Since the beginning of civilization, arts have been an integral part of human culture. From cave drawings depicting the predators of the time to Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, the arts will always have a place in society no matter the time period.
With the next generation of artists now in their teens and attending high schools, I would like to think that available to them are well-instructed art courses that foster their craft.
I interviewed students who currently attend George Washington High School to see how they feel about the art programs offered. An overwhelming majority stated that this is where the school was lacking the most in its failure to support and encourage students in these courses.
George Washington High School, located in Charleston, West Virginia, is ranked No. 4 in the state when it comes to academics, according to the U.S. News and World Report. It offers plenty of rigorous courses in S.T.E.M.-related fields, such as AP Calculus, AP Computer Science and mathematics.
I asked students about their experiences with the art programs at GW, and if they garner enough support, and I was met with responses such as, “they do not offer many options appealing to me,” “college art wasn’t great,” and, “there is just not enough support.”
But this isn’t saying the school doesn’t offer courses in the arts. There are courses available such as college art or theatre, but just because these courses are available doesn’t mean they measure up in quality and backing by the school in comparison to S.T.E.M.-related classes.
One student discussed her own experience with the art programs at George Washington stating, “It seems to me that the arts programs have always been lacking in some way at GW. There are attempts made with art classes and we have a great theater program, but there are so many programs that just aren’t open to students, and aren’t encouraged as much as extracurricular activities having to do with the sciences. But even then, the options that we do have at our school are a lot more than some other schools get. But the arts often get lost.”
Another student said, “While the school is more focused on academics and sports, the art department struggles to gather supplies and attentive students able to participate in the arts.”
These students have a point in that George Washington High School does offer more classes compared to some schools within the state, but is the quality of an education in the arts equal to the quantity of classes offered?
I have taken an arts course at GW, and I can attest that unfortunately the class I took didn’t add anything to my artistic abilities like I expected, and I felt like the school treated the class simply as a requirement to teach rather than an exploration of art. So, what should compel students to develop their artistic education if they are offered subpar classes that don’t measure up to their desires to learn?
I also discussed with a student who dedicates her time to the theater program at GW, and asked about her experience with the program and the backing it receives. She said, “I can sincerely state that we as a group possess so much talent, and only grow to be better under the guidance of our drama teacher. However, it can feel like our department does not receive nearly enough funding or support from the administration or community. Our theater facility is constantly facing maintenance issues that will remain for long periods of time before they get repaired.”
This brings insight to the treatment of the theater program as they struggle to gain enough funding and backing and are forced to use facilities with such defects. The theater program has a strong foothold in GW’s art community, and if such a large representation of the community is struggling, what does this say about the state of its smaller programs?
Arts have always had a place in society and I, along with other students, am not saying that without art, society will collapse, but I am making a point that through better support and encouragement, art programs could do much more and introduce students to a community that focuses on creativity and development, which is so important to young minds.
And why not let these students steer the culture of the future? My interviews with the students shows that the art community within GW needs some work to better engage students, and it needs to be better funded to reach its full potential and serve its purpose in its cultivation of the artists of the future.