The arts, according to Ford Foundation president Darren Walker, “are integral to the very idea of human dignity.” In this context, it’s essential to nurture creativity in today’s youth–not as a luxury for some, but as a foundation for all. Turnaround: Arts, a passion project for First Lady Michelle Obama that brings arts education programs and supplies to a group of the lowest-performing elementary and middle schools in the country, now has a new partner in the Kennedy Center; the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities will help the performing arts center raise funding.
The first lady has credited early exposure to the arts with boosting her own accomplishments. Though she grew up in working class Chicago, her parents took her to the orchestra and enrolled her in piano lessons, and she believes the arts can motivate children.
Obama has attended arts programs at Savoy Elementary, a Turnaround school in Southeast Washington that had been struggling academically. In the year after arts instruction was substantially enhanced — and actress Kerry Washington, a regular visitor, took the school under her wing — test scores began to rise. Other Turnaround schools have reported increased student engagement, reduced disciplinary actions and improved morale, said Megan Beyer, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
“I’ve seen schools before and schools after, and it’s sort of the difference between a house and home. There’s art on the walls. You see parents coming in,” said Beyer, whose committee will continue to provide resources, such as donated instruments and art supplies.
This story was originally published on May 24th, 2016.