Public Issues

New Statewide Arts Education Program

Last week the Utah Arts Council announced the implementation of a new arts education program, the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP). The Legislature has funded four years of the program named after the Utah philanthropist, arts activist, and founder of ARTWORKS FOR KIDS!

Janet Wolf, former Director of Youth and Family Programs for Salt Lake City and creator of the Salt Lake’s popular YouthCity programs, has been named as the Director of Arts Education Initiatives at the Utah Arts Council. In her new position, Wolf becomes the statewide program coordinator and primary contact for the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP). Additionally, Wolf assumes the role of liaison between the member organizations of the Sorenson program’s operating alliance, the Utah Arts Education Partnership (UAEP).

Click below to read more about the program.

UTAH SCHOOLS IMPLEMENT NEW ARTS EDUCATION PROGRAM

Model Combines the Arts and Core Subject Matter to Unlock Student Potential

Starting this fall, public and charter elementary schools throughout Utah are adding highly qualified arts specialists to the classroom.  The additional instructors are part of a new education program, dubbed the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP) after the Utah philanthropist, arts activist, and founder of the arts education foundation, art works for kids!, of the same name. In a move unprecedented in Utah and across most of the nation, the 2008 Utah State Legislature funded four years of this cutting-edge program in response to public concern regarding the state of public education and the loss of the arts in elementary schools. In participating elementary school classrooms, highly qualified arts specialists and classroom teachers use innovative methods to collaborate on the development of grade-appropriate, effective lessons that not only teach dance, music, theatre, or the visual arts, but core curriculum subject matter as well.

This side-by-side teaching model has demonstrated benefit to young children, including, but not limited to improved cognitive functioning, memory development, and social functioning. For the past few years, intensive research into the relationship between learning and arts training has been conducted in the field of neuroscience. Of particular note is the release earlier this year of findings from the three-year, seven-university, Dana Arts and Cognition Consortium, which studied the affects of arts training on learning. (http://www.dana.org)  

"This program understands the special talents present in our children at a young age. This model, which we have been using in art works for kids! classrooms for over ten years, helps children focus their energy and naturally active imaginations. The result is that students learn important math skills through music. They learn about the forms of water through dance. And they remember! Little children remember these lessons because they were taught in a way they could understand and enjoy," said Sorenson.

Utah Representative Greg Hughes (R-Draper) emerged as a champion for the program in the 2008 General Session. A total of $15.82 million in one-time funds were secured for distribution over four years to meet program costs. Prior to funding, BTSALP existed as a prototype based on the individual-school model used by Sorenson’s arts education foundation. It called for funding to hire 50 school-specific arts specialists and 10 district arts coordinators; pay for program-related supplies and materials; invest in the development of effective arts educator training programs at the university level; deliver pre-service workshops for teachers; and develop evaluation and assessment tools to measure program compliance and efficacy.

Currently, the BTSALP funds arts specialists for 59 elementary schools in 21 school districts in Utah. The program also places arts coordinators in seven Utah school district offices. The effort is projected to engage an estimated 32,275 students in grades K-6 each year.

“This program actualizes the true nature of art as a force in children’s lives to improve their learning experience and behavior; that deserves our understanding and respect. Color, shape, and texture. Major, minor, and dissonant chords. Physical gestures, facial expressions, and overall speed…these are just a few of the opinion shaping and impression forming elements of art’s universal language. And as the practitioners of this language, artists are a driving force in our ability to function and communicate. They design our favorite websites, cars, cities, and signs,” said Margaret Hunt, Director of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. “As a universal language, art is also a natural fit for the classroom. It transmits information clearly and in a format that is easily processed and stored by the developing minds of young children. Simultaneously, participation in the arts has the added benefit of developing self-esteem and positive communication skills. It is a natural fit for our classrooms,” she added.

"The integration of the arts as an effective tool for learning is extraordinary. The BTS arts learning program provides an incredible opportunity for artists and educators to create a synergistic approach to impact the development of children’s mental, social and artistic powers," said Raymond Tymas-Jones, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Associate Vice President for the Arts at the University of Utah.

Information on BTSALP was distributed to schools, districts, and educators following the 2008 legislative session. Interested parties had until May to submit applications for funding. Schools and districts were selected for the program based on a series of criteria including: readiness, willingness to follow the program plan, geographic distribution, school demographics, and experience in arts learning. The arts specialists were selected by the schools based on compliance with program needs, teaching experience, and demonstrable experience with one of the four target art forms. A total of 40 school districts and 116 schools applied for the 2008/2009 school year.

For information on the BTS program contact Janet Wolf at 801.236.7558 or jwolf@utah.gov. Additional information can be found on the Utah Arts Council website at www.arts.utah.gov.

The Utah Arts Council is part of the Division of Arts and Museums within the Utah Department of Community and Culture.

UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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