And then there was that day in 3rd grade...
According to my friends, I have led a very interesting life. It began in a small, rural town in South Texas that few people knew. In fact, there was a dormitory on my college campus, which housed a greater number of people than my home town. But before I was 30, I had worked with internationally known opera and ballet companies, created scenery for a major television network, and rubbed elbows with celebrities, heads of state, and others who have made significant contributions to our nation, such as Presidential Medal of Freedom winner John Kenneth Gailbraith.
If you are wondering how I got from Point A to Point B, I can answer you in one word: art. You see, it all began the first day that Martha Luigi walked into my third grade class at Live Oak Elementary School. She was our music teacher. In addition, she also directed the choral music programs at my hometown's junior and senior high schools. Right away, Mrs. Luigi noticed that I had an enormous voice--a voice that she would keep track of and train all the way through high school. Five years later, at 14 years old, I would have the opportunity to leave my small town and travel to Europe during the summer--not because I was good at math or science--but because I could sing and Mrs. Luigi had built a world-class choral music program. That summer, 73 students from rural Texas competed against some of the best choirs in the world, and I got an life-changing look at the world beyond the borders of my own home town.
Sadly, few K-12 arts programs today have the fiscal support that we had then. I often wonder how many other lives would be so positively impacted if they did. When school funding issues are debated, all we ever seem to hear about are "math and science," which brings me to my "other" career. You see, though I have remained a visual artist, I retired from show business at 29 due to injuries received in a high fall. During my rehabilitation, I decided to learn a programming language and eventually became certified as a Microsoft Solution Developer. This led to a prestigious career in the technology industry. In 2008, I received an Enterprise Information Management Innovation Award from one of the world's largest software companies. This award was in recognition of work that I performed on the nation's organ transplant network, and it led to may participation in speaking engagements at technical conferences throughout the nation. Once again, my arts training gave me the skills that I needed to succeed--my job required exceptional communication skills. There was no computer club in my high school. In fact, we did not even have computers in our school until half-way through my senior year. No, I have David L. Rice to thank for that success--he was my high school drama teacher. Having succeeded as both an arts and a technology professional, I am uniquely qualified to discuss the value of art education in an increasingly technocentric society.
When many people think about art classes in school, they think about fun. Yes, art is fun, but there is nothing wrong with that--kids that have fun in school, stay in school, and our nation's drop out rates are a problem. However, what most people do not realize is that art has a physiological impact on the brain that enhances a child's ability to excel in other subjects. According to Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, published by the Dana Foundation in 2009, researchers have found strong links between arts training and improvements in attention, cognition, and learning. Children who have received training in visual or performing art demonstrate a deeper level of engagement in all of their school subjects, retain more of what they learn, and apply concepts across multiple subjects with greater ease than their peers. Furthermore, the majority of today's graduates are entering the workforce without the critical skills that arts training is known to produce--collaboration, creative problem-solving, and the ability to apply knowledge across multiple disciplines.
Thanks to contemporary neural imagery, each art form has been found to engage and integrate a specific part of the brain and strengthen the brain's executive attention network. Musical training enhances the part of the brain responsible for reading. And from an early age, a child's ability to discern shape, form, and spatial relationships informs their intuition about numbers. Thus, visual arts training also prepares the brain for learning mathematical concepts. The executive attention network plays a key-role in a child's self-control, attention span, and ability to apply knowledge across multiple diciplines. Is it any wonder that the number of children with Attention Deficit Disorder has grown as the support for arts education in our schools has decreased?
From my own personal experience, I can tell you that the thought process involved in designing a theatrical production is the same as the thought process involved in designing and enterprise-level computer system. The lingo is different, but the process is the same. However, I also believe that my arts training gave me an edge in my technology career that my colleagues did not have. So, regardless of what career path a child ultimately chooses, art-training can only help them succeed. As a parent, wouldn't you want your child to have the best possible preparation for their future that you can provide? I know I would.
pledged of $20,000 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on March 10, 2012.
