TAMPA MAYOR LAUNCHES ART EDUCATION FUND by Roxanne Escobales

09/12/06

This year, Florida received over 1 million dollars from the US government in No Child Left Behind funding. While reading, math and science are allocated money in the program, not one dollar is dedicated to arts education.

This morning Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio announced a new city arts fund that she hopes will help fill in some of the gaps between the what arts education receives and what it needs.

[song and then under] At Edison Elementary School in Seminole Heights, the school’s World Drum Ensemble greeted Mayor Pam Iorio and school board officials with the fruits of their creativity.

[Song up and then under]

Margie Neely, the students’ music teacher, recently received a matching grant from the Unsinkable Molly Brown Foundation to help buy instruments like the ones played by the ensemble.

In the past four years since it was established, the Unsinkable Molly Brown Foundation has given over 138 thousand dollars to arts education in Hillsborough County. The money is used to buy new instruments and art supplies.

Now the City of Tampa has partnered up with the foundation to help schools keep the arts alive by creating the Mayor’s Arts Education Fund.

[string quartet music then under]

Inside Edison Elementary’s media center a string quartet from Brandon High School played before the mayor took the podium. She said that an overemphasis on standardized testing in schools, such as the FCAT, squeezes out arts programs.

ACT: There wasn’t testing when I was in school but somehow I became mayor

Worse, Mayor Iorio said, the talents of creative students are lost when the curriculum focuses on teaching for the FCAT.

ACT: Sometimes it’s those creative minds that sometimes don’t neatly fall into standardized tests…

For elementary schools, Hillsborough County gives 3 dollars per student for art supplies on top of a basic school supply budget allocated for every student. In middle and high schools where art is an elective and there are less art students, that is raised to 6 dollars per student.

ACT: a kindergarten teacher had to buy supplies out of own pocket

Paul Wilborn is the Tampa creative industries manager. He was responsible for finding a way to help raise money for arts education. Wilborn now sits on the board of the Unsinkable Molly Brown Foundation.

ACT: You grown an arts community from the ground up and it just doesn’t happen overnight

This fall Mayor Iorio will present a community cultural plan to the city council. Its purpose is to grow increase spending and support for small and medium size arts organizations such as theater companies which traditionally struggle to survive.

But first the mayor hopes to help the teachers who inspire Tampa’s next generation of artists, musicians and performers. Pieces of art by Hillsborough County high school students flanked the podium where she spoke.

[Alexandroff description of art then under]

Phyllis Alexandroff is the head of middle and high school art programs in Hillsborough. She says that teaching visual arts has evolved.

ACT: It’s no longer about still life…

The curriculum has moved from traditional notions of project-based work and now fosters critical thinking. A national study on arts education found that students with a high involvement in the arts earned better grades. And Florida state policy should take note: the study found that those same students performed better on standardized tests.

But Phyllis Alexandroff says the problem of arts funding is not Tampa Bay or even Florida specific.

ACT; when I’ve traveled to my national conference I’ve never had anybody say we have too much money

The Mayor’s Arts Education Fund relies on private and business donations which will be used by the Unsinkable Molly Brown Foundation to match funds from schools. Donations are tax deductible.

To give to the arts education fund or for more information contact the Tampa’s creative industries department at 813 274 8016.

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