It’s a fact of life that when money gets tight in the public schools, the arts are among the first areas in which to cut spending. In some ways, that’s understandable because for most people mastering mathematics or advanced biology seems more important than learning to paint a beautiful work of art or marching in the school band. But there is also ample evidence indicating how the arts can enhance learning in academic areas that seem little related to art, music and drama.
Thanks to a $50,000 gift from a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous, the Fairview Independent School District will not have to choose between academics and the arts. It can offer its students both.
The generous donor made the large donation to the school district through the Paramount Arts Center. The Paramount will use the money to provide wide-ranging arts experiences and instruction to students from kindergarten through high school.
The gift will enable Fairview classes to attend any of the Paramount’s educational programs for a year and its teachers may take any of its professional development offerings for the same amount of time, according to Jenny Holmes, marketing director for the Paramount. The donor, who Holmes said is an Ashland man with a longtime devotion to the arts and the Paramount, chose Fairview because he wanted to bring arts opportunities to disadvantaged children. Fairview fit the bill because of its high percentage of children in the lower economic bracket.
The Paramount’s education and outreach department created a new program, Arts Immersion, to administer the gift. The program will bring arts in every form, from singing and dancing to painting, to children at every grade level. With the professional development opportunities, teachers will be able to sustain arts education once the funding is concluded.
Paramount instructors also will make the short trip to Westwood periodically for in-school programs.
The gift is a godsend to a district with little money to spend on arts, said third-grade teacher Kim Stambaugh. Other than a music teacher, arts are mainly taught by classroom teachers, who typically don’t have specialized skills, she said. The value of Paramount presentations lasts far beyond the curtain calls, according to Stambaugh. Children write essays on what they’ve seen, and sometimes recreate the performances in class, she said.
Fairview also is eligible for Kentucky Arts Council TranspARTation grants through the Paramount, Holmes said. The grants provide transportation funding to Paramount programs.
As adults who as children tended to be better at writing or drama than at calculus and world history, we applaud the donor for giving arts education in the Fairview schools a major boost. Since few students ever go on to strike is rich as singers, actors, dancers, poets and musicians, studying and arts may not make you rich, but it definitely will enrich your life.