Education

Any Given Child Warren Expands Arts Education

WARREN, Ohio – The program director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. D.C.. sees the center’s Any Given Child program as an extension of two of the President Kennedy’s priorities.

Jeanette McCune, school and community programs director for the center, addressed community partners Tuesday at Lincoln PK-8 school to celebrate the progress made by Any Given Child Warren, which launched with the planning process during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Warren is the smallest of 25 communities nationwide chosen to participate in the Any Given Child program.

“Our vision for our work at the Kennedy Center is that we’re dedicated to eradicating barriers to arts learning,” McCune said. “We want to build capacity and turn arts and creativity to the center of our lives, and activate citizen artists using the arts as a tool for powerful social change.”

President Kennedy made civil rights and opportunities for children two of his priorities, she noted.

“We believe that arts education is a civil right for every single child,” McCune continued. “Arts provide an opportunity for expression, for connection, enabling the leaders that we want to be for our nation moving forward.”

The program, implemented in the Warren City Schools since the 2016-2017 academic year, assists communities with developing and implementing plans for expanded arts education. Schools collaborate with communities’ existing arts assets – including arts-oriented organizations and individual artists — and other community partners to expand arts education in kindergarten through eighth grade with on-campus and offsite experiences.

The local partners spent a year crafting a strategic plan, which includes professional development for staff and building a stronger curriculum, said Steve Chiaro, Warren City Schools superintendent.

“Equity and access remain an issue in many communities across the nation,” Chiaro said. “In Warren, we have prioritized arts education for our children.”

Becky Keck, executive director of SMARTS Community Arts School and Any Given Child Warren’s liaison to the Kennedy Center said the school district was a good fit for the program based on SMARTS’ past work with the district. The district has “a great history of engaging families in the community, and that’s an important part of this initiative,” she said.

Bill Mullane, who was involved in early discussions with Kennedy Center board member Anita Lin, credited the role Keck and SMARTS played with the successful effort to bring the program to Warren. Mullane, like Keck, serves on the executive committee of Any Given Child Warren’s governing council.

“Becky Keck was the perfect person to lead this charge,” said Mullane, the vice president of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra’s board of directors and a member of the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County.

Arts programs are among the first to go when school budgets are pared, Mayor Doug Franklin lamented. “We know the value of arts programs,” he said.

“There are many studies that all support the fact that young people exposed or engaged in the arts do better academically across the board.”

When programs such as art, music, dance and theater are cut, “You’re cutting out a kid’s opportunity to thrive,” added U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio. Even if students never become artists, the exposure “may light them up in a way that gets them into a career they’re inspired by,” he added.

“That’s the essence of a good education,” the congressman continued, adding that Warren is a leader not only in arts education but also in social and emotional learning.

“The important thing to remember is that Any Given Child isn’t a program. It’s a movement,” McCune said.

More than $100,000 has been raised to support Any Given Child Warren, including $90,000 in grants and $12,500 from “a very generous local business owner,” Chiaro said.

Lisa Ramsey, deputy director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and a member of the governing council, commented on the program’s community development impact as well as the effect on her own children: a daughter in third grade and a son in fifth.

TNP has worked with children to bring the arts out of the classroom and into the community, giving them “power to control something in their neighborhood,” Ramsey said.

Reflecting on her own children, she noted her daughter loves the arts and eagerly shares details of the art projects she is working on, but her 11-year-old son is less open. “If you are not a Pokemon or if you are not a dinosaur, he will not mention you at the dinner table,” she said.

Nevertheless, he now comes home excited and eager to talk about his day. One day, following a trip to the Butler Institute of American Art, he talked about how he learned to interpret a painting. And getting to see the Harding High School band led him to take up the trombone. “That’s an experience,” Ramsey remarked.

In the next few weeks, Warren will be one of nine Any Given Child focus cities for an assessment by WolfBrown, a firm that specializes in analyzing nonprofit entities. The goal of the evaluation is to assess the effect on the program around the country, Chiaro reported.

Pictured above: Jeannette McCune addresses those gathered for the event. Listening on are Bill Mullane (left), Lisa Ramsey, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Mayor Doug Franklin and Steve Chiaro.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.