About 250 student artists, teachers, parents, and school administrators from the Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania, along with U.S. Department of Education (ED) staff, recently celebrated the students’ “Interpretations of Portraiture” exhibit at ED headquarters in Washington, D.C. It featured 85 pieces of artwork from all six of the district’s K–12 schools, each of them a unique portrait.
The exhibit and opening took five years of collaborative development led by Art Coordinator Kathleen Devine, its previous coordinator Meg Barney, and others in the district. This true community effort had extraordinary results.
The program commenced with remarks by senior officials from ED and the Rose Tree Media schools. “There is an inextricable link that exists between the success of students academically and those schools where there is a well-integrated arts and music program,” said Frank Brogan, currently delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the assistant secretary of postsecondary education at ED.
James Wigo, superintendent of the Rose Tree Media schools, noted the culture resulting from a well-rounded curriculum’s impact on creativity. In the district’s schools, he said, “Each and every day we get to hang around the most creative people on the planet . . . teachers and students. . . . There is no better job on the planet than to be in contact with these fine young people.” Indeed, the audience was elated as it came to know many of those students and teachers through their visual art and performances.
Students displayed their musical talent during a broad range of performances: a coed, 20-voice high school chorus, the Penncrest Ambassadors, which, less than a day earlier, was awarded a first-place gold rating at the WorldStrides Onstage Heritage Choral Festival in Montreal, Canada; a flute trio, the Penncrest Flute Ensemble; a coed, four-school, 23-voice elementary school chorus, the Rose Tree Media Elementary Honors Chorus; and a 33-piece middle school jazz group, the Springton Lake Middle School Jazz Ensemble.
We had the pleasure of talking with students about the impact of the arts on their lives and learning.
Kevin Morrison, an eighth-grader, plays the tenor saxophone. He said that participating in band provided him an opportunity to make friends and bond with others, and forced him to confront his stage fright.
Summer Peterson, a senior at Penncrest High School, credits her teachers with “helping to mold me into the artist I have become today.” In her self-portrait, Summer’s long, dark hair flows across half of her face, leaving just one eye visible. This work,“Summtime,” she said, “started as a vision, which then became a reality because of the passion of her teachers and her school art program.” They taught her, she said in her remarks, that “art is both a community service and a path to expanding your artistic horizons.” Indeed, she has achieved the position of co-president of the National Art Honor Society as she moves on to postsecondary art studies.
Beatrice Cressler, an eighth-grader at Springton Lake Middle School, believes that everyone is an artist in their own way. In her remarks, she called on her peers to use their creative abilities to enrich their lives: “I believe that, through art, every individual is able to remake their own world. So go remake your world and make some art.”
The program ended with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and a viewing of the artwork. This moment brought meaning to a statement from Elizabeth Schneider, a district school board member, who spoke at the opening: “[Art] gives us a peaceful joy that connects us to who we really are and then releases us back into the flow of life.” This celebration of the arts from the classroom reminded us all of the critical importance of the work of educators, education leaders and families on our behalf as a nation of learners.
Click here for photos of this exhibit opening.
Chareese Ross and Nancy Paulu are in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.
All photos are by ED photographer Paul Wood.
ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers with an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors it as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at [email protected] or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit.