About a month ago, I wrote about why every student needs an arts education. The occasion was that, for quite the first time ever, my teenage son Charlie who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, had shown a great deal of interest in creating something in art class. I wrote:
Charlie, the art teacher wrote, did a ‘FABULOUS’ job in art: They were making collages ‘in the style of Mondrian’; the art teacher wrote that she was ‘very impressed with how he chose and planned his squares.’
On the one hand, I was not surprised: Charlie has had always had a thing for colors and shapes—these were among the first words he learned to understand. Indeed, he learned his colors because his first lead ABA therapist made laminated construction paper squares in different colors and oh did Charlie love those squares! We kept them for years; one therapist used them to teach him to pedal his trike when he was 3. And Charlie definitely has a thing about order and has been creating arrangements like the one below with my shoes and other household items quite a bit of late.
Looking at Charlie’s collage (there’s a photograph of it at the top of this post), I could not help thinking about how vital the arts are for kids like Charlie who struggle to learn to read, write and learn in traditional ways (and non-traditional ways).
I was all the more excited to find out that today, April 5th, is National Arts Advocacy Day,
the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with hundreds of grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.
There’s a Facebook page with a list of ways you can speak up about the importance of the arts. I was particularly drawn to one initiative, Strengthening our Nation’s Healthcare Through the Arts, which calls for the the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study “to assess the current status of federal support of creative arts in healthcare programs to improve the quality of healthcare services” and also to “address, through policy support, increased access to creative arts in healthcare programs under thereauthorization of the Older Americans Act.”
Not only are the arts — both creating and making — important for the education of all of our students, whatever their learning styles and their differing abilities (see the initiative to Strengthen Arts Education in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Making and experiencing art can be crucial to healing and to maintaining health: who does not listen to music to de-stress, or enjoy contemplating a painting (even a copy found on the Internet, or a poster) of an Impressionist master or one of Constable’s cloudscapes? Studies have shown that integrating activities involving art can reduce the length of hospital stays, lower anxiety and pain, lessen levels of depression and improve quality of life.
Despite all this, funding for the arts in the US faces a dramatic reduction in funding. The National Endowment for the Arts is currently operating under a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR); last year, $43 million was slashed from the NEA’s budget. Funds for arts education have also been significantly cut, with the funding for one program, the Arts in Education Programs (AIE) at the US Department of Education, completely terminated.
You can make a difference to keep these important (I would say essential) programs funded by signing this petition to restore funding to the arts and to save arts education.
Keep the arts alive for all of us!
Sign this petition to restore NEA funding and save arts education!
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Collage by Charlie Fisher.