Rerun: Picasso Grant Program Works to Give Back to the Arts
A workshop will be held at InFusion Coffee & Tea Tuesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Editor's Note: We're re-running this article, which was originally published Oct. 19, 2010, as the Picasso Program gets set to start its grant process.
Since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed in 2002, efforts to remedy failing public schools have been focused on proficiency in basic skills such as reading and math, as assessed by standardized tests. But where does that leave the arts?
In Philadelphia, funding for the arts in public schools was on the chopping block even before NCLB came into effect, dating back to 1994 when the city school district cut back staff in music and arts administration. It also eliminated some teachers in the arts.
Ironically, research shows that participation in the arts helps boost grades and test scores, particularly for children from underprivileged backgrounds, according to a 2002 report on music and art in Philadelphia schools. Conducted jointly by the Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) and the Alliance Organizing Project (AOP), the report found that many principals in the School District of Philadelphia, faced with the prospect of serious budget cutbacks, were forced to choose between hiring teachers in music and art or teachers in core academic areas. As a result, arts education continues to lose ground.
Enter the Picasso Project, an eight-year old grant opportunity sponsored by PCCY that is attempting to reinvigorate arts education in the Philadelphia public schools. It runs grant workshops, which are mandatory for those looking to submit an application, and there is one Tuesday at InFusion Coffee & Tea from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Project Coordinator Gretchen Elise Walker said the Picasso Project was established "to jumpstart visual, performing, creative, and digital arts programs at public schools that are under-resourced." The idea, she says, is to "embed arts in the school—either improve the school's climate for the arts or its academic programming for arts education."
Public K-12 schools eligible to apply for Picasso Project funds must have fewer than 1 1/2 teachers in any art form, including music, and there are a large number of schools that meet these criteria. The program funds 10 grants a year, each between $500 and $5,000, to underwrite innovative arts programming in understaffed schools. About half of the grants go to previous grantees and half to new applicants, Walker said.
Locally, the Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice has received Picasso Project funds.
A Picasso grant "can make a significant difference," Walker says, noting that grant guidelines are very flexible in how the funds can be used. Often, a teacher will partner with an existing arts organization or resident artist, bringing them into the school for workshops and hands-on education—but funds can also be used for field trips, supplies, and professional development.
The grant deadline for the 2012 grant is Nov. 29, and those interested must attend a grant application support session like the one at InFusion before they submit an application. Teachers or school staff members working at an eligible school are welcome to come with questions or ideas.
Even though many Mt. Airy schools exceed the 1 1/2 art teacher limit and are therefore ineligible for the grant, "lots of our teachers live in Mt. Airy and Germantown," Walker explains, "and that is why we hold workshops there."