On May 2, six months after the government shutdown forced a stop to their art exhibit opening at the ED headquarters, a delegation of nearly 100 student artists, teachers, school administrators, and parents from the Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) in North Carolina arrived at ED to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of students in the visual arts, music, theatre, and dance.
In recognition of their excellent work, Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Ursula Wright opened the program by applauding the district’s improved academic outcomes and decreased dropout rate as a result of its focus on arts integration. “Your collective investment in arts education is a testament to your communities’ commitment to uplifting the entire child,” she said, “… to ensuring that the youth in the Iredell-Statesville school system will receive a well-rounded education that will help to develop their creativity, increase engagement, and enrich their academic curriculum.”
Brady Johnson, the I-SS superintendent, expressed his gratitude for the students’ talents and his optimism for the great impact that their generation will have on the nation in the future. One saying in particular influenced his decision to make arts integration a central aspect of his district’s curriculum: “Kids can make beautiful art, but art can make beautiful kids.”
Student musicians opened the show with a performance of the bluegrass piece Step It Up and Go. The group included musicians from four different schools, with the youngest, a fiddler, in the fourth grade and the eldest, a bass player, in the 11th grade. The musicians helped to transition into the theatre performance of selections from Tom Dooley, the long-lasting tragic love story of a man from Statesville. The program ended with a performance by the Iredell-Statesville Cloggers, who danced to Old Joe Clark.
With their performances and 40 pieces of visual art, the students in this district gave evidence of the positive influence having access to the arts in schools can have. Moreover, the district’s Visual & Performing Arts Center, with support from the North Carolina New Schools project, is an early college high school. Students there not only earn college credits from a local community college but can also graduate from high school with an associate degree. In addition to representing a bright future for the state of North Carolina, many of the students will also use their knowledge and skills to creatively impact the world.
A few of the students spoke about how being involved in the arts has enriched their school and life experiences.
The language of music
“I play the guitar, tuba, baritone, trombone, and tenor sax. Music has helped me to learn other languages because music comes from all around the world. It has helped me in Spanish and English classes. I hope to become a train engineer and play music with friends.” Dallas Brown, 11th grade, North Iredell High
The balance of dance
“Dance gives you a strong work ethic and balance. Dance has helped me to balance my other classes and is a stress reliever. Dance itself is a life lesson. I will attend community college and then pursue a school of the arts and audition for contemporary dance companies and shows. I would like to become a dance teacher and choreographer.” Mark Parker Jr., 12th grade, Visual and Performing Arts Center Early College
Problem solving by design
“Optical design is my art form. It has helped me to develop more creative problem-solving skills. I would like to study interior or exterior design in the future.” Benjamin Goldman, 9th grade, Statesville High School
Clogging through time
“I started clogging three years ago in beauty pageants. The arts have helped me to schedule and manage my time in school. I hope to go to college and continue dancing.” Logan Potts, 8th grade, West Iredell Middle School
Valuable members of society, with roots , creativity, and nerve
“We are given by I-SS tools that are required to be valuable members of a diverse and always changing society. I believe that we are very well equipped with our roots and the importance of creative uniqueness, talent, and nerve that are very rich in the students of I-SS.” Jeremiah Alsop, 12th grade, Visual & Performing Arts Center
Click here to see photos of the Iredell-Statesville Schools Art Exhibit Opening.
Chareese Ross is an information resource specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach.
Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood.