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More than 70 classrooms benefit from art supply grants

Grants total $80,000

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published February 3, 2016

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FERNDALE — Thanks to a matching donation from the Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation, Michigan Youth Arts was able to provide Arts Equipment and Supplies grants to nearly double the number of classrooms in 2015 as it was able to provide in the program’s first year.

In collaboration with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Michigan Youth Arts offers up to $2,500 to any kindergarten through 12th-grade classroom in Michigan that has a focus on a fine or performing art. The grant program helped 43 classrooms in 2014.

This past year, the Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation upped its contribution from $10,000 to $40,000, matching the $40,000 from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, which allowed Michigan Youth Arts to offer grants to 73 classrooms.

“Mrs. DeVos was surprised and moved by how many applications we received and how we had $120,000 in requests for grants in 2014,” Michigan Youth Arts Executive Director Marianne Dorais said. “So many classrooms struggle to support arts programs, and we always need more money, so Mrs. DeVos took it upon herself to have the foundation write us a check to benefit the teachers.”

Michigan Youth Arts is located in Ferndale and supports and advocates for art education in schools across the state. The organization also puts on the annual Michigan Youth Arts Festival to highlight some of the best young artists in the state.

This year, the grants helped six schools in Oakland County, 10 schools in Macomb County and 11 schools in Wayne County. In total, grants were awarded to classrooms in nearly 30 counties across the state.

While the number of teachers who were able to receive grants nearly doubled, so did the amount of money requested. Dorais said the grant program received applications requesting a total of $312,000.

“It is really overwhelming and the need is so great, especially in urban schools,” she said. “We awarded $80,000 this year, but we are still turning away many deserving classrooms because we simply don’t have the funding for grants for everybody.”

As far as picking who receives the grants, Dorais said a volunteer panel of professionals involved with art management or education goes through each of the applications and makes recommendations to Michigan Youth Arts. The applications are scored based on the need and how many students would benefit.

In the first year, Dorais said, she and her staff were moved by a teacher who needed a set of steel drums fixed up, and this year they made sure to fund a variety of different and unique grant proposals.

“We had programs that had a kiln and needed materials or had materials and needed a kiln, and all it took was that missing part to make a program fully operational,” she said. “Every application results in a success story in some way, whether it is band costumes or dancers needing stretching equipment so they don’t keep getting injured.”

For the MCACA, Executive Director John Bracey said the organization’s partnership with Michigan Youth Arts allows programs that the MCACA has going on to be implemented — something they wouldn’t be able to do with a limited internal capacity.

Bracey said hearing from teachers, who often use money out of their own pockets for materials, about not having what they need or equipment not being fixed is an issue that needs to be resolved for the future of arts.

“If you want to continue to fully educate our kids and give them skills to be creative and critical thinkers and create innovators and inventors, you can’t ignore art education,” he said. “You don’t have a chance at fulfilling that to its fullest without arts. Instead, we will create generations of highly skilled production workers.”

As they look ahead to the next round of applications in the fall, Dorais said she hopes the grant program can continue to help more and more teachers involved with the arts.

“There is a lot of research that supports the theory that art helps the learning process, but my favorite reason for offering the arts is that it is simply good for your soul,” she said. “Society thrives on the mechanical and industrial processes, but art is something that can be incorporated into every aspect of your life and adds beauty and joy.”

For more information on Michigan Youth Arts and the Arts Equipment and Supplies grants, visit www.michiganyoutharts.org/grants.