Escondido schools get smART with collaborative approach to arts programs

Arts get smART at Escondido schools.

With school arts funding slashed to the bare bone, Escondido artists and the Escondido Union School District have teamed together to bring innovative solutions to the arts education dilemma.

Last year's smART art show at Grape Day Park.

Last year’s smART art show at Grape Day Park.

Not only is the concept smart, but its called smART as in smART Fridays leading up to next spring’s grand smART Festival at the California Center for the Arts.

“The smART collaborative, developed in the fall of 2013, consists of educators, administrators, and school board representatives from the Escondido Union School District (EUSD), along with education specialists at the California Center for the Arts, and community-based arts and education advocates,” Shannon Fralish, EUSD program manager said.

“The vision for the smART collaborative has been to create opportunities for Escondido’s youth to engage in and celebrate the arts,” Fralish added.

Although it has been nearly 30 years since the passage of Proposition 13 – which cut local tax revenues for public schools and virtually eliminated arts programs – schools are still struggling to find a place in their budgets for the arts, according to the California Alliance for Arts Education.

This decline of arts education due to pulling the plug on government funding has been felt across the state from the Escondido Unified School District to the state’s largest, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and beyond.

The state of California’s funding for arts in the schools stands at practically zero. Exemplifying the fallout, for example, the Los Angeles District cut one-third of its arts education staff over the last five years and eliminated arts offerings for half of its K-5 students.

Interest in arts integration is growing nationally, driven in part by increasing research that points to academic, social and personal benefits for students, said Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership, a network of more than 100 arts, education and cultural organizations, to the Washington Post.

Ruppert said studies show that employing the arts in academic classrooms is associated with improvement in test scores in math and English. In particular, students living in poverty benefit from the integrated approach, she said.

The arts also do so much more,” Ruppert said. “They engage kids in school, motivate them to learn, develop critical thinking, equip them to be creative.”

Up close and personal with school art.

Up close and personal with school art.

Getting smART with art

Alliance for the Arts, Escondido also has partnered in the smART program bringing arts education to the schools The effort revolves around creative dialogue and planning as professional artists interact with youth, arts leaders say.

“Visits range from one time to weekly,” Fralish said. “Additional art lessons are also provided to students during smART Fridays by teachers and volunteer docents. The smART Fridays and Festival Program takes a new approach to providing instruction that supports the five visual and performing arts strands: artistic perception; creative expression; historical and cultural context; aesthetic valuing; and connections, relations, and applications.”

The program-culminating smART Festival on April 9, 2016 promises to be a half-day event highlighting student work while recognizing student accomplishments in the visual and performing arts across the district.

Thousands of kids, friends and families will descend on the California Center for the Arts campus to view student artwork, watch student performances, and/or participate in the festival’s hands-on activities. The festival will be held at the CCAE museum and on the Great Green performance space next to the museum.

For more information about the smART program, call (760) 432-2399 or email

More smART art on display inside the California Center for the Arts, Escondido

More smART art on display inside the California Center for the Arts, Escondido