In an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review arts teachers are doing more than worrying about budget cuts.  They are getting creative and using an arts integration approach to demonstrate the value of the arts within the classroom and their impact on the 21st century.

School art programs around Allegheny County seem to be going strong as teachers emphasize critical thinking and interdisciplinary studies, but some officials fear Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget portends dire cuts in school funding and endangers arts programs.

With some districts’ art teachers handling 700 students per semester and shuttling among schools, they nonetheless have carved out a niche for arts education by connecting it to other subjects, and emphasizing creativity and critical thinking over technical skills.

“What I tell my kids all the time is, ‘I may not teach you to draw, but I will teach you to think,’ ” said Jayne Sweet, a middle school and high school art teacher in the South Allegheny School District. “If you have the critical-thinking and reasoning skills you develop in art, you can use those to answer a PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) question.”

Thus, lessons in impressionistic painting can involve elements of French history; drawing and perspective can include math and geometry; making and painting Native American drums can teach history, social studies and music all at once.

School leaders and arts administrators do provide a word of caution, though:

“You can’t have good arts integration across your curriculum if you don’t have a good arts education program,” Jamie Kasper, associate director of the Arts Education Collaborative, a Downtown-based group providing advocacy, leadership training and professional-development programs for art teachers.

So while arts integration seems to be a win-win for everyone, schools must remain mindful that classroom teachers are not there to teach technique.  They are simply using the arts as a vehicle to create natural connections to content so that learning is richer and more meaningful.
I believe that arts integration is truly something that can completely reform and transform public education.  My fear, however, is that policymakers will see arts integration as a money-saving method for arts education programs, which couldn’t be further from reality.  In order for these arts integration programs to be successful, the arts teachers are your most valuable asset because they provide the technique so that you can use the arts authentically.

Arts integration CAN save a school or district plenty of money.

There are grants, business partnerships and volunteer opportunities that can all be used within the curriculum.  We have had much success with our program because it is fully funded through partnerships and the support of our volunteers.  So while budget cuts slice deeper into our schools and our arts programs look to be just another line item with red ink, please know that we can truly make a difference.  Advocate for a better future paved with ways to embrace our culture and expand our creativity!

If you are interested in how schools can do more with arts integration with less money, stay tuned!  My newest ebook “Show Me the Moola” provides resources and strategies with that in mind and it is coming out March 25th for only $3.99.