New infusion for arts partnerships in New York City schools

Some called it a tragedy, while others referred to it merely as a misfortune, but most educators agreed it was at least a paradox that children in New York City - the self-proclaimed cultural capital of the world - walked past Lincoln Center on their way to school but had neither music nor art in their classes.

The ax fell on arts programs in New York City schools in the 1970s when budgets grew lean, and it was only five years ago that a $12-million matching grant from the Annenberg Foundation reversed the trend.

The original Annenberg grant spurred the donation of an additional $24 million in public and private funding to restore arts education to the schools. Last week, the foundation announced a second $12 million grant to continue the work under way since 1996.

The Annenberg gift has allowed the creation of the Center for Arts Education (CAE). In cooperation with the city's Board of Education, its Department of Cultural Affairs, and the local teachers' union, it has established a variety of arts education programs in the city's schools.

CAE has fostered partnerships between 80 public schools and 135 cultural organizations and colleges. The pairings have led to some innovative offerings. At Martin Luther King Jr. High School - just blocks away from Lincoln Center - resident artists from the New York City Opera team up with teachers to offer 10th-graders six-week sessions of opera-infused curriculum.

At Primary School 102 in Queens - whose 860 students represent 42 nationalities - a host of arts partners enrich the curriculum. In second and fourth grade, students work with the Queens Museum of Art to study New York neighborhoods. Third-graders partner with the Asia Society to focus on world cultures. Each child works with at least four cultural institutions.

The success of the CAE model in fostering arts education spawned a parallel movement called "Take Back the Field," aimed at enlisting private groups and institutions to help improve the physical-education offerings in city schools.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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