by Brooke Griffith
Cut costs, rid the excess, and teach what’s necessary: an unfortunate paradigm that’s the result of an education system built on economic and intellectual standards. As for the arts? They’ve become labeled as educational surplus.
It’s no secret that the arts have been dwindling in moral and fiscal support for years. District budgets are cut, schools can’t employ full-time art teachers—let alone afford the supplies necessary to create in the classroom—and programs suffer deeply as a result. Departments that survive have a unique combination of administrative support, a dedicated teacher, or a parent teacher organization willing to raise money. Unfortunately, many schools are lacking in more than one of these elements.
But can we, as a community, afford to not invest in the arts?
With art comes creativity, and creativity provides the unique ability to see many possible answers and interpretations to a question. Skills like problem solving, teamwork, and self-expression have transformative powers that are valuable in the studio, critical in the classroom, and crucial to success in the workplace.
Until our education structure shifts, outreach programs are vital in sparking creative momentum in classrooms that otherwise might not have support. And bringing these opportunities to the community at no cost is essential in lightening an even greater burden: lack of money.
With the help of partners and local artists, Cheekwood has created specialized, interactive outreach programs for over 30 years. Stretching to the often untapped schools and organizations in the Middle Tennessee area, children have engaged with elements from Cheekwood’s botanical gardens and exhibitions at no cost.
This June and July, Cheekwood’s ARTSprouts program embraces four local youth organizations with hands-on activities and discussion surrounding gardening and Steve Tobin: Southern Roots. With the help of first-time partner University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension, children are not only learning how to plant a garden, but to make connections between root structures and Steve Tobin’s Steelroots on display throughout Cheekwood’s botanical gardens. By presenting these immersive opportunities, a foundation is built for children to look at different themes creatively to make connections.
Advocacy and support for the arts in the education system are vital to our community and culture. Once we begin to see creativity in its full abundance, our children will be able to build and maintain the capacity to think divergently—interpreting and solving future problems with multiple solutions.
ARTSprouts is made possible through a grant from the Robert K. and Anne H. Zelle Fund for Fine and Performing Arts and the David and Mary Rollins Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, with additional support from the Metro Nashville Arts Commission and Tennessee Arts Commission.
Want your school or organization to benefit from Cheekwood’s outreach programs? Applications for 2017 will go live this July at www.cheekwood.org.
Manager of School and Outreach Programs Cheekwood