Arts programs still thriving at local schools

Staff Writer

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has been hit hard with multiple cuts this year, but according to a new report by the nonprofit arts advocacy group, Ingenuity, CPS students have seen an increase in access to arts education programming.

According to the report, 60 percent of all of CPS’ schools were either strong or excelling in the arts, which is the most in three years. The report said that even as CPS has had fiscal challenges, many schools are prioritizing staffing arts programs.

Local schools in the Hyde Park neighborhood contribute to that number, with four schools excelling in their arts programs and three schools that are strong in their arts programs.

Shoesmith Elementary School, 1330 E. 50th St.; Reavis Elementary School, 834 E. 50th St.; Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., and Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., all were rated as excelling in the arts, which means these schools are meeting the goals and priorities in the CPS Arts Education Plan, which include staffing and instruction, partnerships, community and culture and budget and planning.

In 2013, CPS created an Arts Education Plan designed to make the arts a core subject in schools, requiring that students have two hours of arts education per week.

Matt Milkowski, a drawing and painting teacher at Kenwood, said that the school’s visual arts program is robust and continues to be prioritized.

“Our school in particular has been pretty supportive and values the arts,” he said.

Recently, the visual arts program received a $15,000 grant from the Creative Schools Fund (CSF) that will go towards the sculpture program. Other visual arts courses offered include photography, digital media and digital imaging.

Milkowski said that arts programs are important for all types of students.

“Really what we are trying to do is help students be open to challenges…teaching them the ability to approach something that has multiple solutions,” he said. “We’re trying to teach them how to think creatively and how to invent and really just understanding visual culture.”

Kenwood also has a successful music and theatre program as well. According to the report, the more variety of courses offered at a school contributes to its success in the arts.

Schools in the area that rank strong, which is the second highest level, in their arts program, include Kozminski Community Academy, 936 E. 54th St.; Hyde Park High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., and Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St.

Bret Harte has received a CSF grant for the past three years, including this school year. This year’s grant will provide $10,000 in a partnership with Forward Momentum Chicago to include dance instruction for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.

Although Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., has 12 partnerships with arts organizations, including local institution, The Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., it was labeled as developing–the third category of arts progress.