Last Monday, November 23rd, Kate and I presented our program proposal for a Social Justice Challenge hosted by Rutgers University- Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA). Unfortunately, we were not selected as the recipients for the $5,000 prize for the national tract, instead we were selected as the 1st runner-up.
What is Art Works?
Art works was a brainchild formed by us when we were thinking of Social Justice issues affecting youth of low socio-economic status and minority groups. Being from New Jersey and looking to create a local project we selected to use Newark as our area of study and future site for our projects’ pilot area. After several meetings and discarding other ideas we kept coming back to education, particularly public education in inner-cities. It is well known that since the economic crisis of 2008 there have been many local, state, and federal budget cuts on most if not all programs. Some of these being public education and social services.
Public Education in Newark
On a national level, staff members, teachers, and schools have been challenged to raise student scores ,standardized testing and completing subject curriculum within 180 days, focus on student development, correcting assignments, to name a few. All while having larger class sizes, dealing with teacher assessments, lack of contracts, and a reduction in funds.
Over the past 5 years Newark Public Schools have been losing funding and have had to make adjustments to their programs, often resulting in the reduction of staff, arts, and extracurricular programs. Quality and complete education is a right and not a privilege that must focus on academic development as well as social and cultural growth. The lack of holistic education has created a ripple effect that is negatively impacting communities in Newark. Without quality education and the increasing budget cuts there has been an inverse correlation between education and crime (CD-Index 618.3 vs. USA CD- Index 294.7 ) ,dropout ( ACS 2013 6.2% vs. USA 4.5%) and graduation rates (67.7% US. Department of Education).
Studies conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts have shown that youth engaged in high arts regardless of socioeconomic status have higher levels of political engagement, efficacy, and community involvement. These studies show that stronger integration and investment in the arts have a strong correlation to community/civic engagement, high school graduation, college enrollment and achievement.
Find the whole report with additional information here.
Art works is certainly not the solution for the education reform that needs to occur in Newark, instead it aims to be a low-cost/ high-impact supplement to integrate the arts into education and empower, educate, inform, inspire the under-served population within our society. We hope that we can partner with other like-minded individuals, organizations, and institutions. While we were not able to attain the $5,000 to initially start Art Works we remain hopeful and are looking for other ways to accomplish our goal. We are currently planning to submit an updated proposal to Rutgers University-New Brunswick & Newark and Newark’s Board of Education that will go into more depth of community participation, impact analysis, and overall need for projects such as Art Works.
Below find our current Abstract and proposal (12/1/2015):
You can also watch a recording of our presentation by following this link. The presentation starts at min 22:40 and ends at 38:00. Any comments, questions, or general participation interest can be sent to me via comment or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org