Musical Chairs Project supports public elementary school arts and music programs


Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.

The only exposure to the arts and music for some local students occurs during the school day. Friends of Elementary Arts Inc., a local nonprofit, hopes to guarantee those opportunities continue.

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Glen Springs Elementary’s Tiger chair.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent

Facts

If you go

What: Fourth annual Musical Chairs Project, a silent auction of unique and artfully designed chairs by prominent local artists.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center, 716 N. Main St.
Sponsored by: Friends of Elementary Arts Inc.
Info: fanofthearts.org

Friends of Elementary Arts Inc. will host the fourth annual Musical Chairs Project fundraiser at the Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center on Friday from 7 to 9 p.m.

Local artists converted 32 wooden school chairs into unique pieces of art, which will be auctioned off at a silent auction. Each chair will start at $125.

Sue Johnson, founding board member of Friends of Elementary Arts Inc., said the goal of the fundraiser is to gather support for Alachua County’s elementary school music and arts programs.

“In auctioning off the chairs, that money immediately goes back into making things happen for our kids,” she said. “In this county, the citizens from the school administration on down recognize that strong arts equals strong schools.”

Students at Wiles, Duval and Glen Springs elementary schools collaborated with artists to create chairs based on their school mascots.

Johnson helped students at Glen Springs create a tiger chair.

“They said ‘awesome’ a lot,” she said. “It was good to talk about my process to them.”

Debbie Gallagher, curriculum specialist for the School Board of Alachua County and a non-voting member of Friends of Elementary Arts Inc., said the nonprofit organization has created real opportunities for local students.

“This board continues to do things every year that the school board can’t afford to do but supports,” she said. “When students have an arts education, they receive a full education.”

Friends of Elementary Arts Inc. was created in 2008 in response to local and state education budget cuts that reduced elementary arts and music programs by 50 percent in the 2008-09 school year. During that year, art and music teachers taught half the year at one school and half at another school.

In 2009, Friends of Elementary Arts Inc. donated $50,000 — or $1,000 for each county elementary school — to fund art and music programs. With the help of the one-mill referendum approved by voters in 2008, the county was able to reinstate its elementary arts and music programs full time for the 2009-10 school year.

“The idea of 25-year-old programs disappearing didn’t make sense. We have all worked together to do what’s best for the children,” Johnson said. “The school board also recognizes the value of these programs.”

In 2011, Friends of Elementary Arts Inc. donated $5,000 in grant money to enable fifth-graders to see the Alachua County Youth Orchestra, the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra, and the Alachua County Honor Band. The following year, the organization donated the same amount for students to visit the Harn Museum of Art.

Johnson said she is continually working to form new local partnerships and write new grants for future arts opportunities.

“We intend to continue to expand the menu of arts opportunities for students,” she said. “We know we’re on a good course with this.”

Gallagher said if the arts and music weren’t taught in schools, many students wouldn’t learn these skills at all, skills that help them build mathematics and communication skills.

“When you have art and music in school curriculum, all children have access to it,” she said. “And that’s really a gift.”

Johnson said in addition to teaching children about diversity, an arts education helps develop self-confidence and the potential to learn more.

“Students who gain an understanding of other cultural traditions in their communities better understand the demands of a global marketplace,” she said. “Studying the arts helps students to achieve, not only in that area, but in other areas of the curriculum. Bottom line, the arts are basic to life.”

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