Student artists from 14 District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) gathered at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters on March 4, 2015, to exhibit their creative work in the visual arts, film, dance and music. More than 200 educators, family members, arts leaders, DCPS community partners and ED employees also joined in the festivities to honor these students.
ED’s Principal Ambassador Fellow and 2012 Magnet Schools of America National Principal of the Year, Jill Levine, kicked off the presentation and recounted the moving story of one of her students whose education experience was transformed by the arts, “When kids feel important … when they feel part of something bigger, when they feel inspired about going to school, we don’t need [candy, home visits, court hearings, and other such measures] to make them go to school because they are drawn to the school through the arts.”
Demonstrating such inspiration through the arts were three vibrant student groups. The Capital String Ensemble, from John Eaton Elementary School in partnership with Washington Performing Arts, performed a call-and-response piece and the Baroque piece, Pachelbel’s Canon. Four students from School Without Walls Senior High School presented their powerful composition of guitars and silent film, Scripts and Scores, to explore the difference between reality and perception. Stoddert Elementary School partnered with Fillmore Arts Center to help students create Swinging at Fillmore, a performance using dance, music and history to explore the work of legendary swing dancer Norma Miller.
Kaya Henderson, chancellor of DCPS, deservedly proud of her school system’s students and teachers, stressed the significance of arts education, “A world-class education includes the arts. … [T]o compete against children all over the world, then our young people have to have a well-rounded education, and that includes the arts.”
The director of the arts at DCPS, Nathan Diamond, emphasized the value not only of arts education but also of the collaborative nature of the exhibit, “This is a particularly special show in that it really highlights what happens when the public school system and the arts community come together to work for students.”
In fact, 13 community arts organizations that partnered with DCPS are featured in the exhibit. Dancer and choreographer Mickey Davidson from the Fillmore Arts Center’s collaboration with Stoddert Elementary reiterated Diamond’s perspective, “One of the biggest challenges was the continuity … but by [working with the students] once a week [and] being consistent … what we did, we did it solid.”
The students shared her sentiment, using “amazing,” “excellent” and “gold” to describe their performance. And the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ Executive Director Lionell Thomas stated the high goals of such collaborations with DCPS, “To have arts education at the forefront of what we do,” in order to contribute to the cognitive, socialization and creative skills of every student.
Following the performances, a ribbon cutting formally opened the exhibit. Some students from King Elementary discussed their portraits of famous people. These works, they explained, encapsulate the intersection between art and inspiration as a means of self-expression — one of the greatest forms of learning.
Perhaps the highest accolade of the day came from Andy Finch of the Association of Art Museum Directors, “Wow – I am proud to be a citizen of the District!”
Jessica Dillow is an intern in the Editorial Policy, Print and Art Services Office at the U.S. Department of Education and a senior at the Ohio State University.
All photos in this blog are by Joshua Hoover. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr.
Blog articles on Homeroom provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.