Making Sure Schools Don't Overlook Art

School Art

Changes in public education have some teachers and parents concerned that learning artistic skills is losing out to things like achievement test preparation and learning only what is contained between the covers of textbooks.

A collaborative effort called Partners in Art is trying to make sure the arts don't get overlooked in schools. It combines the resources of VSA arts, formerly known as Very Special Arts, Hillsborough County School District and the Tampa Museum of Art. The program receives funding from Met Life Insurance.

VSA arts, a nonprofit organization that works to make art available to everyone, including people with disabilities, helped coordinate the project. Marian Winters, executive director of VSA arts Florida, says the program includes students of all levels of ability, but focuses on those who may beat risk of missing out on the artistic experience.

WINTERS: And that's the whole point of everything, to let everyone create through the arts;' with or without disabilities, or brown hair or yellow hair or whatever. Just be able to make art.

The program has completed its first year of work. Students and teachers in six Hillsborough County schools were matched with professional artists who helped them produce art work that not only expresses talent within, but is displayed for public appreciation in places such as the Tampa Museum of Art. Ken Rollins is the museum's interim executive director.

ROLLINS: I think it sort of reflects the kind of role we believe the museum should be playing in involving all sectors. Among the art work on display is a multimedia presentation produced by students at Mary E. Bryant Elementary school. It consists of an illustrated book, and a table, also illustrated, that tell the story of the school's mascot, the Bryant Bronco. Chan Bliss is the school's art teacher.

BLISS: It was neat to watch them, to watch the whole thing evolve from just an idea of creating a table with some pictures of horses on it to you know, the story of the Bryant bronco and coming up with what that story actually was. Arielle Esposito is one of the students involved in the creative process.

ESPOSITO: It was kind of weird at first, and then as I started doing it was fun. It was just fun, and exciting. And to a professional educator, such as Bryant Elementary principal, Karen Bass, there's a benefit in projects such as Partners in Art.

BASS: Some children's true talent lies in that area where they may not be as successful in reading, writing, science, and so forth. They shine in the area of the arts. So, I would hate to see anything take away the arts from our school programs. I think if anything, we need to expand them. That's a message that parents such as Arielle's mother, Eileen Esposito, appreciates.

ESPOSITO: It's a lot to be proud of. You see them start out when they're little. Just drawing here and there, on the walls or in a little book or something, and then to see it out on display in the Tampa Museum. It makes you feel good.

The current exhibition is on display at the Tampa Museum of Art through September 17. The Partners in Art are in the process of choosing another six schools in Hillsborough County School District to participate in this year's program.

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