Founders Blog - Arts Education is a Civil Rights Issue

The arts opportunity gap is widest for children in high-poverty schools,” “This is absolutely an equity issue and a civil rights issue.
— Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan

This is exactly why Art Works believes in the necessity of our At School After School Program so deeply.

The children who attend the four elementary schools we partner with live in a county that does not allocate an art teacher for every school – or even every two schools. Prince George’s County art teachers are “rovers” who visit several schools in their areas throughout the year. Sometimes they visit once or twice…sometimes they just don’t get there.

Which schools see the least of these roving art teachers? It seems, from his statement above, Secretary Duncan knows the answer.

I don’t know how decisions are made about art education in Prince George’s County Schools, but I do know that when Abigail LaFertte of Thomas Stone Elementary in Mount Rainier came to us over a year ago, her students had not seen an art teacher all year.

This school year, in partnership with Ms. LaFertte and her school’s administration, Art Works has begun the work to level the playing field for Abigail’s students by offering weekly art classes after school – at their school.

Photography by Juliana Molina

As Secretary Duncan says, this is a civil rights issue. And that is what makes this particularly important to us at Art Works. Our mission is not simply to provide art education. Our mission is to provide art education that embraces the ideals of a just society where all of us have access to all types of education, and all of our children are encouraged to believe in their unlimited potential.

We believe in dreamers and dreams. We believe that a community without dreams, without imagination, without creativity is truly a community in poverty. And we believe that by doing our part to provide our children access to visualizing their dreams – by painting them, drawing them, and building them in 3d – we can help move our society in the right direction, or should I say the civil rights direction?

Barbara Johnson,
Founder and Executive Director
Art Works Now