Feb 9, 2012 - Mar 10, 2012 (30 days)
Pledge $1 or more
Every dollar counts, so everyone who contributes will be publicly acknowledged on the ArtSkool website!Estimated delivery: Apr 2012
Pledge $10 or more
Here's where the fun begins! For a $10 contribution, you will receive an official ArtSkool trading card, featuring one of our loveable fish and a few facts about his or her character. You see, the fish aren't just the project's logo, I actually use them as a way to bolster a young artist's confidence when a project does not go quite as they planned. Each fish has a name and something he or she is particularly good at--their story is told on the trading card. They are Big Trig, Pinky, Dottie, LH, Manny, Darrin, Otto, Blue and of course, Pablo, the painter in our story. You guessed it! He's a Picasso Trigger Fish. You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: Apr 2012
Pledge $25 or more
You have to eat, don't you? No, no, we aren't sending you Sushi. For a contribution of $25, we will send you and official ArtSkool refrigerator magnet. Each magnet is handmade from polymer clay and available in turqouise, purple, golden yellow, hot pink, and lime green--the choice is yours! You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: May 2012
Pledge $35 or more
So, you could not choose between a magnet and a trading card? That's okay. For $35, I will send you one of each. You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: May 2012
Pledge $50 or more
So, you want a mini-ArtSkool of your own? No problem--I've got you covered. For $50, you can have either a complete set of trading cards or a complete set of refrigerator magnets. You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: May 2012
Pledge $75 or more
This one is for all you creative chefs and grill gurus out there. For $75, I will create a one-of-a-kind, hand painted fish apron, similar to those pictured. The design will be based on the centuries-old Japanese technique of Gyotaku, more commonly known as fish-printing. I will sign each one and throw in a set of refrigerator magnets or trading cards as well!Estimated delivery: May 2012
Pledge $100 or more
So, your oven is actually used for storage? Well, I have something for you too. Since you probably go out to eat, or if you are really lucky, you get to go to the beach, out on a boat, or some other wonderful place, you probably need a really cool place to stash your gadgets and cash. For $100, I will send you a hand painted, canvas, fish tote. This roomy tote will easily hold you wallet, keys, cell phone, iPad, reader, or even a traditional book, as well as a change of clothes. It can also be worn as a backpack and washed if necessary. The design will be based on the centuries-old Japanese technique of Gyotaku, more commonly known as fish-printing. I will sign each bag, and throw in a set of refrigerator magnets or trading cards as well!Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $250 or more
So you liked both the bag and the apron. No worries, for $250, you can have both! I will also include a set of magnets and a set of trading cards.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $500 or more
Now we're talking! For a contribution of $500, you will receive a set of magnets, a set of trading cards, an apron, a tote, and a hand-sculpted, whimsical glass fish pendant, which can either be worn as a necklace or hung as a ceiling fan pull. You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $1,000 or more
So, the idea of trading cards made you curious, huh? Well, the suspense will end here. For a contribution of $1,000, you will receive everything mentioned at the $500 level, as well as a signed copy of my first children's book Pablo Paints! This book tells the story of a little fish's journey to find that special thing that he is good at--something everyone can relate to! You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $5,000 or more
After my friends pick me up off the floor, and I have recovered from the shock. I will personally make you one of everything listed already. In addition, I will light my fire and create a one-of-a-kind, glass fish mobile or chandelier just for you, containing a minimum of 25 hand-sculpted glass fish. You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012
Pledge $10,000 or more
Oh I see, you want the ArtSkool University! Okay then! For $10,000, I will create a one-of-a kind, fish chandelier or mobile containing no less than 50 fish and finished off with a lovely glass mermaid. I will also throw in trading cards, magnets, an apron, a tote, and your very own signed copy of Pablo Paints! You will also receive a hand-written thank you note.Estimated delivery: Jun 2012