To see or not to see

A teacher speaks on the importance of visual arts

"Art has always been my primary motivator."

Those are the words of art educator Joanna Cardenas, who, with the collaboration of friends, students and other teachers, is implementing a program called "San Luis for the Arts in Academics" (SLAA) to create awareness for the lack of art in the local education system.

As part of the program, Cadenas has created a venue for her students to display their art, to be known as "Mi Canvas Arts Festival," taking place this year on November 14-15 at the Cesar Chaves Cultural Center in San Luis, Ariz.

Cardenas, a senior at the University of Arizona, has taught her own art classes in Tucson, and she expects to earn her Bachelor's degree next May in Art Education with an emphasis in K-12 teaching. Lately she has been working on her own independent research in her hometown of San Luis, gathering information on how visual arts are integrated into the curriculum in the Gadsden Elementary School District (GESD 32).

After working in the District, Cardenas learned that curriculum in the visual arts had been totally removed from local K-8 education. The only classes left that fall under the arts category are the music classes.

Being a low-income community, San Luis doesn't have much money to devote to the arts, so most schools have been affected. This is a problem because, according to Cardenas, art is "a very important step in evolving a younger generation's creativity." She believes art teaches students critical thinking skills and innovation and gives them the ability to be competitive in the global economy.

With SLAA, art classes will be offered after school, one school at a time. Cardenas will mix the curriculum of these art classes with that of the core academic subjects so that students will be enriching their knowledge in the academic benchmarks.

With the help of the community, Cardenas will be able to fully fund her project and supply her art classes with the tools necessary to teach. She also will be able to fund a $1,000 scholarship through state grants, given to an exceptional student to inspire him or her to keep on working.

The scholarship award will be the conclusion of the "Mi Canvas" festival, which she plans on hosting for years to come. She hopes that it will be a vehicle for students and the community to recognize and celebrate local talent and creativity that can no longer be fully expressed in school.

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