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 Sept. 22, 2016
There was a time when removing a building was a dramatic affair: buildings imploded with a boom or were pounded by a wrecking ball. These days, thankfully, there's a growing approach that seeks to keep as much waste out of landfills and reuse and recycle as much material as possible.
Published Sept. 21, 2016
Did you know Milwaukee Public Schools has what might be the largest group of public Montessori schools in the world? Now, led by school board member Tati Joseph, there's a push to add a new South Side dual-language program to that group.
Published Sept. 20, 2016
Even in a neighborhood full of vintage architecture, there's no mistaking it. The Italianate Cream City Brick building at 1704 N. 4th St. looks old. If the area has had a long, varied history (and it has), then Baasen House is perfectly at home here.
Published Sept. 18, 2016
There's no better way to get a peek inside Milwaukee's most interesting - and often most historic - sites, many of them typically off limits to the public, than Historic Milwaukee Inc.'s annual Doors Open Milwaukee event. Here are 10 must-see sites.
Published Sept. 15, 2016
This is Brew City, so it should come as no surprise that we value Milwaukee's beer-soaked history. And Regano's Roman Coin has been a part of that tradition for five decades. In honor of it Regano's is throwing a party and we asked Teri Regano about it.
Published Sept. 13, 2016
Yesterday morning, a group of kindergarteners from Milwaukee Public Schools' Rogers Street Academy visited BMO Harris Bank to judge auditions by local sports mascots for roles in the upcoming production of Milwaukee Ballet's "The Nutcracker."
Published Sept. 12, 2016
This past weekend a Tosa resident staged a huge party at Red Dot on North Avenue in East Tosa with Public Enemy, Run-DMC, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Rakim, EPMD and others. I was there for the first night of the two-day jam. Here are some images.
Published Sept. 8, 2016
Yesterday, respected Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra was here to talk about two new shows that feature her work. The main focus was on "Rehearsals," a video installations that opens Friday, Sept. 9. The two works in the installation make their museum debuts here.
Published Sept. 8, 2016
Could a South Milwaukee brewery be on the horizon? Yes, if a local developer gets the OK to move ahead with a new $6.6 million plan announced this morning by South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks.
Published Sept. 8, 2016
During a recent I-94 series, I went to Wrigley and spotted a few Brewers fans. But just a few. There's hardly a better place to road trip to a ballgame than the Windy City. Here are some tips for a sports-fueled jaunt to see the Brewers face the Cubs at Wrigley Field.