Grant Middle School Arts Festival Part of a Plan

Arts in Mind pilot project in four City schools:

"We call them the 21st Century Stars," Marilyn Barletta said proudly.

She is the teacher in charge of Grant Middle School's after-school program, which runs Mondays through Thursdays for 14 weeks each semester and employs teaching artists who work with in students drumming, video, dance, ceramics, visual arts, cooking, poetry and fabric and fiber design. Barletta said between 40 and 50 students finish the entire semester. Last Thursday she stood outside the library at Grant, the looming brick school that sits at an angle where Kirkpatrick Street spills into Grant Boulevard on the city's north side, during the year-end Festival of the Arts, followed by burgers and mac'n'cheese in the cafeteria for all.

Grant has run an after-school program for some years now, but this year it's been bolstered by support from the Partnership for Arts Education (PAE), which is piloting a project called Arts in Mind (AIM) in four city schools. On the north side that means Grant and Franklin, the arts magnet elementary school whose students go on to Grant. On the south side it's McKinley-Brighton Elementary and Danforth Middle School. AIM, based on the Big Thought model used in Dallas, hopes to foster greater collaboration between nine local arts organizations, schools and a range of funders, to support teaching artists in working with students, to integrate arts into the curriculum and to promote teachers' professional development.

"It's been a problem of equity in arts opportunities," said PAE's Georgia Popoff, a poet also associated with the participating Downtown Writers Center. "Our average per capita expenditure on the arts in public schools is 66 cents per child -- but it might be 80 cents in one school and 4o cents in another. In the past a teacher would have to write from one to maybe five grants to get a teaching artist to do one project. AIM makes such projects available for the whole school."

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