Portrait credit: Mood by Le’Asha B., Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club Member
Advocates have long established the power of the arts in education. Students engaged in the creative arts develop both academic skills and character development. These abilities include mastering self-expression, building resilience, and improving self-confidence—all of which lead to improved academic performance and success in life.
“Art is critical to a young person’s personal and educational development,” says Michéle Des Verney Redwine, the president and founder of the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative. Redwine explains data shows that area-based Black and Latino students are less likely to be consistently involved in arts activities and instruction than their white counterparts.
That gap is the reason SBAC recently launched its three-year “Syllabus of Color” initiative, a comprehensive effort to tackle systemic disparities and to engage families, schools, and cross-sector community partners to implement the principles of diversity and inclusion in arts education. The first tier of the project begins with students in 5th through ninth grades at Booker Middle School and Booker High School.
“Our schools haven’t built a solid foundation of opportunity empowering Black and Latino talent to rise within the visual and performing arts fields. Our goal is to inspire these students to become more involved with the arts—both in the schools and in our culture-rich community.”
It is a win-win for everyone involved, and the benefits go beyond creativity and self-expression. Ultimately, engaging with the arts at a young age increases the ability to do better in math, reading and writing.
How to turn this beautiful dream into a transformative reality?
“Collaboration is the key word,” says Redwine. “This is a community-wide initiative involving the school districts, organizations that promote issues pertaining to communities of African descent, area nonprofits, places of worship, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the arts community.”
A $106,700 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation will be directed to hiring teaching artists, community relations managers, and a project manager.
“We believe that the arts’ humanizing influence is educationally critical and socially essential,” says Teri A Hansen, President|CEO of Barancik Foundation. “Our goal is to create systemic change by advancing curriculum that represents the full breadth of our region’s diversity.”
“It takes a village to raise a child and we have the support of our village,” Redwine says. “Barancik Foundation supports our vision in a profound way. Our regional cultural community can only thrive in the years to come if we boldly embrace and implement the principles of diversity and inclusion. Racial justice and equity are more than topics for artists to wrestle with; they are the very ground from which the art of the future will thrive. This program will plant the seeds of art appreciation and mastery in a new generation of Black and Latino students. As those seeds grow, the students will too—at every level. And our entire community will grow along with them in the years to come.”
Syllabus of Color also invites college students studying the arts to volunteer as mentors. “Young people leading young people is a powerful thing,” she says. “These young ambassadors will encourage middle and high school students to visit museums and arts spaces and to attend performing arts events. Our program thrives on hands-on, interactive learning.”