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‘All art is OK’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s a bustling room in Susan Dubois’ art class at Montezuma Elementary School.

Fifth-graders gather around a table as Dubois begins her lesson.

They listen and watch before going back to their own work stations.

Now, it’s the hands-on part.

Atop the desks are canvases for each kid. They tape down the soon-to-be-painted white surface to a piece of cardboard.

The kids are excited.

Paper cranes on the ceiling look over their shoulders as their paint brushes meet the canvas.

Dubois’ room would typically have been shared between art and music – one subject per year.

But it’ll stay an art class from now on as Albuquerque Public Schools has recently expanded its art and music programs, allowing for both subjects to be offered at the district’s elementary schools year-round.

Director of Fine Arts Gina Rasinski estimated APS will spend about $1 million in operational money annually to allow for the expansion.

That money will go to things like supplies and hiring additional teachers.

Christian Romero begins his painting with his art partner Angelina Abdon. Romero said art is something he looks forward to because he loves drawing. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Rasinski said the effects of art and music go beyond the fact that research shows they facilitate learning in other subjects or help with language development. Rather, she says as APS children grow up in a culturally diverse and art-centric state with a workforce that fosters jobs in the arts, their schooling should reflect that.

“It’s essential to who we are as human beings,” she says.

In its first phase, art and music currently are simultaneously offered at 20 elementaries, which were chosen through an application process that looked at factors such as whether the school had space accommodations.

Montezuma is part of the first wave of expansion.

After a five-year phase-in plan, APS is aiming to get art and music into each elementary school.

Rasinski said the expansion is a key part of teaching the “whole child,” an effort to fulfill socio-emotional needs and enrich students beyond the common core.

“For a lot of these students this – painting and drumming – is why they come to school,” she said.

Students at Montezuma Elementary practice their singing and drumming in class Monday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Montezuma principal Mark Woodard said it’s also good for learning continuity, affording teachers the ability to build upon lessons year to year.

One thing Christian Romero has learned this year in Dubois’ class is that “all art is OK.”

The 10-year-old told the Journal he looks forward to art class because she makes trying different types of art comfortable.

“Our art teacher is amazing,” he said.

Romero chose to paint his canvas purple – although his favorite color is orange – for his craft in the Monday morning class.

And while he said he enjoyed the activity, sketching is more his preference. He said he looks forward to continuing art class and is particularly excited to hone his drawing skills in the coming years.