What lead me to feel I had something to share regarding getting the arts into Seattle’s public schools (you might ask)?
I work in the arts. I play in the arts. My parents are artists. I have a lot of artist friends. I believe the arts have a valuable place in the learning environment, especially for children. I also believe the arts are often undervalued (and I’m not talking price tags) in our society.
I would have been a lost soul, or perhaps I should say a lost and thirsty crow, in a vast desert if I hadn’t had access to the arts when I was young. I was lucky to get a public education in California when the arts were still supported in schools. Thanks to the Prop 13 and the Jarvis-Gann initiative in 1978 (Tim Eyman probably has a picture of Howard Jarvis tattooed on his chest) all of my favorite classes — Dance, Jr/Sr English Seminar, Journalism, the classes that most led me to where I am now — were eliminated within a few years due to funding cuts. The arts are usually the first to go.
In 2000 when my eldest daughter was in first grade, I took over the position of Volunteer Arts Enrichment Assembly Coordinator for Lafayette Elementary School. Using a budget provided by the Lafayette PTSA I helped organize and book a wide variety of performing artists to visit the school through June of 2009.
Since 2008 I have been working as the volunteer Arts Liaison for The Center School High School, Seattle’s only dedicated arts-integrated, college-prep, public high school, located in the Seattle Center (in the shadow of the famed Space Needle) surrounded by many of Seattle’s premier arts organizations.
I got involved there in 2008 when Goodloe-Johnson proposed “merging” the Center School with Rainier Beach High School, 8.5 miles to the southeast. She shook some nuts out of the tree and I was one of them. My daughter was a freshman at Center at the time, and my husband and I knew that finding another school that fit her needs as well as Center would be impossible without going outside the district. I sought to reach out to the arts community that had been involved with the school to garner support. Unfortunately, there was no record of which organizations the school had interacted with in the past, and no one in charge of arranging partnerships with arts organizations that I could speak to.
I thought to myself : The Center School could really use an arts liason.
My next thought was: I guess that would be me.
After getting approval from the school principal and the Center School Community Association (CSCA — Center’s version of a PTSA) I had my own volunteer position as The Center’s School’s Arts Liaison. Now I’m starting my fourth year and I can confidently say: I’ve learned something … and I still have a lot to learn. In starting this blog I want to pass on what I’ve learned and educate myself further in how to advocate for the arts in public schools.
I don’t like to volunteer unless it’s a task I both want to do and feel well-suited for. Making connections for my children’s schools with artists in the community is like having someone tell me to choose a menu for a feast and then go round up some chefs. Welcome to the table!