Hundreds of Indy students celebrate National Arts in Education Week

An Edison School of the Arts student holds a violin in a music class. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Statistics show low-income students who participate in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.

Still, more than 95 percent of elementary schools do not offer any sort of dance or theater classes. Sept. 11-15 is National Arts in Education Week. It’s designed to bring attention to elected officials and influence educational decision makers across the country and Indiana to support access to the arts for all students.

“My favorite, it would have to be either keyboards, art or theater,” Lily Powell, a third grade student at Edison School of the Arts, said.

Powell has fallen in love with performing while attending Edison School of the Arts, an IPS kindergarten through 8th grade facility on Indy’s south side.

“I never really got to do that in my childhood, so I think this opens up a lot of opportunities for me,” Lily said.

Remember, she is only in third grade. Inside Lilly’s keyboard class, filled with dozens of her peers, you may expect an earful, but it’s actually silent. Children listen to the sound of their own keyboard and their teacher’s voice over headphones. It’s just one type of technology Edison’s principal Nathan Tuttle said makes them a leader in arts education. And it’s not just music classes kids find at Edison, children are exposed to ballet movement and terminology, as well as theater, stage craft, and digital design.

Tuttle said teachers at Edison work to integrate the arts into all classes, even academic courses, like math and history, and the arts teachers often correlate their lessons back to academics.

“Having experience with the arts connects your right and left brain better. It improves all areas of study. It improves concentration. It improves your attention,” Tuttle said. “It improves their academics. It improves their social skills. It improves typically their engagement at home,” Tuttle said.

He’s an Indiana University School of Music graduate who believes deeply in the power of arts education.

“We have parents wanting that unique experience and great education for their kids and value the art and parents who not only value the arts, but see their child as having that as a profession, so they want them here as a resume builder and a skill builder,” Tuttle said.

For kids like Lilly, she said Edison provides an excitement she says she’s never felt in school before.

“It inspires people. And I personally think that everyone would enjoy it if they just got a little experience,” Lily said.

With so little public funding, schools have been relying more on private funds and patrons of the arts to provide creative outlets for students. There has also been a growing trend of nonprofit arts organizations setting aside funding for arts education and outreach to local schools. One example of this in Indianapolis is Kids Dance Outreach, an organization that provides free dance instruction at several IPS schools and to children with special needs.