Back to School for the Arts (by Savannah Brown, 11946)


savannah.brown4-SiameseGUNSI was fortunate enough to be brought into this world by two parents who were bonded by their love of music. My mother was a talented singer, and my father an accomplished sound engineer. Together they were able to immerse me into their world of traveling artists. Since my early childhood I’ve been taught to sing by famed and talented musicians. I understood melody and harmony before I was able to spell my name. Yet, from grade school through high school, it was almost effortless for me to surpass my classmates. In part, I attribute my academic success and enthusiasm towards school to the creative atmosphere my parents cultivated for me through out my upbringing. I appreciate them tremendously for emphasizing and marrying both the importance of education and the arts.

Education of the arts, especially during youth, has a remarkable effect on intellect and mentality towards the classroom. Creative activities for children truly stimulate and captivate the brain more than ordinary lectures can. Portland’s public elementary schools heavily rely on a recently instituted tax in order to help fund their own arts programs. Popularity and the community’s commitment to paying the annual tax have oscillated in the years since its commencement. Because of this, many valuable teachers of the arts struggle to hold their treasured positions. It is no coincidence that Oregon elementary schools that have not embraced arts programs have also reported some of the lowest standardized test scores in the state. Art education is necessary to keep children absorbed in all areas of study. The major question facing the Portland School District is whether or not education of the arts is being utilized to its full potential within schools.

As a youngster I was lucky enough to be enveloped in a colorful reality and fall in love with the arts. Albeit unconventional, my first-hand experiences of learning music mentally primed me for school in addition to helping me advance beyond the average student. Every child deserves the opportunity to be the most successful student they can be. Engaging arts in tandem with the statewide curriculum will fascinate students and fully improve their entire school experience. Supporting Portland’s “Art Tax” will sustain art in the public classroom and bring children in grades K-12 closer to finding their own passion in school.

The Research

Theen, Andrew. “Portland’s Arts Tax: Many Taxpayers Didn’t Comply…” Oregonian Media Group, 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.  Portland’s revenue officials are making an effort to remind citizens to pay the Arts Education and Access Income Tax, commonly referred to as the “Arts Tax”. The income tax was approved in 2012 and is meant to aid Portland elementary schools and nonprofit organizations in hosting art and music programs. The city council has also signed off on a program that will be, in part, dedicated to tracking down those overdue on their taxes. Estimated income of the tax fell about 4 million short in its first year, and as of 2014 over one third of those meant to pay still have not. Nonetheless, Portland schools are putting all available funds to use by restoring arts programs and jobs.

My source is the Oregonian Media Group, an established company that publishes both The Oregonian and OREGONLIVE, as well as news in Portland Metro and Southwest Washington. Oregonian Media Group has been in operation for over 160 years, and its staff has been awarded 6 Pulitzer Prizes.

The Arts Tax itself is an excellent step in a direction that saves jobs, extra curricular activities, and will improve overall academic performance in the future. However, the tax is lacking support and is in need of publicity.

Hammond, Betsy. “Sarah Jessica Parker and Elite Federal Arts Grant Fail to Improve Performance of Portland’s King School.” Oregonian Media Group, 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. President Obama’s Arts Commission made a very public attempt to prove that low-level performing schools could be improved with arts education. Efforts were successful, but not within Portland’s own King Elementary. Art programs were never truly implemented, and student achievement remains near being the worst in Oregon. In schools where arts education programs were initiated scores in reading, math, attendance, and discipline drastically improved. Results have proven that including arts education in school curriculums does improve student performance.

My source is the Oregonian Media Group, which publishes several print newspapers as well as The company has been established for well over a century and has won many awards for its journalism.

This article proves the importance of arts education and its effects in all areas of academia. Arts education, when administered properly, improves test scores in vital areas including reading and math.

Rosenberg, Erika L. “Musical Training Changes the Brain.” Making Connections. By Gregory J. Feist. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 180-83. Print.  New experiences change and shape the brain as it develops through out childhood. Musical training literally grows the brain by developing the corpus callosum, cerebellum, and auditory cortex. By developing the brain in these areas, abilities beyond music are also improved. Skills including verbal memory, reasoning, mathematical skills, and IQ in general have all been shown to be advances in those with musical training.

My source is a print book on psychology, written by experts in the field. The text outlines the popular topics of interest pertaining to psychology, as well as recent advancements.

It has been proven, even scientifically, that it is valuable for the growing brain to learn different forms of art. Programs that institute art as a core value in education exercise children’s minds in ways that cannot be paralleled with standard education. Arts should be fully utilized in schools.

How to Get Involved

There are many easy ways to get involved and influence Portland’s school district to maintain arts programs.

  • Simply pay the annual “Arts Tax”. Remind your friends and co-workers, especially those who have children themselves, how helpful the small fee truly is. Perhaps include a quick mention of the heart-warming sight of small kids with instruments, or how adorable refrigerator art can be.
  • Word of mouth can also be a powerful tool with the use of social media as tax season approaches. A quick reminder on Facebook could generate enough tax revenue to save a job.
  • Beyond the tax, websites like offer a way to make tax-deductible donations towards art education in Portland schools.
  • One of the most significant ways to support arts education in your local school is to involve your children in provided programs. Consistent attendance levels are proof of a strong interest for a program, and could encourage its future continuance.

Art education has been proven to enhance the learning experience of children, and it is imperative that it is kept a staple within schools. The arts can be implemented in education in ways that are both lasting and incredibly beneficial for children.


One comment

  1. Erica Belwood

    I really liked the fact that you gave several options on how to become involved in saving art in schools. Many people don’t have time to actually volunteer or money to donate but you gave an option for every situation. Someone who may not have money can post on Facebook or talk to their friends, which is something we can all do!

    I also really enjoyed the beginning of your post that gave your personal experience. It really made me feel the connection you had with this particular subject. My only disconnect with this piece is that I really feel like the personal touch dropped off in the intro and became more to the facts with your research. I would have liked to see you use ways to tie this in instead of listing article summaries. I feel like keeping it with your personal experience and connection to the subject would keep the reader intrigued. Overall I think you did a great job on this project!

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