flanking the speakers at the event featured local talents who have made contributions to the community and the world through their creativity in various disciplines.

Featured contributors included actor and producer Tom Cruise, California Teacher of the Year Veronica Marquez, writer and director George Lucas, nine-time Grammy award-winner John Legend, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia, director and producer James Cameron, Mexican radio personality and actor Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, and producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.

Megan Chernin, chair and CEO of the L.A. Fund for Public Education. (Robin Kemker/The Epoch TImes)

Megan Chernin, chair and CEO of the L.A. Fund for Public Education. (Robin Kemker/The Epoch TImes)

Los Angeles Fund for Public Education CEO and Chair Megan Chernin said, “There is no question that exposure to the arts and arts education nurtures the imagination. Here in the world’s creative capital we should ensure all of our students receive a comprehensive, integrated arts education.”

Chernin further explained that a major local corporation is co-sponsoring this effort, seeing the value of an education that provides creativity in its own workforce. She said, “Major employers like Mattel are joining this campaign because they understand the direct connection between arts in the classroom, student imagination, a thriving creative workforce, and a vibrant economy.”

The proposed arts program is not a traditional arts curriculum. The intention is to introduce appropriate art experience within the major disciplines already taught in the schools. This will involve elementary teachers of all disciplines in the near future.

Regarding the challenge of integrating a new aspect of education—the arts—into a mathematics class, Chernin said, “This will add a ‘fun’ aspect to the subject, a different approach to understanding what might otherwise be an uninteresting subject to some students.”

Chernin also mentioned that this change is not an experiment. Two major local universities have already been working with this approach and will assist the LAUSD in developing and implementing this new art curriculum model.

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