In our work to support The Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA), we have become poignantly aware of just how vital the arts and humanities are to our students’ lives and success. We are dismayed at the thought of how the proposed cuts at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) may have a direct impact on our children. As the parents of three young artists and as leaders on behalf of CCSA, we see firsthand the benefits of the arts in the daily lives of children.
Defunding the NEA would cut already-scarce resources for the arts in underserved communities: 40% of the activities it supports take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. We know through research and our own experience that the arts have an even greater positive impact in high-poverty communities. Art is uplifting and therapeutic in neighborhoods where trauma is commonplace and widespread. Art is an effective teaching tool for all children, but especially those who have experienced educational neglect.
Yesterday, 50 joyful Kindergarteners at The Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) traveled to Philadelphia to see A Year with Frog and Toad at the Arden Theatre. Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad book series has endured as a children’s favorite and Caldecott medal winner in large part because of its timeless focus on friendship, rooted in appreciation of difference, and unconditional love.
Frog and Toad’s excellent lessons were brought to life for our children. For over 70% of our little learners, this was their first visit to Philadelphia, and their first trip to see a professional theater performance. We consider these opportunities to be critical to the academic, cultural, and emotional growth of our kids. Every year, CCSA arranges for all of our students to see professional art exhibitions and performances like this-and we are fortunate to be able to do this in part because the NEA supports these institutions, keeping them strong and enabling their education and access programs.
CCSA students, from the youngest to the oldest, can tell you what literature, art, music, theater, and dance bring to their lives. They can articulate the personal and academic impact of practicing and appreciating the arts. At CCSA, we remain committed to educating our students through the arts and standing up for the arts in our nation.
CCSA’s new campus, which will open in Chester this September, includes two dance studios, two art studios, two music studios, a theater classroom and stage. These spaces are as equally crucial as our science labs for delivering an educational program that we know to be effective, and an educational experience that we know is positively changing lives for the long term-giving hundreds of students the personal and academic preparation that they need for successful futures.
At this time in our nation’s history, we are especially heartened by the knowledge that we can make such an impact in Chester, and we are proud to be leading the Campaign for CCSA. Thank you for joining us in this work. We still have a way to go, but we hope that you too are comforted in the knowledge that against the odds, you can make a difference through your generosity and engagement at CCSA. Taking a lesson from Frog’s book: we know that we will succeed through perseverance and the support of friends!