I started the year out Green.
Though it is a few days off the first of the year I did get to start the year off “Green”. Thursday Fleming Island and Middleburg High Schools along with 24 other schools in the area attended a matinee showing of Wicked. Being able to enjoy seeing this with both Patrick and Meg was a true treat. Hearing the laughs and reactions of hundreds of other students made this one of the best shows I have ever attended.
Arts or as most refer to it now “The Arts” are something we have tried to expose our kids to while growing up. While they were young we would go to art museums and take advantage of their kid programs. Touring historical sites was often a family outing. Watching PBS offerings was a common occurrence. Music accompanying dinner was always classical thanks to radio offerings on cable.
When we as a nation continue to honor our artists through such accolades as the Kennedy Center Honors why is it that we continue to annihilate performing art programs in our schools??? Where do we think the next generations of award recipients are going to come from if we refuse to acknowledge the importance of arts in our schools?
I was lucky enough to grow up on Long Island in a school district where the arts are celebrated. All children in third grade learned to play the recorder and selected an instrument to study in fourth grade. I had no clue what an incredible opportunity that was until I realized my children would be not afforded that same opportunity. I can’t blame the Clay County school board completely for this as it seems to be a growing trend around the country. Now no decent school that has a football team (and this is the south so ALL schools have one) is ever going to NOT have a band so once students hit 7th grade they can choose to study a Band instrument. Those who had dreams of playing a stringed instrument are out of luck, if you can’t march with it you won’t learn it in Clay County. Of course if you happen to be born into a family that has the resources that will allow you to study privately you can bow away. Right over the border Duval County’s music program does offer the opportunity for students to study ANY instrument. We are fortunate that Jacksonville has an incredible Youth Orchestra and Children's Chorus. (Emily thoroughly enjoyed singing with them)
Developing the love of arts goes beyond simply participating. Whether it is an Orchestra or Modern Art Museum none can survive without Patrons. Patrons don’t just happen they develop. Granted there are those who write checks for a number of causes simply due to being able to see their name listed among others in the community. HOWEVER Most Patrons are true lovers of arts. They recognize and embrace the importance that arts have in a society. Would Beethoven or Mozart been able to create musical masterpieces had it not been for their Patrons? Would Leonardo have been able to create the Vitruvian Man if he had to wait tables to support his art career?
Why is it that an art program is the first offered up when budget cuts are necessary? Emily and Patrick enjoyed having an art class for the first few years of school until we were redistricted when a new school was opened. Though it had only been first grade one of Patrick’s paintings was chose for our County’s art show, he never had an art class again. Meg, on the other hand, did not have an art class until 5th grade when a new elementary school was opened (yes lucky us got to open 2 Elementary schools). She was bitten by the art bug only to have it exterminated when the school cut the program due to funding after its first year. I am not suggesting that either was going to be the next Jackson Pollack or Georgia O’Keefe but what’s not to say someone else in their school may have been with just the introduction of art in their lives.
Thank goodness that there are opportunities like we had last Thursday that exposes children to incredible performances like Wicked. The Broadway in Jacksonville Artist Series offers a matinee once a year at reduced prices with the sole purpose of reaching students with shows they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
It is kind of funny how this post developed. I was originally going to write about how much I enjoy chaperoning field trips; obviously my subconscious had other plans. My local school board knew me by name while my kids were in Elementary School and their art programs were being cut. Granted I was only one voice. However I truly believe that one voice can make a difference and I will continue to fight for art programs in our schools~ will you join me?