The following message about the importance of arts education was
created by the Community/Schools Partnership for the Arts
(C/SPA) of Sarasota County, Florida:
A Community Arts Advocacy Success
"We are a special interest group. Our special interest is the
students, the future citizens of Sarasota County. As a coalition of
parents, community organizations, and businesses, we believe that
all Sarasota County students MUST receive a complete and
balanced education including, at minimum, the comprehensive
study of music from a qualified music teacher and art from a
qualified art teacher.
We believe education in the arts is vital for ALL OUR
STUDENTS because:
- Children who study the arts are better overall students.
- Children who study the arts are more employable after
- Studying the arts emphasizes innovation, problem-solving,
communication skills, personal discipline and responsibility,
collaboration, and teamwork - universally recognized skills for the
- Studying the arts balances education through experiences
fostering the creative imagination with experiences using logic and
- Sarasota is known as the 'County of the Arts' and we are proud
of the significant impact of the arts on our economy. We must
have an education system which reflects the prevailing cultural
values of our community.
Our goal is to join with the Sarasota County School System to
provide the best, balanced, fiscally responsible education for all
our students."
Copyright Sarasota County Arts Council, Sarasota, Florida.
All rights reserved.
The statement above was developed by the Community/Schools
Partnership for the Arts of Sarasota County, Florida, or C/SPA.
This organization consists of arts organizations in Sarasota County,
including the Asolo Theater Company, the Florida West Coast
Symphony, the John and Mable Ringling Museum, and the
Sarasota Ballet. Teachers, school district administrators, parents,
students, and community foundations are also part of C/SPA.
The Community/Schools Partnership for the Arts was founded in 1995,
when the Sarasota County School District eliminated almost all of its
arts teachers. Using a three-point plan, the group worked to
successfully restore arts education programs.
Instead of defending the existing arts program or trying to restore
the arts program to its pre-budget cut status, C/SPA started at
ground level. C/SPA members envisioned a new arts program
achieving new goals, and they enlisted the assistance of the school
administration in creating the arts program.
Despite early setbacks in dealing with the school administration,
C/SPA remained positive, persistent, and united. Eventually
a true partnership was established. Although struggles persisted,
there were more arts teachers and more arts course offerings in the
Sarasota County School District in 1999 than before the budget
cuts in 1995.
C/SPA members spent a great deal of time discussing, drafting,
and revising a mission statement. (Their statement is called THE
MESSAGE and is featured at the beginning of this article.)
After all members of C/SPA voiced their opinions, they developed a
concise, easily understood "Message" that the public and school
officials could comprehend. This "Message" served to guide all
actions and decisions of C/SPA. Surprisingly, the goals stated in the
final draft of the "Message" were very different from those in the
first draft. Through discussion and revision, points that at first
seemed insignificant became important, and other goals became less
The arts organizations in C/SPA agreed to assist and augment the arts
education program of the Sarasota County School District only if the
school students received regular arts education from teachers
certified in the arts. C/SPA would not opt for a quick fix, and their
decision held true to their mission statement or "Message."
Of course, the three principles above did not, by themselves,
restore arts education to Sarasota County. The efforts and
achievements of the Community/School Partnership for the Arts
(C/SPA) required a great deal of organization, cooperation, and
action. Many "movers and shakers" in the community shared their
expertise and power. A local movie theater showed slides before
movies promoting the school arts program. At a performance of
the Florida West Coast Symphony, all the musicians who began
studying music in the public schools were asked to exit, and only
two musicians remained on stage.
In the federal study "Gaining the Arts Advantage," the school
districts with the strongest arts programs typically have a great deal
of community involvement and support for those programs. The
circumstances that surround each community, school district, and arts
program are unique. However, Sarasota County, Florida sets an example
of successful community support for a school arts program.
"Back from the Brink: The Community's Perspective" by Bruce E.
Rodgers. Published in "Teaching Music," February 1999, pp. 40-
42, 62.
"Gaining the Arts Advantage" from the Presidents' Committee on
the Arts and Humanities.
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