The Arts Teaches Vital Skills

by Lupita Talley on Oct 20, 2015

in In the News

Published in the Houston Chronicle on October 7, 2015.

School districts and educators believe that the performing and visual fine arts are essential to every well-rounded curriculum.

Lupita Talley, spokeswoman for KIPP schools, said the creative arts are essential to student success.

"Our ultimate goal is to get our students to and through college. The arts are a great way to ensure that they are well-rounded and provide wonderful opportunities for them to learn many life skills."

At KIPP, 100 percent of the students participate in the arts.

"We offer more than 500 different fine arts classes in 24 schools across the city, and two of our schools are focused on the arts. KIPP Sharp Primary has even had its choir students sing at Manhattan's Carnegie Hall," Talley said.

To provide opportunities for every student, she said the schools supply the equipment and instruments for students and when extra items are required, KIPP works with families to ensure that all students have the tools they need to succeed in their classrooms.

She said the popularity of an arts program depends on the grade level.

"Our students enjoy drawing, painting, dance, jazz band, jewelry making and electronic media, Talley said. "Our visual arts students participate in several competitions each year, and in a single year more than 1,000 pieces are submitted."

"Of course, the visual and performing arts teach students more than how to play an instrument, sing, draw or make art," she said. "Students learn skills necessary to help them succeed in college and life. Through writing thank-you notes to anyone that supports them, we teach them to show gratitude. As volunteers at art and music events, they are taught to give back and how to engage in conversation with adults."

Galena Park ISD

Students attending Galena Park Independent School District schools begin receiving instruction in music and art in the first grade.

"There is one music teacher and one art teacher on each elementary campus," said spokesman Jonathan Frey.

"Students begin singing in the first grade music classes and this is followed in fourth and fifth grade by opportunities in formal choral groups," Frey said. "Instruction in instrumental music begins in middle school, along with band, choir, theater, dance and visual art that continues through high school."

All performing arts students (band, choir, theater, and dance) in Galena Park ISD have multiple performance and competition opportunities throughout the school year.

GPISD has had many graduates who have gone on to play with major symphony orchestras, sung with opera companies in Europe, and one who is now a professor at The Juilliard School in New York.

"Many more of our graduates have overcome growing up in poverty and are now doctors, lawyers and business professionals. Additionally, we are proud of our former students who are now passing on their love of the arts by teaching music, art, theater and dance," Frey said.

"GPISD students perform at high levels, especially considering we may be their only source of training in the arts," Frey said.

New HISD initiative

In late August, Houston Independent School District announced a new initiative to expand student access to the arts through a partnership with the Kennedy Center.

"The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has chosen Houston Independent School District and the City of Houston for a national arts education program," spokeswoman Ashley Anthony said.

"HISD was selected for the program because of its demonstrated commitment to improving education in and through the arts, particularly with the city's Arts Access Initiative - a collaborative group that aims to ensure all students benefit academically through the arts," she said. "Working together with the Arts Access Initiative, HISD developed three goals for arts education: equity, impact and sustainability."

Known for its Magnet High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and its K-12 arts education, HISD will be the 19th site for the Kennedy Center's Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child, an initiative taking existing resources from HISD, local arts organizations, the City of Houston, and the Kennedy Center and combining them to increase arts opportunities and provide high-quality arts education for 7,000 students at 11 schools.

"All students deserve access to high-quality arts education," said Mario Rossero, Kennedy Center senior vice president of Education. "Houston has a strong and committed arts community."

Written by: Alice Adams