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Michigan Youth Arts brings back art supplies, transportation grants for K-12 classrooms

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published September 30, 2015

FERNDALE — With art programs in schools being some of the most underfunded programs in many districts, Michigan Youth Arts is looking to help those teachers and students by bringing back the Arts Equipment and Supplies Grant.

In collaboration with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Michigan Youth Arts is offering up to $2,500 to any kindergarten through 12th-grade classroom in the state of Michigan that has a focus on a fine or performing art, whether it be a traditional art class or a music program.

In total, the grant will award about $40,000 in its second year after awarding the same amount last year.

“Art seems to be one of those expendable items in school budgets, and I’m not sure why that is,” Michigan Youth Arts Executive Director Marianne Dorais said. “More and more teachers are paying for their supplies out of their own pockets, and some spend $500-$600 a year on their own supplies. We really want to help and keep art living in the classroom.”

Michigan Youth Arts, located in Ferndale, works to support and advocate for art education in K-12 schools across the state, along with putting on the Michigan Youth Arts Festival each year to highlight some of the best young artists in the state.

Dorais said that as far as Michigan Youth Arts and the MCACA know, this is the only grant program of its kind that supports art supplies and equipment.

While many teachers who apply are looking for help paying for supplies for their artistic discipline, Dorais said one of her favorite stories from the first year was a teacher who needed a piece of equipment fixed.

“A school had a collection of steel drums, a very unusual instrument, and one was missing pieces and out of tune,” she said. “So with the funding they got, they flew in an expert who works on steel drums and then had a concert in the spring with the steel drum band.”

MCACA Executive Director John Bracey said that if art programs have a lack of funding, it could hurt a student’s experience and lead to the student not receiving a well-rounded education.

“The Arts Equipment and Supplies Grant helps address the problem of underfunded arts education programs within our schools,” he said. “We believe without proper supplies, equipment or equipment in good repair, students are not getting the opportunity to experience a complete education that includes the arts.”

Along with the Arts Equipment and Supplies Grant, Michigan Youth Arts and MCACA are also teaming up to bring back the Arts & Culture Trek Grant, which offers up to $500 to cover travel expenses for an art class to take a field trip to more than 200 approved cultural institutions.

The grant has supported more than 62,000 students in attending field trips over the past four years, and this year there will be a total of $60,000 available for K-12 art classes. Approved destinations include the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Henry Ford Museum.

Dorais said the program is open for other ideas, such as when it provided funding for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in the Upper Peninsula last year and a sculpture garden in Traverse City.

“The in-person experience can’t be duplicated when standing in the DIA or watching a concert at the Orchestra Hall,” Dorais said. “We want the kids to experience this stuff firsthand and maybe trigger a love for arts or music and become lifelong patrons of the arts.”

As part of the program, an educator also must write a letter to a legislator, a requirement that will help continue to raise awareness for the importance of art education, Bracey said.

“What’s amazing about this program is that it also has an impact on the state level,” he said. “The grant requires teachers to write letters to their legislators that describe the positive experiences that their students had. This advocacy aspect of the grant is the driving factor that will help shift the school budgeting landscape to one that is more inclusive of the arts.”

For more information on the two grants and how to apply, visit