Arts in Education & Workforce Luncheon

by Alyssa Novak

On Wednesday I attended the Arts in Education & Workforce Luncheon. The luncheon featured the Turnaround Arts program, an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The panelists included Minnesota Senator Richard Cohen, documentary filmmaker Rachel Goslins, principal of ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy Ron Gubitz, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Photo of Turnaround Arts Panelists

Turnaround Arts Panelists

Turnaround Arts focuses on the lowest 5% of schools in the country, which have little to no arts programs as part of the curriculum. Turnaround Arts incorporates fine arts across the school curriculum as a way of increasing student morale, engagement, and retention.

Program partners include many famous artists who serve as artists-in-residence at the turnaround schools.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma serves as a Turnaround Artist in Boston-area Turnaround Arts schools. He commenced the presentation by demonstrating the power of music, performing the Prelude to Bach Cello Suite No. 3. Even in a conference room with poor acoustics, Ma’s sound was rich and mellifluous. It was truly an honor to be in the audience and hear him perform live from just a few feet away.

Rachel Goslins, the Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, described the high-poverty schools that the Turnaround Arts program pinpoints as dark, bleak places to be.

This was a point seconded by ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy principal, Ron Gubitz. Prior to becoming a part of Turnaround Arts, the school was the single lowest-performing in Louisiana. After Turnaround Arts, Gubitz said that people started referring to the school environment as “warm.”

The following video shows a little bit more about the Turnaround Arts program:

Turnaround Arts is delivering promising results so far. Goslins said that the program helps to reestablish lost trust between students and adults. Significant gains are being made in student and parent engagement, retention, and test scores.

Panelists urged lawmakers to consider arts programs as an essential tool in education reform and to increase funding for fine arts in education. Senator Richard Cohen shared with the audience an example of how Minnesota was able to accomplish ongoing funding for the arts through the Legacy Amendment to the state constitution, which sets aside a portion of the state sales tax for arts and cultural heritage programs.