Keeping The Arts In School

There's a lot of research that indicates students who receive arts education perform better in school than their peers who don't have access to the arts. But what happens when artists and teachers are facing more budget cuts than ever? Local arts organizations are working to fill the gaps.

At Houston's first Arts Education Conference, the focus was on integrating the arts back into classrooms. The event was organized by Houston Arts Partners.

Joe Angel Babb is the education director for the Alley Theatre and co-chaired the conference. He says local arts groups realize they must make an effort to be involved in classrooms.

"When the Texas budget came out it was a sinking feeling of like oh my God, this is certainly a punch, this is a cut. But then the second thought that happened right after the realization that our teachers were losing their jobs was that well, the need is not gone. The resources to support it were eliminated, but the need is still there."

When districts are strapped for cash, school arts programs are often the victims of budget cuts.

But Houston Arts Partners Director Mary Mettenbrink says districts can look to community arts partners for help.

"A lot of the arts organizations also do go into the communities and go into the schools and work directly with teachers and students and parents, as well. And this conference is really also serving as a table or a platform for both the arts organizations and the ISDs to sit down together and discuss what are those needs and how do we come together to resolve those needs."

Mettenbrink and Babb say when thinking of the significance of the arts, it's important to remember the things that keep children interested in school. They say it's not homework or tests that engage kids' minds — it's things like music, dance, and theatre that enrich a child's school life.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...