Young at Art

Posted By: Terence Clarke | June 08 2011 at 04:20 PM

With all the discussion in Washington D.C., Sacramento and elsewhere about education budgets and what the role of public education should be, there is usually little in the debate about the arts. They are the lost child of spending cuts.

You wouldn't have thought so if you had visited the 25th annual Young at Art Festival held recently at The de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

There, hundreds of children were walking through a few of the museum's large exhibit rooms, the walls of which were hung expansively with art of every sort that had been produced by students from the San Francisco schools. Many of these children had parents and relatives in tow, and were pointing them toward the particular pieces that he or she had made for the exhibit.

Outside, in the band shell area before the De Young, music and dance presentations were going strong throughout the week, conceptualized, produced and performed by numbers of primary and secondary school students, with ample help and direction from their teachers. As well, dramatic productions were presented on the stage of the Koret Theater inside The de Young. Almost all the arts were represented in this festival, and the overall effect was one of fine learning and genuine success.

Susan Stauter, the Artistic Director for the San Francisco Unified School District, points out how important such an atmosphere is for a child. "Here's a girl whose painting is on the wall of a major world museum, and if that's a place that her parents may not usually visit, imagine how important it is to her view of herself, that they see what she's done."

The trouble is that the value of the arts is tough to quantify in the world of skills-testing so dear to the hearts of contemporary legislators. What the arts teach is beyond what can be quantified in a true-or-false standardized test. Indeed Antigone Trimis, who is the Implementation Manager for San Francisco's Arts Education Master Plan, says that "esthetics and an appreciation of them are essential to any society that wishes to ensure its own progress, no matter how that progress is measured."

Luckily, San Francisco voters understand this. Read more at the SF Chronicle.