Benefits of Arts in NC
In addition to improving the quality of life and promoting communities to new residents and business, the creative community offers tangible, economic benefits. As of 2009 in NC, this industry created and sustained almost 300,000 jobs, generated $10 billion in employee compensation, and produced more than $40 billion in goods and services.1 In metropolitan areas its easy to see how the Durham Performing Arts Center or the NC Museum of Art, for example, attract tourist dollars and contribute to the larger economy. In more rural communities, we need to look closer at the benefits investment in the arts brings. In Chatham County, our vibrant arts education program emphasizes these benefits. This is especially important as recent findings from longitudinal studies of over 20 years confirm that sustained involvement in strong arts programs are associated with increased college enrollment and attainment, and greater civic engagement, with higher levels of volunteering, voting, and participation in local and school politics. And these findings are most significant for at-risk and disadvantaged students.2
Arts Education opportunities at Northwood include Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Instrumental Music, Choral Music, and Dance
Arts Education in Chatham
Arts Education has had sustained support from the County Commissioners, the Board of Education, and the administration of Chatham County Schools for many years. Investments made more than 30 years ago, continue to provide unique opportunities for students and recognition for achievements. Distinguished faculty, dedicated students, and involved community members, organizations, and businesses work to make arts education one of the hallmarks of the school system, a fact often mentioned by local real estate agents and websites.
I’d like to note highlights at Northwood High School, since that has been the focus of my volunteer work. But certainly arts residencies at Margaret Pollard, the documentary film program at Sage, professional development workshops in the arts at Woods School, and the establishment of the new arts education foundation at Jordan Matthews also attest to strong community support and involvment across the entire county.
A decade ago in 2002, the NHS Arts Education Department was the only high school in North Carolina to receive the prestigious Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award, presented by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, for its comprehensive and outstanding Arts Education programs.3 Today, those junior faculty members lead the current department and they and their students have continued to excel. They have earned board certification, advanced graduate degrees, statewide and national recognition, and numerous grant awards to supplement and expand learning opportunities for their students.
Northwood is one of only 12% of the public schools in the nation to offer high school dance studies.4 It has the distinction of being the oldest public high school dance program in North Carolina. In addition NHS has one of the few National Honor Societies in Dance Arts in a typical NC high school. With its establishment, Northwood now has honor societies in all arts disciplines (National Art Honor Society, Tri-M International Music Honor Society, and International Thespian Society.) We are excited that senior Julia Sloane has been selected as 2012 Regional Finalist for the NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award.
Student achievement can be seen by participation and honor recognition in the annual Scholastic Art Awards, area Marching Band competitions, NC All-District Band, NC All-State Choral Festival, Central District Band Festival, Governor’s School, and All-County Chorus. Our students attract thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to continue their studies. Last year three of the major arts departmental awards at East Carolina (Outstanding Senior in the Musical Theatre Program, Outstanding Senior in Dance Performance, and Outstanding Senior in Dance Education) all were awarded to Northwood High School alumni. Our students are pursuing undergraduate degrees in music performance, music education, theatre, visual arts, advertising, dance, fashion design, and filmaking, just to name a few. Others have graduated with honors, performed at Carnegie Hall, entered graduate programs, and begun to work professionally, not only in the arts, but as scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, journalists, and international relief workers.
Faculty grants and community investment have provided residencies, workshops, and master classes so students have the opportunity to meet and learn from world-class performers and educators. Drama students participated in the NEA-funded Shakespeare in American Communities Program with UNC Playmakers and their teaching artist David McClutchy. Distinguished educator Dr. John Brown, head of Duke’s Jazz program, provided master classes, as did the Lula Washington Dance Company from Los Angeles. The Glenn Miller Orchestra has visited, as have performers from the Lion King national tour, the renowned musician, composer and educator Stanley Baird, and six-time Grammy nominee, jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. Choral instructor Marilyn Shugart was the recipient of the very first Raising Voices Grant from the Triangle Community Foundation last year to produce our All-County Choral Festival and expand that opportunity to middle school students. And Eugene Cottrell, previous national winner of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Award, was one of only two NC music educators recognized for his work by the North Carolina Symphony, receiving the 2011 Jackson Parkhurst Award.
Arts education is a vital part of our cultural life. Visual art students participate each year in the Studio Tour Opening. Band and choral students perform at civic events. The recent NHS spring musical attracted some of our largest audiences—almost 1400 for three performances of Seussical. Dance concerts regularly attract audiences of 1000. Last year’s Motors for Music Car Show had 500 visitors and this year, the organizers (the NHS Band Boosters) are expecting between 600 and 1000 visitors to Pittsboro on April 28. This organization invests $60,000 in the school music program each year.
With this year’s awards, NHSAEF will have presented $25,000 in scholarships to students for achievements in the arts since it’s founding in 2007.5 And a community business donation made possible the organization’s largest teacher grant to date, replacing 30-year-old lighting instruments in the Benjamin J. Lee Auditorium.
Your public support for the arts and arts education is a powerful incentive for the investments of parents, community members, civic organizations, and local business. We strive to be good stewards of that support, to provide the highest caliber of educational opportunities for our students, and in turn provide results you can point to with pride in your efforts to promote Chatham County.