Mayor announces major Kennedy Center arts program in Sacramento
With members of the Sacramento arts community, the local education establishment and a representative of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at his side, Mayor Kevin Johnson Friday morning announced a major new arts education initiative in Sacramento.
Sacramento has been chosen from 27 cities to be the Kennedy Center’s first civic partner for the "Any Given Child" program, an effort to match arts groups, school districts and the Kennedy Center itself in the promotion of arts programs in the city’s schools. After being developed in Sacramento over the next two years, the program will be rolled out nationwide.
"We need to redefine how we look at the arts," said Johnson, standing in the west lobby of the Convention Center. "We need to make sure…arts is an integral part of our community."
Johnson introduced the Kennedy Center’s President Michael M. Kaiser, who spoke of the need for not just some children, but "any given child to have a great…systematic arts education." He also praised Johnson’s commitment to the arts, citing it as a reason that the Kennedy Center had chosen Sacramento out of all the contending cities.
The emphasis of the speeches was on a "systematic" approach to what has been an ad hoc way of teaching arts in underfunded schools. Kaiser – who has run such storied arts organizations as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and the American Ballet Theatre – introduced his comments by contrasting the treatment of arts in the public schools to that of other subjects, which are often considered to be more essential. "Kids don’t come home and say, ‘We’re not going to learn math this year’," he said.
The goal, said Kaiser and other participants, is to create a comprehensive kindergarten- eighth grade system of arts education that is interdisciplinary and in which each year’s work builds on the previous year, the same way that mathematics classes move from algebra to geometry to calculus.
Jonathan Raymond, who has been in his job as superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District for only six weeks, said that the first step will be "to understand where we are now," and then to figure out "how we do what works systematically, and sustain it."
The Kennedy Center’s Kaiser also noted that this pilot program is entirely funded by the Kennedy Center, a concrete expression of support for an arts community that Johnson touted strongly in his opening comments. Kaiser also said that once the program is developed in Sacramento over the next two years, it will be rolled out in cities across the country.
"But Sacramento will be home to this program," he added.
There was some levity at the conference as well, as when speaker Dr. Ziggy Robeson, assistant superintendent of the Twin Rivers Unified School District, compared favorably a passion for the arts to that for sports, causing Johnson, a former basketball star, to shift with mock discomfort behind her.
Johnson’s monthly "For Art’s Sake" meetings will continue to be held the fourth Wednesday of every month, from 10-11 a.m., at various locations around the Sacramento area.
Photo credit: Kati Garner