Turning Around Schools Through Art Education

By on 19 Jan 2018

In an event hosted by the Pace Gallery in Chelsea, New York on Monday December 17, a group of 7th and 8th graders from Roosevelt School in Connecticut had the unique privilege of meeting the renowned artist Chuck Close in person. Close offered these students a private tour of his show, providing insight into his creative genius. This event was held as part of the new federally sponsored public-and-private experiment Turnaround Arts. This program aims to transform academic achievement and student motivation in some of the nation’s lowest performing schools, such as the Roosevelt School, through comprehensive and integrated art education. Turnaround Arts provides funding for supplies, teacher training, partnerships with cultural organizations, and mentors such as Chuck Close. This program will test the hypothesis that art education can be an effective tool for school reform.

Chuck Close is a strong proponent of the power of the arts in education. He was born with prosopagnosia, a condition that prevents him from identifying faces. The only way that he could remember faces was to break them down into small parts, such as the tiny shapes of color that comprise his paintings and prints. Mr. Close had a difficult time in school, in part due to his neurological disability, and would seek refuge in art. New York Times writer Patricia Cohen quotes Close, who states, “I figured out what I had left and I tried to make it work for me. Limitations are important.” With this inspirational message, he let these Roosevelt School students know that they can use their disadvantages to their advantage.

Mark (1978 - 1979), Chuck Close. Acrylic on canvas.
Mark (1978 – 1979), Chuck Close. Acrylic on canvas.

Monday’s event focused on the visual arts but also incorporated elements of dance and music when members of the Silk Road Ensemble entered from different doors playing varied instruments. Turnaround Arts integrates all elements of the arts from music to the visual arts to theater.  While the results of this federal project have yet to be seen, Monday’s event appeared as a success. Chipper students left Pace Gallery with smiles on their faces, ready to explore their creative potential.

Here at Masterworks Fine Art, we strongly believe in the transformative power of art education.  We offer school visits and gallery tours for small groups through our education and outreach program.  Please feel free to check out our Education Page.

Information derived from the New York Times.


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