The Time is Now: #VoteArtsandMusic

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Written by Libby Fitch

As I sit here writing this piece, I reflect on my childhood and how the arts shaped who I am today. I was lucky enough to enroll in fine arts classes at Mission: Renaissance in middle school. I remember how nervous I was the first time I walked through the doors, charcoal pencils and pastels in hand. My nerves immediately washed away the moment I sat down at the easel. My instructor walked me through building a drawing through simple shapes, adding colorful pastels and 3-dimensional effects to make the picture come to life. As I left my first lesson, I had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and joy as I showed off my new artwork to my parents. To this day, my art proudly hangs in our family’s home. During my time at Mission, I would “graduate” to watercolor and oil paintings. Through these art classes, I learned how to express my creativity and the discipline it took to complete an art piece. I learned to be goal-oriented moving up through the program, and I had fun doing it.

My youth was marked by many art programs, music lessons, and musical theater. The arts played a huge role in my life. Little did I know that this was a privilege that most children never got to experience. Study after study has shown how vital the arts are for the development and success of children. However, art and music programs across California have suffered tremendously, over the past decade, due to budget cuts and the rerouting of funds to increase test scores in subjects like math, science, and language arts. This crisis intensified dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing underfunding, and the amount of art and music programs being cut in schools across the state.

Unfortunately, like all over the nation, economic and racial disparities can be found throughout all school districts. The underfunding of arts and music education programs is even more dramatic in schools that serve designated student populations from low socioeconomic communities. The majority of these school populations are students of color.

Although the arts have experienced dark and turbulent times in recent years, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that can be found on the 2022 November ballot. Former Los Angeles Unified Superintendent, Austin Beutner, set the revival of the arts into motion when he proposed the California Art and Music K-12 Education Funding Initiative. This initiative would require the state of California to dedicate around $800 million every year to arts and music education programs in public schools across the state without raising California taxes. This will be done by building off Proposition 98 and their accumulated surplus. This proposal would also allocate a percentage of its funding to schools serving economically disadvantaged students and communities.

This initiative is a no-brainer. This measure has successfully acquired over a million signatures from educators, entrepreneurs, and art and music leaders in just three months. It has no opposition. As someone who has firsthand experienced the power of art and the difference it can make in a child’s life, I will be voting yes on this initiative this November. I believe our job is to uplift and support the children of California no matter the circumstance, and this initiative does just that. It is time for an Arts revival in California and the time is now. #VoteArtsandMusic

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. Libby Fitch is a graduating senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in Communication with a minor in Professional Writing. She is currently interning with Art in Action as a Content Creator for Development and Fundraising. After graduation, Libby plans to continue her education by pursuing a Masters in Marketing.