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Monday, 14 January 2013 01:19

Arts Everywhere! ECA Integrates Arts Throughout School Day

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Walk into the arts classroom at El Cuarto Año (ECA) during any period of the school day, and you will see students working on drawings, paintings, sculpture, and mixed media visual arts. But this year, you may find something more—teachers working alongside students, focused on their own art projects.

For six years, Jonathan Hadnott has been teaching the arts at El Cuarto Año, but this year the school is trying something new. Anthony Rodriguez, new this year in the role of principal, has offered teachers the opportunity to spend part of their time in the building working on their own arts projects, before or after school, during lunch, or during their free period.

“This is an opportunity for teachers to collaborate in new ways, with each other and with fellow students,” said Mr. Rodriguez in his office after school in November. “I have a number of new teachers in the school this year, and this is an opportunity to get to know the kids and to learn together. It was such a simple initiative. There was no big survey commissioned.”

When you walk through the halls of ECA, you can see the influence of the arts program, particularly along the East hall where the arts studio sits. Portraits and cityscapes, graffiti style and abstracts, create a rich and welcoming atmosphere.

Chicago Arts Partnership in Education

The school has long cultivated this feeling though arts programming in the school day and after school, working closely for the last fi ve years with The Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE) SCALE project. Currently, CAPE is collaborating on three projects in partnership with the school: a recording studio, photo essay and year book program, and a performance and talent show production that is set for early May. ECA Counselor Brian Galaviz and teachers Nestor Corona and Jackie Silverman will be leading the project collaborations.

On the West wing of the building, about twelve students huddle into the recording studio space, which is comprised of a small, soundproofed room with space for just one or two performers, a space for engineers and onlookers, and a Mac computer with recording and production software. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, Joshua Beltran leans in the door, waiting for his chance to record some freestyle this afternoon.

“Right now I am working on a song,” he tells me. “We just recorded it last week. There’s a whole bunch of people here working on different things. Whoever wants to come and record a song, or make a rap, or record something just for fun, they can do it here.”

Joshua, who long struggled with his attendance in other schools, feels that programs like these help improve attendance. “As more programs open up, I just feel like there’s going to be a lot more people coming, too. If they have a liking for the school and the arts in the school, they’re just going to go to it.”

The sound studio instruction is provided through the CAPE partnership, funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, but the program is currently in its fifth and final year. ECA counselor Brian Galaviz and CAPE instructor Jasmine Kronbeck provide their expertise, but students are given a lot of creative control.

“The idea is that this is like a home studio,” says Ms. Kronbeck. “We teach how to write a song, how to record it quickly with equipment they could use at home if they had some money to invest. And then we go to a professional studio and have them record their best track.”

Ms. Kronbeck enjoys the work because she sees arts instruction as a way to empower young people and allow their make their voices heard, and to prepare them for the workplace with soft skills such as speaking, listening, working in teams, and acting professionally. “It’s like a bridge between high school and the professional world.” She hopes to return next year, as long as the funding can be sustained.

School Wins Grant

Recently, the school secured funding that will contribute to that goal. In January 2013, the school announced that it had won a $2,000 grant to support efforts to integrate arts throughout the curriculum. The shoemakers Vans and the Americans for the Arts created the Custom Culture Grant to support schools across the country to sustain arts education in the face of funding cuts. The CEO of Americans for the Arts praised the ECA application for its dedication to growing its arts program and emphasized that research demonstrates that students who are exposed to arts education perform better than their peers who are not exposed to the arts.

After recording another take of his new song, Joshua tells me that he believes that math, science, and writing are all critical to success, but that arts can be too. “The arts have a lot to do with the world now. They show us our personality, those emotions, and what the people are thinking.”

Read 5401 times Last modified on Sunday, 08 November 2015 11:35