As tightening budgets have seen the widespread loss of art teachers across the district, Maryland Avenue Montessori is an example of an MPS school that has found a way to maintain art classes for its kids.
The solution is a welcome, if not perfect, scenario: the classes won't be taught by art educators, the funding for which went up in smoke with budget cuts in spring, but will be led by parent volunteers and a community member who possess art skills.
As is required, classroom teachers will be in the room during the weekly art classes to help with instruction, making it the kind of stop-gap measure a lot of schools would love to have.
Last month, I ran into a friend who is the father of two of kids who left the district in June for a suburban school.
His children attended Elm Creative Arts School, where he was very active. But when he saw what cuts would do to art programs in the district and at Elm, he decided to move his kids to a different Milwaukee County district.
Around the same time, I'd been talking to Mary Ellen Mulvey Quesada, a veteran art teacher in the district – at Craig and MacDowell Montessoris – who is currently on sabbatical to complete her full-time Montessori training – and she tells me that the cuts have been dire, especially at the lower grades.
"Our department of over 100 elementary art teachers, has now dwindled," she told me, estimating that only about 20 remain. "There are many more teachers in middle and high school, than elementary."
I was unable to get numbers from the district on how many art teachers are currently employed in schools at the various levels. Rumors were that some would be hired back after the third Friday count but I have been unable to confirm that.
Last May, Reagan IB High's art teacher, Chad Sperzel-Wuchterl told me that he already was spending an inordinate amount of time on remedial work with new students, because so few received any art education in the lower grades.
"I have to get them from elementary up to high school in four years," he said at the time. "As far as formal training goes, (there is) next to nothing. You can tell the ones who had it and those who didn't."
Quesada said that art teachers work hard to cultivate relationships with museums and other institutions that help provide kids with horizon-broadening activities. The layoffs of so many teachers will likely lead to the lapse of many of these connections.
"For the past several years, MacDowell has participated in the Art in the Garden show at the Villa Terrace. Students from MacDowell came to tour the museum and drew, wrote and took photos in the garden. We then created finished pieces during art class, which were shown to the public, along with several other schools. Parents and students came to the opening, it was a great experience for the kids. This year, we will not be participating."
She also pointed to similar relationships with the Haggerty Museum of Art and the Milwaukee Art Museum and the annual student art fundraiser, which in the past two years has raised thousands of dollars that were then matched by a corporate donor to help fund student camp experiences at Nature's Classroom.
Some schools, like La Escuela Fratney in Riverwest, have lost teachers to layoffs and reassignments that were long a part of the school culture.
"The morale is very low and everyone still seems a little shell-shocked from the layoff / reassignment process," Quesada said. "Many of us lost our schools and are having a hard time embracing the changes."
The MTEA's Art Education Committee has been actively working to support teachers through this difficult time, meeting with MPS' Chief Academic Officer Heidi Ramirez and working with Chicago art teachers on an art exhibition that would help draw attention to the challenges facing art education in public schools.
The group met last month and will continue to meet, said Quesada, to find ways to support arts education in the district.
"It's great that Maryland parents are going to be helping out this year," she added. "Unfortunately, most schools don't have this level of parental involvement."
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published May 28, 2015
The mercury is rising and I'm rolling down the windows and playing some of my favorite summer music. Despite the theme, I do not include the eponymous 1972 Seals & Crofts hit.
Published May 27, 2015
There are some places in town that most everyone has seen from the outside, but that few have actually entered. St. John de Nepomuc rectory, 325 W. Court St., in the Haymarket Square neighborhood is one of those places.
Published May 27, 2015
For the reasons discussed here, I'm convinced that Milwaukee's simmering Haymarket Square area, just north of Downtown, is the city's next hot neighborhood. Here are some more reasons why...
Published May 26, 2015
OK, I admit that I've led you here under (potentially) false pretenses. What I really want is for you, dear readers, to tell me about the best pizzerias in Kenosha.
Published May 22, 2015
Back in 1996, some folks saw the closing of West Allis-West Milwaukee School District's Roosevelt School, 932 S. 60th St., as "inevitable" and that prediction came true later that year. Now, it seems that the demolition of the building might also be inevitable, though nothing has yet been officially decided.
Published May 20, 2015
It's that time of year again. The time when I'm thrilled that my kids are thrilled to sign up for Milwaukee Public Library's Super Reader summer reading program.
Published May 19, 2015
Standing amid the surviving buildings of the old Concordia College, it's easy to imagine what an inviting campus this was back in the day. Low-rise buildings - most of them in that collegiate gothic style that shouts "university" - surrounded the quad on all four sides, creating an intimate, protective environment. These days, most of the buildings survive and they're owned by the Forest County Potawatomi, which has plans to renovate the entire campus.
Published May 18, 2015
Leo Minor is a relatively faint constellation up in the northern sky that comprises an array of 37 distant stars. Closer to home Leo Minor is a nom de bass of local veteran musician Jason Todd. Though this Leo Minor is just one star, it draws on a vast array of musical influences. The latest result of the ongoing project is a white label vinyl 7" 45.
Published May 15, 2015
This morning the folks in the facilities department of the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District were kind enough to give me a tour of a closed school building. As an added bonus, my tour guide offered to show me an interesting school nearby, too. The contrast was striking.
Published May 14, 2015
Adventure Rock will host a groundbreaking next Wednesday for its new East Side location on the corner of Commerce and North.