A Little Good News

In a time when we often hear the arts being dismissed as unnecessary luxuries and when so many art classes in schools have been cut, it's nice to hear a little good news.

Portrait of Claude Renoir Painting by Renoir, 1907, oil on canvas.
Portrait of Claude Renoir Painting by Renoir, 1907, oil on canvas.

A recent federal study of research data on the effectiveness of arts education shows, "When students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPA/SAT scores, and demonstrate a 56 percent improvement in spatial-temporal IQ scores. They show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12, are more engaged and cooperate with teachers and peers, and are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas." The study found that these benefits are most pronounced in high-poverty, low-performing students and that these high-poverty students are being "disproportionately short-changed on arts education opportunities in their schools."

The good news comes from a small pilot program called the Turnaround Arts initiative. Taking the news from these studies seriously, a two-year public-private partnership has been developed between the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Herb Alpert Foundation, Crayola, NAMM Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Booz Allen Hamilton and the National Endowment for the Arts to bring training and resources to eight participating schools that have been nominated and selected based on need, opportunity, strong school leadership and a commitment to arts education.

We first became aware of the program from a New York Times article published on December 18th, 2012, which followed 40 seventh and eighth grade students from the Roosevelt School of Bridgeport, Connecticut on their private tour with artist Chuck Close of his exhibition at the Pace Gallery in Manhattan. The Roosevelt School is one of the eight schools in the Turnaround Arts experiment.  

Close is most known for his seemingly photo-realistic portrait paintings created from a grid of squares, each filled with color strokes creating a perceived average hue and tone that, when viewed from a distance pull together to create the realistic image. Chuck Close suffers from what is referred to as "face blindness" (prosopagnosia), a disorder in which the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while other aspects of visual processing remain intact. He told the students that the only way he could remember a face is to break it down into tiny pieces similar to the squares that make up his artwork. He said, "Everything about my work is driven by my learning disabilities."

The Turnaround Arts initiative is providing high-profile mentors to help the schools within its program. We look forward to the follow-up evaluations of this preliminary two-year experimental project and hope that it may be continued and expanded to inspire many more students. As Chuck Close told the students at his exhibition, "Art saved my life."

For more interesting and informative articles, please join us on The Artist's Road.

–John & Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.

2 thoughts on “A Little Good News

  1. This is good news indeed! As a high school art teacher, I have been fortunate enough to work for a charter liberal arts school. This means a free prep. school experience for students. The arts are a fundamental part of this education and is fully supported. When I decided to move from the college level to the high school level, it was important for me to be with a school that would not cut my job at the first sign of financial distress. The arts are so crucial to our society, and we will be far diminished in the future for our lack of support today. Thanks for a great article!


  2. I’m pleased to see people studying this. The humanities, including art, bring balance to the mind, wisdom and creative thinking skills that translate to virtually every task throughout life. They help build-in mental flexibility. Without getting political, let’s see more studies of the benefits of humanities.