"Arts Involvement Narrows Student Achievement Gap"

When this headline came through on a weekly newsletter, we couldn't wait to click through and find out more. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released a study that suggests "in-school or extracurricular programs offering deep arts involvement may help to narrow the gap in achievement levels among youth." You can read the entire article here.

As we mentioned last week, one of our favorite things about working at Walton Arts Center is bringing students of all ages in to experience the arts. Arts education has been the cornerstone of Walton Arts Center from the very beginning; even before our building was built the first person we hired was an education director. We understand the impact that the arts have on our youth, and want to insure that we do our best to give them that experience.

Rocco Landesman, NEA Chairman, visited Northwest Arkansas a few weeks ago, and made stops at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, NWACCC, TheatreSquared and Walton Arts Center.

Martin Miller, managing director TheatreSquared; Rocco Landesman, NEA Chairman; Robert Ford, artistic director TheatreSquared

Here's what Martin Miller, Managing Director of TheatreSquared, shared with us about Landesman's visit:

Seated on the set of the recent T2 production of Kim Rosenstock's Tigers Be Still, Chairman Landesman commented on TheatreSquared's rapid growth as a professional theatre through a period of economic uncertainty. He requested details on the theatre's world premiere production of Kevin D. Cohea's Sundown Town, funded in part by the theatre's first NEA Art Works grant, as well as earlier original productions such as Robert Ford's My Father's War. Singling out these plays as well as the theatre's annual Arkansas New Play Festival, the Chairman applauded TheatreSquared's willingness to take artistic risks.

"There's a reason non-profits need public support," said Landesman. "They shouldn't have to base their decisions on the market. They can take risks—that's why they're here."

 Barbara Putman, Foundations Relations Officer WAC; Jenni Taylor-Swain, VP Programs WAC; Terri Trotter, COO WAC; Rocco Landesman, NEA Chairman; Joy Pennington, Executive Director Arkansas Arts Council; Jodi Beznoska, VP Communications WAC

The NEA Chairman also visited Walton Arts Center for a tour. This year we received grants from the NEA that helped fund some of our 10x10 Arts Series Programs, our SmART Residency program, the Martha Graham Dance Company performance and our general operations. Our staff took him on a tour of our campus, and graciously thanked him for all the NEA does to support Walton Arts Center as well as the arts community as a whole. Landesman had this to say about his visit:

"At the NEA we're interested in getting out around the country and seeing what's being done with the arts," Landesman said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "What we're seeing here, I think, in Bentonville and Fayetteville, is a real intersection between the arts and communities."