The Arts: Equipping Detroit Public School Students for Success

As a graduate of Detroit Public Schools, I understand the importance of having a balanced education and access to arts, music, and extra-curricular activities. It was programs like my woodshop and art classes that gave me a creative outlet to express my thoughts and vision to the world. Now, as an adult, I work to advocate for access to art programs in our schools, as it is so vital to the well-balanced education of our children. In Detroit there is a new program called Art Roads that is bringing art back into the curriculum in the Detroit Public Schools.

I interviewed Carol Hofgartner, Executive Director of Art Road Nonprofit, to determine the state of art education both nationally and locally and how our children benefit from having art in their lives.

 

Q: What is the state of art education in the United States and locally?

A: The sad fact is more and more schools across the country lack art education as part of the curriculum.  Locally, in the Detroit Public Schools, sixty percent of schools lack art in the curriculum, according to a 2010 Detroit News article, “Arts Lose out in Metro School Cuts.”  It is not only in Detroit, but across the state, that schools have limited or eliminated the arts due to budget cuts.

Q: What is the solution?

A: Art Road is a grassroots nonprofit bringing art class back to two elementary schools in Detroit.  Art Road’s goal is to grow their exceptional art model to more schools throughout Southeastern Michigan.  They are seeking $1.2 million to bring art class back to 10 schools and to get their mobile art classroom on the road to schools that lack art class.

Carol says, “When I discovered that schools lacked art, I volunteered at Weatherby Elementary School in Detroit for 7 years providing art class to one fifth grade classroom.”  She goes on to say, “In 2004, I founded Art Road because I was only bringing art class back to 25 of the 400 students at Weatherby and it hurt my heart to see the other children in the school not have art class.” She remembers, “One little girl at Weatherby said, ‘Miss Carol, I am special, too; why can’t I have art class?’”  That day changed Carol’s life forever. Carol has a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Michigan and practiced in the architectural field for ten years prior to forming Art Road.  Her goal is to give back what she had when she was little: art class.

Q: Why is art education important in a well rounded education?

A: Art gives us a sense of joy and accomplishment.  Those making budget cuts have ignored the fact that students with art education classes have better test scores.  Children that participate in arts programs have shown an increased love of learning and develop a greater ability to be prepared for the workplace of tomorrow. A 10-year-old student in Art Road’s art program said, I have noticed that I have become even more creative in areas other than art.  Creativity is a skill that I am always working on and Art Road has helped me do that.” 

Q: What impact has Art Road had in bringing art back to schools?

A: Miss Davis, Principal at Charles Wright Academy of Arts & Science, stated that attendance has increased on Wednesdays because Art Road is at her school every Wednesday throughout the school year and students do not want to miss art class. A 4th-grade student in Art Road’s art program said, “I like all the art projects because they are very creative.  They even made me use my mind.”

Patricia Wilkins, a retired Edison Elementary School teacher, said “As a Detroit teacher, I am impressed with and very grateful for the Art Road art program.  To see children that have anger problems become art class helpers was worth more than words can express.  One of my students who is struggling with the loss of her father was able to smile and paint happy pictures, when just the day before, she was a grief-stricken, heartbroken little girl.”

Q: What have you observed as a community partner with the two Detroit Public Schools?

A: It is an honor and privilege to be with curious, bright, and creative students in the art rooms.  The principals have great leadership skills, and together with the passionate staff and teachers, bring a rich educational experience to their students and embrace Art Road as part of their curriculum.

Learn more about Carol and Art Road at www.artroandonprofit.org. Throughout the year, Art Road welcomes you to join them on the Art Road Mobile Art Classroom. MRA Experiential Tours & Equipment donate the mobile for the day, giving people in the community an opportunity to experience art firsthand.

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