More and more of today’s kids, especially those who call a rural community home, are growing up without art in their lives.
Perhaps the biggest barrier the arts face in rural communities – especially in South Dakota, as 75 percent of its public schools are located rurally – can be attributed to a lack of funding. Threatened constantly by government cutbacks, many high-need schools are forced to leave art out of their curriculum entirely, despite mounting evidence of art education’s powerful role in student achievement. This issue isn’t totally isolated to rural schools, either. The second largest school district in the state, Rapid City Area Schools, serves over 13,000 students yet lacks formal visual arts in its elementary curriculum.
Ultimately, this lack of exposure will raise a generation of children who are brought up to be unnecessarily intimidated by the arts, to be less culturally well-rounded, and to have lower self-confidence, empathy and social tolerance.
This is the topic I chose to challenge when applying for NASCCF.
Last summer, I was able to host Doodle Downtown, Rapid City’s first ever chalk art competition, through a grant from Arts Rapid City. While the competing artists worked on their pieces, guests were welcome to grab a piece of chalk and add their own flair to the sidewalks. Needless to say, the entire Square was covered in colorful doodles! The competition was originally conceived as a one-time event, but I recognized its potential to engage and re-energize youth in small communities through chalk art workshops.
Why chalk? Children of all ages (including adults!) are naturally drawn to the medium; chalk is easy, colorful, inexpensive, and fun! People who aren’t artists can confidently pick up a piece of chalk and express themselves in a fun and playful way. Working shoulder-to-shoulder inspires positive vibes which are translated throughout the colorful imagery. Collaborative workshops boost emotional intelligence, build confidence, and increase self-awareness for all who participate.
Over the past five years, I’ve personally witnessed South Dakota’s growing tolerance for the arts. Young creatives have a tendency to flee this area, but I realize the community cannot continue to move forward unless people stick around to make change happen. I see so much potential around me, I must develop my leadership skills further in order to realistically implement change.
Thanks to National Arts Strategies and the Bush Foundation, the Creative Community Fellowship will allow me to explore my motivation to lead, test my self-confidence, and eventually inspire other young artists to become catalysts of change in their own communities.