Building Art Education Broadens Opportunities

Just three years ago, Taft Elementary School in Redwood, CA had no art education as part of its curriculum. Facing the strain of budget cuts and the obligation to provide assistance to low-income students through free and reduced price meals, art became a fiscal casualty.

When Robyn Miller became principal, she knew that getting art back in the classroom had to a priority. Studies show that art education equips students to take what they have learned and apply it out in the world. It also has other benefits like fostering curiosity and building collaborative work skills.

Volunteer Program for Art Education

The school was still facing a budget problem, but she found another way. In neighboring Menlo Park, the non-profit Art in Action had already shown success in her previous school. The program relies on volunteers to teach art in the schools which keeps costs down to a manageable $200 licensing fee and a $10 per student/yr. cost.

Retired UCLA professor James Catterall founded the Centers for Research Creativity. He says that art education makes a difference inside and outside the classroom.

Dr. James Catterall
“Not only is there a difference between how they act during art classes and lessons, but it seems to spill over to more engagement in school generally.”

Back in 2012, Catterall’s organization took a look at the impact of arts education in schools. The study found that regardless of whether the schools were low income or more affluent, schools with art programs perform better. The benefits are even greater for low-income students in schools with art education. College enrollment doubles, and they are three times more likely to earn a degree.

For kids in the classroom though, the benefits are even more tangible. It helps create excitement. One student summed it up best: “Before, we didn’t have art and we weren’t creative. Now I want to come to school.”

And that may be the greatest benefit of all.