Jessa Marks works on a piece of visual art. Ian Porter photo

As a student heavily involved in the arts at my high school, Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, and someone interested in pursuing a future career in the performing arts, I’ve noticed a gradual decline in proper support for arts courses in public schools in recent years.

Some schools don’t give their arts courses enough funding to function as they would like to, while others may even resort to cutting these courses just to save money for classes like math and English.

But why is that exactly? When I looked into this issue, it seemed clear that the reason behind this decline in support is the way the arts are viewed in comparison to other classes like math and English.

Taking time to assess the situation within the confines of my own school, I interviewed some students and teachers from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy on the topic of the mistreatment of arts in public schools, and their responses provided an interesting insight on the matter. “There’s a hidden way that a lot of teachers and administrators think that the core classes come first, and art as an elective is pushed aside because of it,” said Stephanie Logus, an Art teacher at HMTCA.

Taniya Blue shows off some of her artwork. Ian Porter photo

Taniya Blue, a student at HMTCA, also stated her opinion on the subject: “I believe that schools do have those art classes just to have it there. There is not much effort put into them.”

Despite a big factor in the issue being the lack of funding, this does not take away from the fact that the board of education undervalues the arts, and that mindset is spread throughout the student body.

Marisa Bishop, an HMTCA dance teacher who is also the coach of the Middletown high school dance team, made an additional comment in her interview. She said “I feel like students’ mindsets are more geared toward making sure their math and science grades are good and not caring about arts classes because ‘It’s just dance’ or something, and that it doesn’t matter that their grade is low.”

The students’ view of the arts is a factor that I don’t see being talked about very often. From personal experience, there seems to be a correlation between the students’ negative view of arts courses and them being labeled as ‘secondary,’ ‘special,’ or ‘elective’ classes. Brandon Gregoire, a theater teacher at HMTCA commented: “I very much think they are very under-appreciated because they are treated as electives, everyone treats them as their break from academics and don’t take them seriously. The students who want to be there are very overwhelmed by the students who don’t want to be there.” Additionally, the school system prioritizes core classes such as math and english because core classes have district assessments. As a result of the focus on teaching to prepare for these assessments, art classes aren’t seen as a priority by the district.

So how do we help address this issue? How can we as a community provide a solution that helps benefit the funding of arts courses in our public school system? There’s many ways we can go about it. One of which being to hold fundraisers, where the funds go to the teachers to purchase supplies. Another is to have parents and students gather together and try to raise awareness on the issue. Although both these solutions are helpful, they’re quick fixes that don’t address the overall issue. One of the best courses of action to help resolve this issue is to supply proper funding to public schools, which will directly benefit all classes as well as solve the problem of cutting underfunded arts classes.

Sophie Reyes and Louis Franchesi enjoy a moment sharing their sculptures of shoes. Ian Porter photo

The arts are an important aspect to the educational experience of students, regardless of whether it’s in public school or private school. We should ensure that students have the opportunity to indulge in the arts, and learn valuable skills all while exploring their options and expressing themselves.

With enough collaboration and effort put toward this objective, we can ensure that this goal becomes a reality for the students of the future.

Ian Porter is a student at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy.