I know this post is not exactly espousing a radical notion, but it’s still worth putting words to the page.
Theo loves to draw. He’s got an amazing imagination that translates to the page in ways that astound his mom and me. And our house is rapidly becoming the Theo Gallery.
And we live four blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
As a dad, I’m incredibly fortunate to have the financial means to afford a family members to the museum so I can expose Theo to the world of art inside the museum’s walls.
But not every family can afford membership to their local art museum, and even fewer families live within walking distance of a world-class museum. But every child can be exposed to the world of art – both creating and appreciating it – through school. And every child should be.
And yet, with all of the cuts to education and all of the time and energy expended on preparing for high-stakes tests, art education has been cut in many districts and many schools – and disproportionately in our neediest schools where parents may not have the money to afford a family membership. That’s criminal.
I was raised in a house with tons of artwork because of my mom’s love of art. My mom first fell in love with Leger on a school trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art when she was in 6th grade. She grew up in Camden, NJ which wasn’t a well-funded district even then, but they had art education. No one ever took her out of art class to make sure she could pass some test. Presumably, no one ever told her teachers that field trips to a Philadelphia museum took the student away from “time on task.”
I want every child to have the opportunity to have a rich art education. As Gary Stager has said often, “We are the richest country in the world, our schools should be able to afford a cello and a computer.” I want kids to go to museums, I want them to sculpt and draw. I want them to listen to jazz and classical and play instruments and sing. Here in Philadelphia, private organizations are trying to fill the gap. The Philly Stamp Pass program does an excellent job of giving kids access to museums and Stanford Thompson and the folks at Play On, Philly are doing amazing work with music education in Philadelphia.
But we should never have to rely on private philanthropy to fund what should be publicly funded in our schools.
The exhibit Theo and I went to today was entitled “Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis” — it is just wrong that so few students in our metropolis were able to see it… or even had a class where they could have learned about it.