Local arts boosters at the May 31 meeting literally handed the school district a lifeline in upgrading local arts education with the funding — for the first time — of a full-time elementary school arts teacher.
After years of work trying to raise the profile of arts education in Mercer Island Schools, the Fine Arts Advisory Committee presented a gift of $80,000 to fund a certified art teacher at the three elementary schools starting in the fall. Following two years of , elementary parent Megan Hand’s vision of providing art education in a moveable classroom using a renovated school bus has finally been realized through the support of numerous generous community donors.
The ArtBus feasibility proved too difficult given crowded school campuses, additional portables and potential renovations, so the elementary principals have proposed art curriculum delivery in the classrooms with teacher support at the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade levels. This will provide approximately 14-18 hours of Washington state mandated art curriculum during the year at all three elementary schools. This is just the beginning of providing a comprehensive district wide visual literacy component to elementary education at Mercer Island Schools including developing art classroom facilities in new school planning to support the art program.
For the first time in Mercer Island history our elementary students will receive foundation art curriculum from a state certified visual art teacher starting this fall. These students are entering a world that is vastly different from the days of our childhood. Their world is filled with multimedia communication and they make choices instantly on how things look and appear on screen. Their world is visual! They might not yet be fully aware at this point as to why — but they are responding in nano seconds to how something feels visually to them. So, given this new educational experience — it is mandatory that these students understand visual grammar to effectively communicate their ideas in our 21st Century world.
Just as the need to understand the parts of a sentence, they need to understand and communicate with visual terminology — line, color, form, repetition and the list goes on. They need to learn why people respond to certain colors more or less favorably, they need to understand asymmetrical balance and that positive and negative spaces both have weight. They need to understand what makes great design and why. More importantly than the visual basics that these kids will receive from this new district employee, they will now have a mentor who will help them express themselves. For the first time, many of these creative kids — who think in shapes, colors and patterns — will have an outlet and an adult who will celebrate who they are meant to be. Future designers, artists, inventors and perhaps a creative genius like Leonardo DaVinci will be encouraged by the curriculum.
The Fine Arts Advisory Committee is made up of community volunteers who thirty years ago saw the need for a music program in our schools and helped to hire that first music teacher through community advocacy and fundraising such as the . Now they are helping to lay the corner stone to build a visual creative art foundation for our youngest learners. We hope that just like the first music teacher who started our internationally recognized comprehensive music program, that our district will also become the best in the state for creative curriculum education.
The Fine Arts Advisory Committee thanked the community and the elementary principals at the meeting for their continued support to grow this essential visual literacy component for our 21st century learners.
— Information submitted by Anne Hritzay, Fine Arts Advisory President