Lizzie Chen /NPR
By Elizabeth Blair, NPR
Over the years, there have been a lot of claims about the benefits of the arts on the mind: Listening to Mozart makes you smarter; playing an instrument makes you better at math. One program — funded in part by the federal government — is putting these theories to the test. The Turnaround Arts Initiative, spearheaded by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is using an intensive arts curriculum to try and improve eight low-performing schools.
They’re located in Denver; New Orleans; Des Moines, Iowa; and on a reservation in Montana, among other places, and they all serve students from poor families. Some were considered to be the lowest-performing schools in their states.
“They were schools where kids seemed defeated and resigned,” says the committee’s executive director, Rachel Goslins. “There wasn’t a lot of motion or purpose or energy in the halls. They were schools that had failed for a long time.”
Third-grader Jionni Anderson remembers what it was like. She’s a student at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C., one of the schools selected for the program.
“In first and second grade we had white walls,” Anderson says. “And it didn’t look right in our school. So that’s when our art teacher, Miss Hayes, and the art club, they painted different colors on the walls.”
Bold colors — greens, oranges and reds. Initially, the school had an art teacher but it didn’t have money for supplies or an art club. That all changed when Savoy became part of the Turnaround Arts Initiative. Continue reading