#WeAllDeserveArts: Quanice Floyd, Executive Director of AEMS

#WeAllDeserveArts: Students deserve arts education now more than ever

May 4, 2020

written by Quanice G. Floyd, AEMS Executive Director

In the state of Maryland, the arts (dance, music, media arts, theatre, and visual arts) are a core subject. In 2017, the Code of Maryland Annotated Regulations (COMAR 13A.04.16) was revised to state that:

Each local school system shall: (1) Provide an instructional program in fine arts each year for all students in grades prekindergarten—8 as follows: (a) Within the prekindergarten—5 grade span, students shall have experiences in the fine art forms of dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual art; and (b) Within grades 6—8, students may specialize in one or more of the fine art forms of dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual art; and (2) Provide an instructional program that enables all students in grades 9—12 to meet graduation requirements, and to select from among fine arts elective courses of dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual art that will prepare them for post-secondary education and careers. 

COMAR 13A.04.16

The reason the arts are core is not because there are incredible lobbyists and advocates that helped push this forward, it is because the arts are a part of who we are as humans. The arts are a part of our culture and unfortunately, there are still students in our state who do not get access to the arts during their school day, even their virtual school day. COMAR is an unfunded mandate making it difficult for school districts around the state to be in compliance. During times like these, it is especially important that the arts, our students, and their families are not being left behind.

We need the arts now more than ever.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts in schools were considered to be a “planning period”, a “special”, or an “elective” for students and non-arts teachers. We have even heard arts education administrators refer to the arts as a “non-core” subject, even though they are a core subject. In fact, the arts are THE core subject because without the arts, we would not be able to endure and persevere through these unprecedented times. Since you’ve been homebound, how many times did you listen to music or watch tv/netflix or go on social media and see artists singing and dancing on Zoom? You were consuming the arts. The arts are more than just sitting in the classroom playing the recorder, the arts are used to communicate history, emotions, traditions, and other messages. The arts help us heal. The arts help us celebrate. The arts help us love. The arts help us learn. This is why your students created a TikTok trend and are learning new dances and singing covers of songs they like. 

The arts are critical.

Sure, we can tell you how the arts uplift math, science, and reading comprehension (they do) but that is for another post. This blog post was created to drive home that the arts are essential by themselves; their benefit to other subjects is a perk and an example of how pervasive the role that the arts play in the human experience is. The arts empower students in every aspect of their lives. 

The arts are a right.

Last October, delegates from 49 nations crafted the Frankfurt Delegation which stressed the urgency to reform support for arts education in nations around the globe and implores government agencies to take action (Creative Generation, 2020): 

“[We] call for transformative action for arts education as being integral to sustaining communities and meeting the needs of all people in the face of critical global challenges…[This] Declaration celebrates the unprecedented arts performances linked to … movements led by children and young people throughout the world. It asserts arts education as a right for all towards the nurturing of a paradigm of solidarity, cooperation and good living”.

Students deserve access to a high-quality, well-rounded education. COVID-19 has exposed us to the true inequities that are happening when it comes to our students and families. That access lies on the other side of a host of other systemic and institutional issues including but not limited to digital access, education, healthcare, housing, transportation, criminal justice, food, social services, etc. which is why AEMS believes that arts education is a civil right and if a school doesn’t provide access to it, it is a violent act not only towards our students, but towards our communities. 

What AEMS is doing and how can you help?

AEMS has been working closely with statewide organizations to support the entire arts education ecosystem including: students and families, arts educators, teaching artists, and arts organizations throughout the state. We have also been collaborating with local education, arts, and arts education organizations to respond to our communities and create strategies around the inequities throughout our state. AEMS is facilitating the following programs:

  • M:Brace Series – A collaboration with MSDE’s Fine Arts Office that focuses on the intersection between the arts and wellness. Find out more here. As part of the Embrace project, AEMS is producing a podcast that celebrates the lives and arts journeys of the Embrace facilitators, all professional teaching artists in Maryland. Listen here
  • #WeAllDeserveArts Campaign –  Beginning May 4, AEMS will be launching the #WeAllDeserveArts campaign in hopes of addressing systemic barriers for arts educators, teaching artists, and families. We will be hosting a number of programs for the above constituents as well as launching a new blog! Please be sure to register for our upcoming programs:
    • May 4 – 8: Teacher Appreciation Week – We will be celebrating the amazing work of arts and creative educators around the state. 
    • May 8: Maryland CARES for the Arts – In collaboration with Maryland Citizens for the Arts, we will be co-hosting a space for independent and teaching artists. Please register here.
    • Arts Educator Community Listening Sessions – AEMS will be hosting a series of listening sessions for arts educators around the state to discuss the needs of the field. If you’re an arts educator, contact us at info@aems-edu.org for more information.
    • #WeAllDeserveArts Blog – Weekly blogs featuring amazing Maryland arts education leaders. Look for new blog posts every Friday on our blog page!
  • Launching of the artlook® Virtual Learning Library – In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, artlook® now has an interactive, searchable database with online learning resources from arts organizations and teaching artists across the country for arts educators, students and families.
  • Family Advocacy 101 – A series of parent/family focused webinars that address the inequities within the education sector (including arts education).

What you can do:

  • Donate to AEMS for #GivingTuesday! In celebration of the amazing work that arts and creative educators are doing around the state, we ask that you continue to help us to help them! Please donate to our #GivingTuesday Campaign!
  • Use the Hashtag #WeAllDeserveArts and #MDArtsUnite – Take a picture of yourself engaging in the arts, whether it’s practicing piano, singing a song, writing a script, or drawing a picture, post it on your social media, and be sure to tag @artsedmaryland.
  • Follow AEMS on social media!

Beyond COVID-19.

Like many organizations, AEMS has been responsive to what is currently happening but we have our eyes set ahead on the future. With schools looking more and more like they won’t open until the fall, we need to know if arts learning factors into the plans of each of Marylands’ school districts. If it does not, AEMS will be leading the charge to advocate for the inclusion of this learning, and informing families on how to advocate because #WeAllDeserveArts.

Maryland Arts Summit

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