Countless studies and organizations tout the educational benefits of arts and cultural education.
Research links music studies with mathematical achievement. Students who study art, research suggests, are 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and 3 times more likely to be awarded for school attendance. According to studies at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL), children who learn a second language can stay focused and attentive better than children who know only one language.
In fact, there are no downsides to studying music, the visual arts, theater, dance, as well as other cultures and languages and multiple benefits.
But, over the years, school funding cuts at the federal and state levels have too often lead to cutting arts programs. That, plus the introduction of Common Core (a set of standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics that’s been adopted by most states) has de-emphasized arts and cultural studies in many school systems in the U.S.
As is too often the case, lack of access to arts education affects minority (African American and Hispanic) and low socio-economic status students the most.
Fortunately, in New York City one solution is literally right around almost every corner: museums.
New York is home to more than eighty museums, ranging from the world renown Metropolitan Museum of Art to small collections that highlight specific times and places, like the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum.
So, if educators (or parents) want children to explore exceptional art, to interact with visual art ranging from ancient sculptures to modern photography, The Met has programs to make that happen. Because The Met is donation only, it’s more easily accessible by the public. For school groups within the five boroughs all fees are waived for guided tours. Hands-on art experiences are also available, for a fee.
Likewise, the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum is by donation, so the Dutch-Colonial culture of 1784 can be seen and walked through, not just read about in a book.
Associations, like the Asia Society, often have museums with excellent programs for school groups and families. As a proud trustee of the Asia Society I have first hand knowledge of the organization’s excellence and the great offerings by the museum. For instance, as their website states, “Building on the idea of the Museum as an extension of the classroom, Asia Society offers interactive guided tours for school groups (grades 3–12). In the galleries, teachers and students can learn about the works of art on view, discuss how art relates to their own experiences, and discover what’s new and compelling about art today.”
I’m also very proud of the fact that the Asia Society and Museum is free for visitors under the age of 16.
In fact, there doesn’t seem to be an art form or culture that doesn’t have a museum presence in New York, often at low or no cost to children.
Chinese art, music and culture? Try the Museum of Chinese in America. Admission isn’t free, but at $3-$6 per student it’s fairly low cost. The museum also offers educational programs for teachers that support Common Core principals.
For visual and performing arts, plus film and literary exhibitions that celebrate Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures El Museo will open it’s doors again (after renovation) in early summer, 2018.
Music, dance, art and performing arts programs are all part of the diverse offerings, including a deliberately diverse group of artists represented, at the Brooklyn Museum. Once again, it’s clear the museum has put all children’s needs at the forefront, with free Saturday’s and low costs for school groups. A group of thirty students, from NYC public and charter schools, can have an educator-led lesson for $55.
So, while it’s true that funding cuts and lack-of-focus on teaching the arts– visual, musical, performing and others- have hit our schools, hard, it’s also true that right outside the doors of our classrooms is art and culture that’s accessible to all.