As an art institution, we're probably a bit biased in gravitating towards news coverage and educational studies that validate our stance that the visual arts - an important aspect of society that often goes underfunded and underappreciated - are nationally experiencing troubled times.
Multiple surveys this month indicate a steady decline in the role of the arts in children's lives. And it isn't just about the economy. The New York Times released a story on June 15, 2009 reporting that the U.S. Department of Education has determined "music and art education in American eighth-grade classes" has stagnated in the last decade. One official went so far as to call the student's achievements in those areas "mediocre."
Remember all those school field trips to museums and institutions that you took as a kid? Less kids are experiencing that type of an out-of-the-box educational adventure, according to a story in the Washington Post which reports a drop in youth attendance at art institutions:
"The percentage of eighth-graders who reported that they visited an art museum or gallery with their classes dropped from 22 percent in 1997 to 16 percent in 2008."
You could perhaps, draw a parallel to a study also released this week by the National Endowment for the Arts. It found that adult interest in the visual arts seems to be falling off. According to the Washington Post, "fewer adults (are) choosing an art museum or visual arts festival as a leisure-time destination."
Key findings in the study:
- From 1992-2001, 26 percent of adults visited visual arts attractions
- In 2008, 23 percent of adults visited visual arts attractions
Though it is a rather small decline, institutions are expressing concern that it could be indicative of a coming trend "as the most loyal part of the museum audience ages." While it is easy to blame the dip in attendance on economic pressures and a cut-back on entertainment spending, it is a bit more worrisome when stacked with the statistics on kids and the arts.
It is not uncommon for art education to take a hit when underfunded schools tighten their belts, but it seems that we (as a society) owe children a venue in which to experience the visual arts at a young age, not only to enrich their minds, but also to give them a tangible opportunity to determine if the visual arts are something that they want to pursue into adulthood.
Museum education outreach programs give kids a chance to experiment with art in a fun, thoughtful manner. For its part to counter-balance the public cut-backs in art education, the BRMA reaches out to more than 10,000 students each year with:
- Lesson plans for teachers
- Field trip grants
- Student discounts
- Interactive programs like ARTful Adventure, Meet a Master, Create a Masterpiece and Family Day
- Teacher In Service programs
- Artist In Residency outreach programs
What are some other creative ways that public institutions can - and have been - reaching out to youth? We'd love to hear your ideas!