From Nicki Jergensen, owner/instructor, Exploration Art School:
I am writing this letter in support of the effort to build a Center for the Arts in Harford County. Recently a letter was written by Sallee Kunkle Filkins, Executive Director of the Center for the Arts entitled “Making the Case for a Performing Arts Center in Harford County” that was published in this newspaper August 23, 2012.
Her thoughtful response was just another example of the up hill battle that those of us in the arts community face when trying to gain support from our local news venues, more specifically the Aegis.
As an art educator and owner of Exploration Art School in Forest Hill for the past seven years, I have also attempted to spread the importance of art education and the successes of my students. I had hoped that their achievements might be recognized and publicized in their local paper. My efforts to contact those at the paper to inform them of a potential story was met with a less than a lukewarm response.
Each year beginning in 2006 one or more students have won First place for an artwork at the Harford County Farm fair. That means every year from 2006 to 2012. In addition to these wonderful accomplishments three students have placed well in the State Fair while two have placed First in the State of Maryland for their artwork created while under my instruction.
These children are citizens of Harford County and should be celebrated and recognized in their paper. I will once again hope to gain recognition for these children by sending a photograph with their artworks and awards in hopes that the Aegis may actually publish it.
But Arts Education is not just about improving a child’s self-esteem in competition it also improves academic achievement, study skills, communication, cognitive skills, social skills and has a lifelong impact on success in the working world.
Here are a few facts:
• SAT scores for students who studied the arts for 4 years were 103 points higher than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. (Arts Education Partnership, 1995).
• 9th grade students in the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) program, which integrates arts education with more traditional academic studies, were reading one full grade level ahead of their peers who were not involved in the program. (Deasy & Catterall)
• 920 elementary school students in 52 classrooms in Boston, Cambridge and Los Angeles who were given visual and performing arts lessons for three years outscored non-program students, earning significantly higher report card grades in the core subject areas of language arts, math, reading and social studies. (“Different Ways of Knowing” Welch)
• “The world’s top academic countries place a high value on art and music education.” (IAEEA)
Find out more at: http://www.artinaction.org/w/WhyArt
This issue does not have to be framed as a competition between Arts and Athletics. There is no reason why a thriving area such as Harford County which has exhibited such population growth over the past twenty years can not sustain both and be able to serve all of its citizens in the best way possible.
I choose to view the similarities between the two instead of the differences. Both promote the ideas of discipline, hard work and dedication. Both activities also boost brain power which affects test scores and success in Academics. As an intercollegiate athlete I have experienced firsthand the benefits that they can provide.
For those tax payers who are still not convinced about the power of the arts you may want to read this month’s issue of Money magazine. The featured article is on the “Top Places to Live”. The Number One place highlighted is Carmel, Indiana. One of the main reasons to reside there is their thriving economy. Five years ago Carmel was a quiet, upscale bedroom community. While some once top-notch areas on the “Best Places to Live” list lagged during the recession, this formerly sleepy suburb – which used to be ranked no. 14 – has transformed itself into the ideal place to live and work.
One of the main reasons is due to their new performing arts center – part of a development with a 1,600 – seat concert hall and a 500 -seat multi use theatre, made possible by about $500 million in private investment and $175 million of city money through new commercial tax funding. “We don’t have the Pacific or mountain views,” says the fifth term mayor. James Brainard, “so we have to work a bit harder on cultural amenities.” Carmel also has excellent schools, a big sports and recreation center, roundabouts to keep traffic flowing, wide bike paths, and an off-street bike path with a direct route to the town center – sound familiar?
The bottom line is the arts are vital to our community. Every citizen young and old could benefit from their involvement with the arts and a Center for the Arts in Harford County would help improve the lives of more than just a “small community of art lovers”.
Please support the Center for the Arts by writing your local government, donating time and money to make the plan a reality.
Mrs. Nicki Jergensen, MEd
Owner, Art Instructor & Consultant
Exploration Art School