This week is National Arts in Education Week (Sept. 8-14). Did you know that arts education includes band, orchestra, choral/general music, theatre, visual art and dance and that Oakland Schools has a Fine Arts department specifically dedicated to bringing fine arts opportunities to both teachers and students throughout the county? Below is a list of some of the ways Oakland Schools contributes to Oakland County’s arts culture:
1. Fine Arts professional development
Throughout the year, Oakland Schools holds a variety of professional development workshops for fine arts educators.
“When it comes to the fine arts, we offer professional development to Oakland County and beyond because there’s not a lot of offerings for arts educators in our area and we are pleased to share our workshops with any and all,” said Hedy Blatt, Oakland Schools' Fine Arts consultant. “While we specialize in Oakland County, we often have participants from Port Huron, Downriver, Saginaw and as far as Holland (Michigan). I often say we are open to the galaxy.”
2. Art displays
Oakland Schools doesn’t just talk about the importance of acknowledging the positive impact art education has on students, we also walk the walk. Did you know artwork adorns many of the public (and private) office spaces in our main building?
Currently districts sign up with Oakland Schools to have their visual art featured during a specific month of the school year; some choose to do an evening or Saturday reception for their school communities. There is art in our first-floor conference center; our second floor has a gallery and there are showcases located above the conference center and down corridor E. In total, approximately 250 pieces of art are displayed throughout the building each month.
Oakland Schools is also proud to host the Michigan Art Education Association Region 7 art show and reception each February. In addition, each summer and into early fall, Oakland Schools hosts its Faculty Staff Art Show. This non-juried show displays the creativity of teachers, secretaries, custodians, support staff, bus drivers, food service, administrators, etc. This year’s reception is from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 28.
This summer, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) brought its Inside/Out program to Oakland Schools. The program brings high-quality reproductions from the DIA’s collection to outdoor venues in metro Detroit with the hope of exposing more people to art. Our piece, Mosquito Nets by John Singer Sargent, will be on display until Oct. 30.
Blatt said having art projects up and available for viewing at Oakland Schools is a treat for everyone who visits or works at the intermediate school district’s Main campus.
“It really enlivens the environment,” she said. “By having students’ art displayed, it literally showcases creativity and represents what we are here for, which is really the kids.”
3. Leaders in arts education
Oakland Schools created the Oakland Schools Fine Arts Advisory Council, which is composed of an art, music or theatre representative(s) from each of the 28 school districts. Blatt said the group meets four times per year.
“The council acts in an advisory and advocacy capacity and as a conduit to their school communities,” explained Blatt. “It is instrumental in helping plan conferences and disseminate information about upcoming arts events, opportunities for students, job postings and professional development offerings.”
4. Partner with other entities to ensure the arts are celebrated in local communities.
Each year, Oakland Schools teams up with Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner to encourage high school student participation in his annual Treasurer Meisner Financial Literacy Multimedia Arts Contest. Students submit their best art work or videos, including artist statements, and winners earn college scholarships or prize money, plus have their work displayed at the Treasurer’s Office for one year. All participating students are honored at a reception at the Flagstar Strand Theatre. Going into its ninth year, thanks to sponsors such as Flagstar Bank, over $80,000 has been awarded.
"Now more than ever, our students must be equipped with the financial literacy skills they'll need to control their finances, instead of their finances controlling them," Meisner said. "My hope is that students can use their favorite art form to think in new ways about money and finances, and that we can increase awareness of this critical area."
“Andy is passionate about financial literacy and does more than talk the talk – he loves to visit high schools to educate students about their need for financial literacy,” added Blatt.
New this year, a contest has been created by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to honor and celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Oakland County’s 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage “I Voted!” Sticker Contest is open to all Oakland County students in grades 6-12, accepting online submissions until Oct. 18, 2019. Blatt recommends participants use the design template for submissions. Two student winners will receive $1,000 prizes, and the students’ teachers will garner $250 for classroom supplies thanks to Cornerstone Community Financial Credit Union.
“Partnerships in the community are essential and extremely important, especially for the arts,” explained Blatt. “It is important to support arts education and an understanding on the importance of the arts to the kids and Michigan. Support from the local community can’t be underestimated.”
To learn more about Oakland Schools Fine Arts, visit https://www.oakland.k12.mi.us/educators/subject-areas/fine-arts or contact our Fine Arts Consultant Hedy Blatt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Davis is the communications specialist at Oakland Schools.