Gail Thomas Strong Community Arts Team Member & Vice President for Community Engagement, WFYI Public Media
An ongoing and comprehensive arts education program for K-8 students that reflects the richness of the Indianapolis arts community will lay a foundation for lifelong engagement by inspiring students to think in new ways and build their self-confidence.
As an elementary student long ago, I looked forward to the art teacher wheeling her cart into the room, and felt proud as we cut, pasted, painted, and colored. I recall heading to the music room where we sang from songbooks, and I even took piano lessons after school. I remember those as times I felt capable and smart in new ways. In junior high and high school we needed to choose an arts elective, so I sang in choirs.
Many years later, my children had a very different experience of the arts. They performed musicals in elementary school, went to an art room, experienced arts through an integrated curriculum, and assembled portfolios. By the time they graduated high school, they were seasoned performers and technical crew, able to take a stage or light a stage, and found joy and accomplishment in the teamwork it took to achieve and express creativity. None of them have careers in the arts, but what they learned influences their work each day. Our family took advantage of other arts opportunities, free and paid, that Indianapolis offered. As a result, my children know the power of a theater production, a concert, and a gallery to offer new insight. And now, as a Big Sister, I make sure my Little Sister has arts experiences to supplement the limited experiences her school can provide.
Why would I not want that experience for others’ children? Why should children’s access to high-quality arts programs be defined by the school they attend, fundraisers put on by parents, or the grants teachers eke out time to propose? I believe that high-quality arts should be accessible to any given child. An ongoing and comprehensive arts education program for K-8 students that reflects the richness of the Indianapolis arts community will lay a foundation for lifelong engagement by inspiring students to think in new ways and build their self-confidence. Students deserve the opportunity to experience the arts off their screens or earbuds and to be led by adults who can help them explore, interpret, reflect, and imagine. With experiences that are consistent, sequential, and developmentally appropriate, students can encounter new information that helps them grasp other academic concepts and support solid social-emotional learning. The arts are also about fun and tapping potential.
I hope you will take time to support a child’s experience of the arts. That might be with your child, grandchild, neighbor, or Little. It might also be a chance for you to learn more about
Any Given Child Indianapolis, or to be in conversation with staff from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Public Schools or charter schools, or arts organizations. Ask them about their plans and aspirations for students. Learn about the plans being made to ensure both equity and access. Discover why it matters for Any Given Child Indy.
About the Author
Gail Thomas Strong is a member of the Any Given Child Community Arts Team. She is the VP for Community Engagement at WFYI Public Media where she leads the American Graduate Initiative. She also serves on the Spirit and Place Steering Committee. Her new favorite thing to do is take her Little Sister to arts events.
Voices for Any Given Child Indy is an initiative that gives leaders in the Indianapolis community the opportunity to focus on issues in arts education and in the community, as well as their personal investment in the success of Any Given Child Indy. Be on the look out for new posts from community leaders on anygivenchildindy.org.