A writer to our sister newspaper, the Northwest Florida Daily News, wrote a letter to the editor last month titled “A waste of time.” In her letter, she laments that she (or maybe it’s her child) spends too much of the school day participating in student clubs that include a variety of age-appropriate sports, art and music.
While I can’t speak for the sports clubs (except for the fact that they’re a great way to combat rampant childhood obesity), I can attest to the benefit of music education and what she dismisses as “‘oval art,’ which is not taught by a teacher.”
The arts are a core part of our students’ curriculum. It didn’t take our supervisor of schools, Dr. Alexis Tibbetts, to declare them integral to our kids’ education, though I am pleased that she did. The arts are recognized by educators as important foundations for students’ appreciation and respect for our society’s cultural roots and traditions. They stimulate young minds and help students realize their own, perhaps undiscovered, artistic abilities.
How many of our nation’s most brilliant writers, musicians, singers, sculptors, painters, actors, composers, architects, etc. might not have contributed to America’s cultural wealth had they not learned in a school art or music class what creative potential waits inside them?
As the Daily News’ letter writer correctly noted, school faculty do not teach OVAL — Okaloosa Volunteer Art Lessons — classes. Many school art teachers have been dismissed, especially in the elementary and middle school grades where one would expect educators would most want to inspire and stimulate students’ artistic expression.
As the name indicates, trained art instructors volunteer their time to bring art education into our schools that do not have art teachers. In OVAL classes, students learn about great works of art and the artists who created them. They learn what motivated the artists, and learn what social and political events of the day might have influenced them. (Shhh…don’t tell the kids they’re getting history and social studies lessons at the same time! They just think they’re getting cool art lessons.) Then, thus inspired, the students then have the opportunity to create similar works of their own.
Without our dedicated OVAL volunteers, budding young artists in our elementary and middle schools might never discover the wonder and excitement of great works of world art, nor discover their own artistic potential and capabilities.
Even if the Daily News correspondent doesn’t appreciate the well-rounded education of which the arts are a core component, she should appreciate that having students exercise their creative skills and stimulate their cultural sensitivities is demonstrated to improve performance in courses including math, science and reading. The arts have been proven to stimulate the areas of the brain used in “traditional” academic skills. (Again, please don’t tell the kids! You’d spoil the fun of art!)
Shamefully, our schools always seem to cut arts education when budgets get tight (or a new football coach is needed). Luckily, dedicated OVAL volunteers help our kids discover the excitement of visual arts even when the “real” art teachers have been fired.
If you’re interested in being an OVAL volunteer and sharing your love of visual arts with eager young minds, call Rae Schwartz, chairwoman of the Okaloosa Arts Alliance-North committee, at 585.5672, or drop her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.