Thursday, February 10, 2011

Smart about the Arts

Like many others, I spent hours as a kid playing piano or guitar, going to dance classes, acting in children’s theater productions, and drawing. I was a complete klutz, and I didn’t like sports. I think I may actually have been kicked out of gymnastics in first grade. But the arts? That was home. So whenever I hear that schools are cutting back on the arts, or when I think about how many families can’t afford to provide the kinds of opportunities I had, I get frustrated. I know from experience how much difference music, dance, theater, and visual arts can make in a child’s life.

But that’s only one reason I’m blown away by SMARTS, YSU’s Students Motivated by the Arts project. Yeah, they provide free – yes, free – arts classes for kids (click here for an application). And students from kindergarten through high school have opportunities to sing and perform together. But consider this: much of that is possible by a whole other set of opportunities SMARTS offers: chances for YSU students studying arts education (and other fields) to develop their own teaching skills. That means that students who are being motivated here are not just kids but also soon-to-be-teachers.

And consider this: Becky Keck, who runs SMARTS, leads the program with a clear vision that always takes in two levels. On one level, she’s sharply focused on providing high-quality arts programming for local children. But she’s also always thinking about the place of the arts, and the place of non-profit organizations, in the community. In other words, she’s a true believer in the full, complex value of what she does. The more human assets we have like Becky, the better off this community will be.

Want to help support SMARTS? Come to Mad About the Arts, February 25, at the McDonough Museum of Art on the YSU campus. The event will raise money for both SMARTS and the McDonough. For details or to reserve tickets, call the SMARTS office at 330-941-2787.

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