Leon County Schools: Strengthen Your Commitment to Arts Education

Just over a week ago, I attended my child’s school orientation at his high school here in Tallahassee, where students could meet their teachers and see their new classrooms. The experience was unremarkable except for one glaring problem that stood out starkly and was very indicative of a serious lack of investment in student success.

My son, an emerging artist, had signed up for two-dimensional art as an elective and we were excited to see the classroom. The facility reveal was not only disappointing, but a sad experience.

One would expect an art classroom to be equipped with a drawing space, drawing and painting supplies, examples of student art, and an overall atmosphere of creative inspiration. Instead, the room lacked all of the above and was effectively a computer classroom with rows of tables completely occupied by desktop computers. No workspace and no supplies.

It was obvious that there was a complete lack of investment in the success of students wishing to develop artistic skills and in fact I think it was a violation of the expectation that if a course is offered it made in good faith to provide students and the teacher with the means to achieve the educational objectives.

Our schools must recognize that art is not just an option, but an essential aspect of a student’s growth. The potential for developing skills in art as well as art history and interpretation means that students will have a better understanding of expression, communication, history and culture. Additionally, it builds a foundation of skills that benefits success in desired future careers, such as marketing, advertising, and entrepreneurship. The specific skills learned also develop what is needed to succeed in many artistic fields such as film production/set design, tourism, city beautification and interior design/decoration.

We look back and learn from our past through the art of civilizations long gone. Today, our art writes our legacy for those who will follow us.

It’s time for those in education who are developing the curriculum to stop viewing art as cutting grease and to recognize and support arts education as a glue that binds . It brings together all other academic pursuits through inspiration, perspective, and historical context. It excites the passion of all who make it and watch it, to push their pursuits where they can truly lead.

We must fully support arts education because without it we deprive students of the fuel of inspiration and a necessary depth of understanding of the world in which we live.

We can do better.

jim russel

Jim Russell is a full-time professional artist and is a retired Deputy Chief of Police with the Florida State University Police Department. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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