Passed by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week. During this week, the field of arts education joins together in communities across the country to tell the story of the impact and transformative power of arts in education.
Arts Council Oklahoma City used the time to visit a few of the schools in its All Access Arts – Arts in School program and learn how arts education is making a difference in the lives of some of Oklahoma’s students and teachers.
ACOKC’s Arts in Schools program provides participatory arts enrichment to under-served children across Oklahoma City through in-school and after-school programs every year. On average, over 4,000 students across 16 different sites engage in a variety of arts disciplines such as visual arts, dance, music, and theatre. These instructional activities not only allow the students to express themselves creatively but also serves to enrich their lives as a whole.
Rebecca Lowber-Collins (Ms. Collins to her students) grew up in Oklahoma City, attended Northwest Classen High School, studied Fine Art and Education at the University of Oklahoma, began teaching art professionally in 1967, and now serves as our All Access Arts teacher at John Rex Elementary School. She has been experiencing firsthand the significance of arts education for almost her entire life.
“When I was thinking about what arts education means to me and to my kids… I thought about how art is everywhere in the world around us–in our houses, cars, clothes–it touches every part of our lives. Through culture, religion, and personal expression, art acts as a record of humankind.”
Ms. Collins sees everyday how art provides a way for her students to express their feelings–all kinds of feelings–and also build their confidence, problem-solving skills, and leadership kids. Because, as she says, “art is an indoor sport”, without getting up in front of the class or speaking out loud, students who are shy or quiet are able to participate and say, “I’m here, I exist, and I’m visible.”
During the week, we also spoke with 5th graders at Edwards Elementary, 1st graders at Cleveland Elementary, and 5th and 6th graders at Shidler Elementary and, while each student had a different relationship with the arts, there were common themes in their responses. Because of arts education, these students were able to make friends, relieve stress, express themselves, try new things, and most importantly have fun!
These beneficial experiences are not uncommon in youth outside of Oklahoma City; across the nation teachers report that students who have high exposure to the arts in school are better able to express their ideas, use their imagination, and take risks in learning. Unfortunately, while not uncommon, these experiences are not had by all. Only 61% of Americans agree that students in their area have sufficient access to the arts in their community. Americans for the Arts also reports that only 7% of elementary schools students have the opportunity to study dance during normal school hours. We are very proud that through the All Access Arts program, Shidler Elementary School in Oklahoma City is able to be a part of that 7%.
Each year, Arts Council OKC works tirelessly providing equal access to art for kids across the city. But we can’t do it alone. All Access Arts exists because of the support of its teaching artists, volunteers, administrators, and donors. And there is still more to be done!
Contact All Access Arts Director Jill Coker to become a teaching artist.
Click here to make a one-time or recurring donation to the All Access Arts program.
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