The Importance of Art in Education and Community Development
Steve Adubato talks with Lauren Meehan, Director, Newark Arts Education Roundtable, about how art is essential to a complete education and to the overall healthy development of communities.
"Welcome, I'm Steve Adubato. It is my pleasure to introduce for the first time, joining us, Lauren Meehan. Director of Newark Arts Education Roundtable. Which is? Yeah. No, I'm asking. Yes which is... I'm curious. No. It's a great question. So we are a collective impact initiative, which is basically a fancy way of saying when you have a really big problem you need a lot of people to help you solve it. So instead of... What kind of problems are we talking about? So we're talking about access to arts education in the City of Newark. Specifically, we're place-based, so we focus exclusively on the public schools, the charter schools and the parochial schools within the city of Newark. What kind of barriers are we talking about for the children and young people in the City of Newark to get the kind of arts education they need? So it's a host of different challenges. One is reduced funding. That's been a really critical piece, especially in the last ten years. Post recession, there's less spending in a lot of communities around art education. Different teacher evaluation systems that are really test based, so a lot of time, classroom time that would have been spent on arts education has gone to testing. And so prioritizing it and finding the resources for it have been a challenge, but our work in the last 10 years has definitely made an impact. The district has hired a really phenomenal arts lead Margot L. And the new administration there under Roger Lyon has been really supportive of our work. The superintendent? Yes, has been really supportive. Let me ask you, you've been playing the violin since you were 8 years old? Yes. What got you into, how did you get into playing the violin at such a young age? So my public school actually... No kidding! [laughter] Yes I went to the West Orange Public sch... through the West Orange Public Schools. And so I had great general music through the third grade. And then they sort of had this conversation with us. The band teacher would come in, the orchestra teacher would come in, they'd show you all the different instruments and then you pick, and I actually didn't choose the violin initially. I chose the flute. But there were too many flutes in the band section. [laughter] And because I have really good intonation, which is really important for a stringed instrument, my music teacher, my general music teacher, recommended that I actually take up the violin. As my parents can attest, playing a string instrument sounds very much like someone strangling a cat initially. [laughter] Till you get good at it, and so they were grateful when they finally heard "Hot..."