Network To Seek 'Preservation' of Arts in Schools
New Haven, Conn--Educators representing the growing number of schools that specialize in the arts met here for the first time late last month, pledging to work for the preservation of the visual and performing arts in the rush to "basics."
Those who "work for the arts in education are survivors of the long struggle for balance in the curriculum," said June K. Goodman, chairman of the Connecticut State Board of Education. But educators and citizens generally are "finally beginning to understand that the arts do have something fundamental to do with education, and that children have things of great importance to learn about life and living in and through the arts."
There are approximately 75 specialized schools of the arts in operation or in various stages of development throughout the United States, with an additional five or six scattered across the Canadian provinces, the arts educators said. Representatives of 50 such specialized schools attended the three-day meeting of the new "Network of Per-forming and Visual Arts Schools," as the group's members have decided to call themselves.
The administrators noted that the schools come in all sizes and display a variety of programs and organizational configurations, both public and private. They include:
Residential schools. These offer full academic programs as well as specialized instruction to students who live on campus. A private school, the Interlochen (Mich.) Arts Academy, founded in 1928, was a pioneer of the arts-school movement. More recently, full-time state-supported schools have been launched, including the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. (See related story on page 10.)
Nonresidential arts and academic schools. Generally, these schools provide three hours of arts instruction in the afternoon to talented students from one school district who attend morning classes in core academic courses. Some schools, such as Rogers Middle School in Pittsburgh and the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, were originally established as magnet schools in response to court-ordered desegregation.
Nonresidential "arts-only" schools. These are schools that offer half-day programs in the arts only. According to Thomas C. Trews, principal of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, students in these programs typically take their core academic work at their regular high schools. The arts schools in this category face problems that other arts schools do not, including transporting students to and from school and the development of a mutually satisfactory curriculum bridging the arts school and the home high school.
Summer residential schools of the arts. Typically, talented students attend summer enrichment programs in these schools for periods of one to six weeks. No academic courses are offered, although most of these schools emphasize creative writing and the literary arts as well as the performing and visual arts. Examples of resident schools include the recently established "Governor's schools" in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and other states.
Other programs. These include one-of-a-kind programs, such as Minneapolis's Children's Theatre School and Company, that offer a full academic program but provide instruction in only one art form; mini-high schools of the arts operating within comprehensive high schools; schools that are linked to colleges and provide a highly demanding, preprofessional level of training; and schools serving only performing- or video-arts students.
The fact that these schools have banded together to form a network could have "a tremendous impact" on arts education, the leaders of the network say. Educators who run these schools are "being contacted constantly by boards of education throughout the country" that want to know whether such programs are "a good idea," according to William Dickinson, principal of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati.
The new network, Mr. Dickinson said, will add "legitimacy to those ... who are trying to convince school boards and administrators that this is, indeed, a good and worthwhile approach for their school system."
Specialized arts schools have already had a "trickle-down" effect on elementary-school programs and parents, the educators said.
"In order for children to get into our school, they and their parents are demanding of their elementary schools that music be offered in grades 1, 2, and 3 ... because our program begins in grade 4," Mr. Dickinson said. "Ten years ago there wasn't a single music program outside of band in my community; today, two adjacent school systems are building fine-arts school buildings," added James Nelson, of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. "We are forcing administrators of regular school systems to recognize that [increased focus on the arts] is a valuable thing."
For more information, write to the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, 35th and R Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007.