THE NEW YORK TIMES RECENTLY RAN A STORY ABOUT Betty Smith’s 1943 autobiographical novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, detailing her impoverished childhood and the “great golden glory lasting a half-hour each week when Mr. Morton came to Francie’s room to teach music.” The book describes how he taught them classical music and … Little boys whistled part of Dvorak’s New World Symphony as they played marbles. When asked the name of the song, they’d reply “Oh, Going Home.” The novel describes them playing potsy, humming The Soldiers’ Chorus from Faust, which they called Glory. The drawing teacher was also described alongside the music teacher as a highlight; “… these two visiting teachers were the gold and silver, sun-splash in the great muddy river of school days.”

Arts education can serve as a motivator, a bright spot, a focal point, and yes, even an enrichment. However, arts education also introduces the future to the past and sparks creativity in all subjects. University of Winchester Psychology Professor Paul T. Sowden reports that in Britain, similar to the United States, arts and humanities subjects have suffered in recent years as the emphasis shifted to science and technology. Professor Sowden emphasizes that an arts-education must be equally available to everyone regardless of economics. When first elected to office in 2014, I pledged to promote the arts for all schools throughout San Luis Obispo County as part of a balanced education. Five years later, I am happy to report that many local arts organizations, from Shandon to Nipomo, have accepted my invitation to partner with our schools and provide students art experiences alongside professional artists in professional settings.

Arts education aids young children in developing the capacity for collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving skills. In the middle and upper grades, executive function skills are more developed, and the attention span is increased. The arts can serve to refine, polish, and strengthen executive function skills in novel and creative ways. Many arts programs are taught in a very exploratory way that allows for tremendous creative potential. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education’s recent Career and Technical Education (CTE) “Ticket into Tech” program consisted of many individuals with arts backgrounds experiencing high levels of success. A recent CNN Money article describes careers such as Web Designer, Visual Designer, UI/UX Designer, and Augmented Reality Designer that all require solid artistic skills.

Local students, Katie Rowan of Paso Robles and Elizabeth Umphenour of Atascadero, are working with our office and will be performing at OperaSLO’s Broadway by the Sea (August 10, 2019) & Broadway by the Lake (August 11, 2019). Information about these upcoming performances is found on OperaSLO’s website. We must consider the arts as a critical component of our academic experience and outreach opportunities facilitate student engagement.

The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education Arts Collaborative promotes students working alongside professional artists in professional settings. Some of the local partnerships with the arts include Opera San Luis Obispo, Symphony of the Vines, Wine County Theatre, Orchestra Novo, Vina Robles, the Paso Robles Education Alliance, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, the Moca Foundation, and several other organizations. If you are a local artist and would like to assist my office with outreach activities, please contact Brent Moser, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator at bmoser@slocoe. org. I consider it an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools and to promote the arts.