June 4, 2021
I grew up in New York at the epicenter of culture and “the heart” of performing and visual arts. I often joke that while my friends were going to Chuck E. Cheese, my mom was whisking me off to world class museums, doll shows, multicultural festivals, outdoor concerts, and Broadway musicals. Those sort of unique experiences stuck with me, and were by far, life-changing memories.
I remember the day I told my mom I was going to be a dancer; very soon after she enrolled me in ballet, tap, jazz and African dance classes. When I told her I wanted to be a photographer, she bought me a camera and encouraged me to shoot to my heart’s desire. I loved writing too, and my mother would share my stories of far away lands and quirky characters with anyone who would listen.
I was fortunate to have parents that encouraged my artistic dreams. So, it was no surprise when I announced my sophomore year in college that I was changing my major to performing arts. People would ask : “your parents actually LET you major in theatre?” to where I proudly remarked, “yes they did”.
And now that I am a parent of five wonderful, creative human beings, I value access to arts even more. When we moved to Baltimore City in 2018, my children started off in public schools, and it was disheartening to learn that there weren’t music, arts or performing arts classes offered. This same year, BCPSS implemented the Fine Arts Strategic plan that ensured equal access to high quality arts education that meets COMAR standards, yet there is still much more work to be done.
While we have been grateful for programs like Orchkids, Jubilee Arts and TWIGS that gave our kids the opportunity to participate in transformative, dynamic arts programming, this reality sparked my awareness about the inaccessibility to quality arts education for so many children.
For far too long Arts Education has been undervalued and overlooked as a priority in the Baltimore City school system, and students suffer the consequences. As the 2021-2022 school year approaches, it is my hope that our local officials consider full funding for arts education in Baltimore City schools through the ESSER and Maryland Blueprint for Success (Kirwan).
We are looking at a bold, fierce and unapologetic generation of children that creatively use arts as a means to speak out against social injustice, bring awareness, and significant change. Youth are in need of continued positive artistic outlets that allow them to have an opportunity to express their day-to-day adversities. The arts are a form of healing. There is art in everything we do; arts are what inspire us and encourage us to live freely and outside of the box.
Providing equitable arts education programming delivered within safe spaces for youth to express artistic freedom is non-negotiable; Art education is #smARTeducation- We. ALL. Deserve. Arts.