New Ingenuity report highlights progress in Chicago arts education

Visual and performing arts education isn’t going down without a fight. Arts education demands to be recognized and overall, I think society wants to support that. I believe that most people would agree that arts education is an important part of learning and developmental growth. However, when it comes to budgeting and cutting programs, arts programs are one of the first things to go. Arts education programs are getting dropped before students even get the chance to experience them.

Despite the ups and downs, Chicago is fighting for arts education through it all. More specifically, the Chicago Public Schools are making strides in improving arts education. CPS now has an arts teacher in almost every school. According to the State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools report by Ingenuity, “82 percent of District-run schools have both an instructor and at least one community arts partner.” Collectively (when you consider the entire school district), arts education is more pervasive in the Chicago Public Schools than people originally thought. Now the next step is to provide all students, in every Chicago neighborhood, with equal access to those resources.

CPS started a Creative Schools Certificate process during the 2013-2014 school year because of availability gaps in arts education – meaning that not all students are receiving the same access to the arts as others. In Chicago, these availability gaps are often drawn across socioeconomic lines. The focus of the Creative Schools Certificate is to provide arts education opportunities for students in areas that do not have an arts education presence. To begin resolving this issue, CPS’s goal was to provide 120 minutes of arts education for every student every week. So far, CPS has made significant progress by providing an art teacher for every 350 students, which is bringing them closer to filling the availability gaps. The more arts teachers that CPS has, the more arts education each student will receive. CPS runs 577 schools in Chicago and has high hopes for the 2014-2015 school year. Ingenuity reported that of those 577 schools, “95 schools are ‘Excelling’ in arts education provision and investment within the first year of Plan implementation.” The goal for the upcoming school year is to have an arts teacher in every CPS school.

Photo by Alayna Kudalis

Luckily, CPS employees and staff are not the only ones rooting for arts education. Artists, community members, organizations, etc. throughout the Chicagoland area are hoping to increase arts education availability. It’s important for CPS to reach its goals and maintain them. Ultimately, making sure that all students have access to arts education means being consistent over time. Recently, Urban Gateways was mentioned in a Chicago Sun-Times article as one of the city’s 10 nonprofit organizations that provided nearly a third of arts education opportunities for CPS students. Carrie Rosales, Measurement & Documentation Manager for Urban Gateways says, “I would love for CPS to have a dedicated arts person on staff, who can be the champion for the arts and be able to coordinate where they’re unable to support arts programming within the school with the designated arts instructor. That person knows who to contract to come in and fill the space or supplement what they’re doing.”

As arts education resources increase, the hope is that the number of students not receiving any arts education will decrease across all Chicago communities. As those gaps close, more and more opportunities will be made available to all students that are compelled to be imaginative and create. Students need and deserve the chance to express that creativity. Schools need more arts education activists, teachers, and cheerleaders that can help be a voice for the students. With that being said, Chicago will continue to cheer for arts education.