Federal and state officials joined today with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to announce a new grant program designed to help schools transport students to arts and cultural events as an essential part of their basic education.
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, State Representative Peter Kilmartin, State Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist and Providence Mayor David Cicilline joined today with members of the state’s arts and education communities to announce this new program from the State Arts Council. Initially funded with $20,000 in federal grant support the State Arts Council annually receives from the National Endowment for the Arts, the new “Big Yellow School Bus” grant program (http://www.arts.ri.gov/bus) will provide grants of up to $400 per school to help pay for school buses and coverage for classroom teachers so that students can attend arts and cultural events throughout Rhode Island. The program is based on similar initiatives in Iowa and Massachusetts.
In explaining the program, State Arts Council Executive Director Randall Rosenbaum said, “The arts have been designated by our state’s Board of Regents as a core subject area in Rhode Island schools, the same designation as math and science. While math and science can best be learned in the classroom or laboratory, the arts are best experienced in museums and in the concert hall. These grants will help financially-challenged schools provide these high quality art experiences to their students.”
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is a strong supporter of the arts, and serves as a Congressional appointee on the National Council on the Arts, the governing board of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Rhode Island’s thriving artistic community has long been a source of great pride for our state,” said Whitehouse. “Ensuring that our children have access to these cultural riches will help create a well-rounded educational experience for local students and inspire their own creativity, which is a wise investment in our state’s future.”
Education leaders praised the objectives of this new grant program. “Our mission as educators is to prepare all students for success in college, careers, and life, and arts education is an essential part of that mission,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We want all of our students to experience, understand, appreciate, and participate in the arts. This new program will allow thousands of students to experience first-hand the many exciting art and cultural opportunities that we are so blessed with here in Rhode Island.”
State and local officials also applauded today’s announcement:
Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts: “Arts and culture are an extremely important element of a well-rounded education, and we all know that nothing beats exploring the arts through first hand experience, said Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts. I applaud the State Council on the Arts for creating a new grant program that will allow more Rhode Island students the opportunity to be enlightened by the arts.”
State Representative Peter Kilmartin: ““Exposing the students of our state to the arts will hopefully ignite a personal flame to explore their own individual talents. By seeing these arts and cultural events, our youth will be provided with concrete examples of opportunities that exist in their own future. This could lead to the potential development of their own small businesses and other career paths that exist in the field of arts and culture.”
And Francisco Noya, Resident Conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, said “I am delighted with this program to provide much needed access to the Arts for our school children. I am convinced that it is vital that our young generations experience the great masterpieces of our culture in the best possible venues. Learning outside the classroom and experiencing the beauty of music and theatre and the fine arts will bring their minds to a higher level of understanding.”
Under the terms of this new program, schools can apply for up to $400 per trip, with each school eligible to receive support for one trip per year in order to ensure that as many schools as possible can participate in this program. Applications will be funded until the money runs out, but it is the State Arts Council’s intention to evaluate this program and continue to support it – contingent on availability of sufficient funds -- into the foreseeable future.
The State Arts Council is committed to ensuring that each supported trip has educational value. Field trips to attend arts and cultural events must be closely connected to curriculum and Grade Span Expectations (GSE’s) in the arts. Applicants will be required to describe how a supported trip will meet educational standards and curriculum. Funds will go to support buses as well as coverage for classroom teachers, so that educators can accompany students on these educational field trips. All Rhode Island K-12 tax-exempt public or private schools with 501c(3) educational status, or a tax-exempt parent-teacher organizations (PTO) associated with a school are eligible to apply.
The State Arts Council feels it is important that our elected officials hear from schools in their district about the educational value of field trips to attend arts and cultural events. Each applicant to this program will be asked to inform their local senator and representative about their application for support, and outline in their email or letter to the elected official the educational value they expect to receive from this field trip experience. Applicants will have access to a webpage (http://www.arts.ri.gov/bus) with links to a simple application form and an easy way for educators to inform their school district’s state senators and representatives. In addition, applicants will be able to see how much money remains in the program budget, as well as descriptions of other school’s trips to arts and cultural events.
Questions about this program can be directed to the State Arts Council at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 401-222-3883.
About the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information on RISCA and its programs, please visit www.arts.ri.gov.