As upper-middle-class and private school students continue to enjoy and learn from a range of artistic opportunities in school, many children going to schools in low-income neighborhoods are denied creative experiences in lieu of more test preparation. Making art—being a creative person—is becoming a luxury of the elite rather than a human necessity for all. But the arts are a tool we can use to reclaim what is being stolen.
The Campaign for Artful Resistance (CAR) is a national, web-based program to involve schools and communities in using the arts as a way to speak truth to power about education reform. CAR was organized by Save Our Schools, a national grassroots organization that advocates for equitable and meaningful education (saveourschoolsmarch.org). We initially promoted the CAR initiative through social media, email listservs, and word of mouth—inviting teachers, parents, artists, and students to participate by hosting a CAR event in their own community, or by submitting their own works of art. Then we created an online gallery to showcase the paintings, collages, videos, poems, and other work that we received.
The diverse perspectives in the CAR gallery reveal the painful and destructive effects of the elimination of creative teaching and the arts from our schools. Unlike the more elitist museum conceptions of Art, which determine whose work has “value” and whose does not, the CAR initiative reminds us that everyone is an artist. Not everyone who writes poetry is a poet laureate, and not everyone who paints needs an MFA. In all cultures, the arts remind us who we are, challenge our thinking, honor our stories, and must serve as an expressive language system available to everyone. Through the arts, marginalized voices and perspectives ignored by current education policy can be seen and heard.
CAR continues to collect more art. We hope that education activists/advocates will share images, poems, songs, and videos as part of their own local organizing efforts, and raise the following question: What is it you love about school that you have lost because of high-stakes testing, school closings, budget cuts, curriculum losses, teachers, firings, and other educational catastrophes?