TRUCKEE, Calif. — According to Americans for the Arts, our public schools serve as fundamental centers of community and, in addition, serve as the major provider of formalized arts instruction for America’s youth. The arts help children develop literacy skills such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The arts encourage divergent thinking and problem-solving skills, enabling students to think creatively.
Current research has shown that arts education can play a critical role in a child’s academic and social development. Well-designed and executed arts education leads to overall improved academic performance, builds skills necessary for workplace success, and has a positive influence on the lives of students. In addition, research and formative evaluation of successful arts programs have demonstrated that access to, and participation in the arts, helps decrease and prevent negative behavior by at-risk youth.
What better way to demonstrate this on a local level than by including professional visual art instruction by Anke Hass to teens attending Sierra High School and the Community School. These teenagers for the most part are like any others. They have hopes and dreams and ideas and vivacious personalities. However, some of them have faced challenges that make tapping into their inner artist even that much more important.
On a recent sunny afternoon local artist, Anke Hass, opened her home to students she had taught this past school year for a reception which celebrated their remarkable artwork. In addition to creating masterpieces, they donated many of their works to Soroptimist of Truckee Donner’s 38th Annual Wine Tasting event which was a huge success.
I had the chance to speak with Jeanne Simanek who is a Soroptimist member and also leads the “S” club at Sierra Continuation High School, which is a mentoring program for girls. Jeanne learned of the artwork being created under Anke’s direction and was impressed not only by the level of artistic talent the students had demonstrated, but by Anke’s idea to host an artist reception for the students.
“It’s important to provide programming that gives kids exposure to the arts. We need more of that to build their confidence which is part of Soroptimists S club mission,” Simanek said. “With all the budget cuts we have to be more and more creative about getting our kids exposed to these opportunities and enthused about their art work as well as enthused about themselves.”
According to Sierra High School Principal Jane Loomis and Community School Principal Mike Depew, art education is not just something they enjoy; their students were able to explore a multitude of visual art elements, including painting, sketching, watercolors and oil paints. Students learned and discussed how each of their projects differs in texture, scope shape and content and gained an improved sense of perspective and proportion to create meaningful artwork.
Perhaps most meaningful of all was many students’ willingness to look beyond their own work to the broader community by donating their work to Soroptimists of Truckee Donner to benefit their programs. This is clearly a positive experience for students and a great gift to members of our community who benefit from Soroptimist International of Truckee Donner.
As we look to next school year let’s make sure to thank all of our local school administrators, educators, professional artists and parent volunteers for making art education possible in our schools. Also be sure to thank the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District community who voted Yes on Measure A, which has historically funded enrichment programs within TTUSD and will continue to fund programs like these beginning in the 2012-13 school year. Look for more articles on Measure A funding as we get closer to the beginning of school.
In the meantime, have a great summer and make sure to check out student artwork in public places including Dragonfly Restaurant, Truckee Town Hall, Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District’s Community Center and Glenshire Clubhouse where painted Totem Poles continue to delight the public and visiting hikers.
— Raine Howe is executive director of Arts For the Schools.