Students from the Rose Tree Media School District celebrate their success at the U.S. Department of Education.
About 250 student artists, teachers, parents, and school administrators from the Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania, along with U.S. Department of Education (ED) staff, recently celebrated the students’ “Interpretations of Portraiture” exhibit at ED headquarters in Washington, D.C. It featured 85 pieces of artwork from all six of the district’s K–12 schools, each of them a unique portrait.
The exhibit and opening took five years of collaborative development led by Art Coordinator Kathleen Devine, its previous coordinator Meg Barney, and others in the district. This true community effort had extraordinary results.
Since 1969, the program has annually recognized elementary through high school students from around the country for artistic ingenuity as expressed in film, dance, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. Each year competitors are asked to bring a different theme to life in a way that is personal and meaningful. This is the 11th year ED has partnered with the National PTA to host a ceremony and art exhibit to honor award-winners.
“People who read and see and witness your work performed will create meaning from it, understand the human story, and understand the context in which you created it,” Jacquelyn Zimmermann, director of the Student Art Exhibit Program at ED, noted at the gathering. It drew students from about 25 states, from Alaska to Florida, as well as their families and teachers, arts educators and advocates, and ED staff.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about the importance of the arts in education by noting the national focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and articulating the importance of another view, which includes the arts. “I happen to think that art is pretty important too,” she said. “So I like those who really embrace STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education.” Following DeVos, Jim Accomando, the new president of the National PTA, expressed similar sentiments: “National PTA has long recognized the arts as an essential part of a great education.” As reflected by the top leaders of both organizations, access to and participation in the arts are at the core of an excellent education.