Using the arts to teach, inform, and improve York communities

Cultural Alliance of York County teaching artist Amy “AK” Mullen instructs a 2nd grade class recently at York Academy Regional Charter School. Through stARTSomething Arts in Education, AK enables students to make connections to what they learn in the classroom, and she often sees “the light bulb flick on and shine with the understanding of content.” (Our York Media)

The stARTSomething Arts in Education program is, in many ways, not really about art at all.

It’s about expanding the scope of how subjects are taught and how students can learn. It’s about solving conventional problems with creative solutions. And it’s about using the arts to improve all areas of learning — from math and history to socialization and self-confidence.

Using the arts to create better students

stARTSomething is a program of the Cultural Alliance of York County and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, pairing artists with community organizations including schools, libraries, and senior centers to create artist-in-residence programs.

Each artist-in-residence program is unique and tailored to the needs of the students, says Justin Ayala, director of stARTSomething.

In the 15 years he’s been involved with the program, he’s seen it used in schools to successfully combat truancy, teach math and geography, and provide a richer understanding of world cultures.

“It’s not necessarily art for art’s sake,” Justin says, “but using art as a vehicle to teach core curriculum.”

stARTSomething residencies aren’t just in schools; they reach students at all ages and stages of life. For stARTSomething’s creative aging residencies, projects allow seniors to reconnect with the arts in a way many haven’t in decades. These projects provide an outlet for creative expression, increase socialization, and foster a sense of inclusion and pride, Justin says.

Artists with stARTSomething run the gamut from painters, sculptors, and poets to dancers and book-makers. And they’re all exceptional.

“The strength and richness of the programs really come down to the excellence of the artists,” Justin says.

Improving the community with art

The stARTSomething Arts in Education program is the third largest program of its kind in the state, working with children and adults in York, Adams, Fulton and Franklin Counties. In the past school year alone, it supported 42 residencies serving 7,200 students, teachers, and seniors.

Without the arts in education funding from Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and local corporations providing Educational Improvement Tax Credit dollars, none of that would be possible.

“Funding is essential to the existence of these programs,” Justin says.

The reach of stARTSomething extends beyond those who participate.

“I think when we live in communities that are innovative and creative,” Justin says, “you see neighborhoods improve, you see businesses improve, and you see communities as a whole improve.”

Story paid for by the Cultural Alliance of York County

 Call: 717-812-9255

 Address: 14 W. Market St., York, PA 17401

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