#WeAllDeserveArts: Chan’nel Howard – Baltimore City Public Schools Fine Arts Supervisor

October 9, 2020

March 13, 2020 will go down in history as the day the earth stood still for arts education in many places, but specifically for teachers and students of Baltimore City Public Schools. This was the day that schools closed in Maryland for the first two weeks of a statewide quarantine due to the novel COVID-19. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would eventually result in schools across the state remaining closed to face to face instruction for the remainder of the school year. For already underfunded school systems like Baltimore City, this could have been catastrophic for fine arts instruction. For decades, Baltimore City Public Schools has been underfunded to the tune of about $342 million. I am taking the opportunity to write about the resilience of our teachers and our students amid the politics that often serve as barriers to many opportunities that are afforded to their counterparts in surrounding counties whose funding structures are different from that of the Baltimore City. Unequivocally we believe #WeAllDeserveArts.

Baltimore City Public Schools Fine Arts is an act that is good and getting better in spite of challenges, some historic, others due to the pandemic. Given the enormity of having to make an immediate shift in how we instruct in fine arts disciplines, our teachers rose to, and met the challenge of virtual instruction with fervor and grace. It seems only fitting that during National Arts in Education Week the real superheroes are highlighted and celebrated for their courageous efforts to go where no arts teacher in this lifetime has gone before… the virtual arts instruction frontier. I have the immense pleasure of working with a little over 200 visual and performing arts rockstars that rallied together to discuss, write and implement new curricula that would support a new way of teaching and learning. Our students and our teachers have been asked to do what was thought to be the impossible: engage in meaningful arts instruction without the interpersonal connections that fine arts teachers and their students thrive upon. Although we are just two weeks in for virtual instruction our teachers and students are making the best of our current situation.

Fitted with curricula that emphasize student voice and is reflective of artists with whom students can relate I think that we are well on our way to soaring beyond where even our imaginations can take us. While I could write pages about the challenges that we push against on a daily basis, I thought it more appropriate to herald the 200+ sliver linings I find in my work and 79,187 reasons I have to keep pushing for equity in arts opportunities for Baltimore City Public Schools. #WeAllDeserveArts.

#WeAllDeserveTheArts

Chan’nel Howard is the Coordinator of Fine Arts for Baltimore City Schools. She is a proud graduate of Baltimore City Schools and considers her work “soul work” as it gives her the opportunity to pay forward all of the love and investment made in her from music teacher during her tenure as a student in City Schools.

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