Announcing the Emergency Arts Education Fund
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Hello New York City. If you don’t know me, I’m Seth Cameron, the Executive Director of Children’s Museum of the Arts. I’m a father and an artist and a New Yorker. And I’m a New Yorker because I’m an artist.
Because when I was a kid, when I set my heart to being an artist, I knew I needed to be in the center of everything. I needed to walk into a place like this one and see works of art I’d never seen before. I needed the Metropolitan Museum of Art in my backyard. I needed to walk the streets of Chelsea any day of the week, pop into a gallery and see what other artists were up to.
For me, and millions of other young artists, New York City was never a question – it was the answer.
Now twenty-something years later, we are still the city where artists need to be. But when I became a father, and had to think for the first time about what it means for kids to grow up here, I discovered a shocking reality:
Despite New York’s continued legacy as a crucible of the arts, New York kids today have less access to arts education than I did growing up. In fact, a kid in public school is getting less of an arts education today than they did just one year ago.
Yes – part of this story is about recent budget cuts to the Department of Education – but the whole story of declining investment in the arts goes back generations. Little by little by little we have divided fewer and fewer and fewer resources to the point where a typical public school can barely afford a pack of crayons per student. That’s no art teacher. That’s no art classroom. That’s no kid standing in front of Monet’s Haystacks and getting it for the first time.
It’s all gone.
This is far, far worse than a budgeting failure. It’s a failure of imagination. We’re losing the capacity to contemplate what could be possible for our kids if we put the arts at the center of their lives.
This is what the Emergency Arts Education Fund sets out to solve. We’re not going to distribute an extra crayon to all 1.1 million kids in the public school system. We’re going to show New York what it’s really capable of by focusing our resources on three partners.
Each of these partners will host, for a full year, one of the artists from our Residency for Experimental Arts Education, a highly selective program we created to support some of the most innovative talents in arts education today.
These artists will develop highly focused, deeply immersive, full-year arts curricula – not a single-session arts and crafts project – but the real dream of progressive education. Students will move from materials and methods to deep investigations of form, shape, line, color, texture, value, space, and connect those investigations to the real world through studio visits with local artists, field trips to galleries, museums, auction houses. Those studies will be scaffolded toward their own knowledgeable independent art practice that gets realized and recognized through public exhibitions – joining young artists to the wider community of artists.
It still surprises me that here in New York City this hasn’t really been done.
And it’s not because New Yorkers don’t care. I have met countless principles, teachers, parents – who fundraise, volunteer, and do anything they possibly can to preserve some iota of an art experience for the kids in their care.
Alex Marquez is a parent from Children’s Workshop School in the East Village. It is an absolutely beautiful and diverse community led by the indomitable Principal Maria Velez-Clarke, with a long history of integrating the arts across its curriculum. I took a tour of Children’s Workshop School and they were so proud to show me the artworks that live on their walls, that have become touchstones of these kids’ lives. It’s a generous community that has recently welcomed a large number of asylum seekers. It’s a vibrant community with a generous DIY spirit, whose hallways are filled with what my colleague Liam calls “good noise.” Alex reached out to Children’s Museum of the Arts when she discovered there was simply nothing left in the school’s budget for an art program and she wanted to know if we could help. She was ready from day one to roll up her sleeves to help make it happen.
Alex, we’re making it happen. I’m very pleased to announce Children’s Workshop School as the first partner for the Emergency Arts Education Fund.
Long before Chelsea became the perennial gallery district, it was home to Hudson Guild, a community organization that provides services for 14,000 local residents. Among these services for all ages is a robust afterschool and summer program for kids, many of whom live in NYCHA housing next door. You step into Hudson Guild and you can feel this is a place that’s doing the work – that’s answering the needs of its community every way it knows how. But I’ll admit, I spent twenty years walking past its building on my way to look at art, and it never crossed my mind to think about connecting these communities. There are 500 art galleries a block away, and most of these kids don’t know they can walk in the door.
We’re going to change that. I’m very pleased to announce Hudson Guild as our partner for the Emergency Arts Education Fund.
Last Friday night, you could have gone to NADA, Frieze, Independent Art Fair – but the hottest ticket in town had to be the production of Moana put on by the children of P396K, a District 75 School in Brownsville, Brooklyn. For those of you who don’t know, District 75 is a designation given to schools who serve children with special needs, and P396K is led by an incredible team — principal Dr. Keisha McCoy-Dailey and assistant principal Dr. Michelle Patrovani.
Now – a lot of people will tell you that the arts matter in school because they make us more empathetic or enhance critical thinking skills or that playing the violin will improve your math scores – but for some of us, it’s more than all that. The arts are a calling. They allow us to become ourselves because they give us access to something bigger than ourselves.
Dr. McCoy-Dailey and Dr. Patrovani know this without question. And so I am very pleased to announce P396K as our third partner for the inauguration of the Emergency Arts Education Fund.
New York still calls itself the art capital of the world, but it’s not worthy of that title. Not until it can provide world class arts education to its children. All its children, because all children are artists.
Support the Emergency Arts Education Fund