In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution designating Sept. 12 to 18 as Arts in Education Week. It is awaiting action in the Senate.
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), states: "Arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students."
Michele Ziemann-DeVos, Georgia Ballet executive director and school director, said she hopes Arts in Education Week raises awareness of the importance of an arts education.
In Cobb, there are several arts organizations that deliver extensive education outreach work in the community, as well as quality arts education in classrooms on a regular basis, said Ziemann-DeVos. They include: The Georgia Ballet, Cobb Symphony Orchestra, Theatre in the Square, TellTale Theatre and Children's Bilingual Theatre, she said.
"We find that the arts teach a specific set of thinking skills that really isn't addressed in the regular school curriculum," said Ziemann-DeVos, who's also the secretary of the United Arts of Cobb, a coalition of 18 nonprofit arts organizations in Cobb.
"The skills I'm talking about are things like learning to engage and persist; how to commit and follow through; how to learn from mistakes and press ahead; how to learn to envision; it also increases the quality of empathy in students; and also to think creatively and use their imagination."
A national trend in budget cuts to fine arts, music, dance and other programs has long been lamented by arts education advocates, who argue that such cuts compromise students' overall learning.
A survey of business executives indicated that 85 percent have difficulty recruiting individuals who possess creative ability, according to "Ready to Innovate," a study conducted by the Conference Board, Americans for the Arts, and the American Association of School Administrators.
Many of the arts organizations in Cobb have education programs designed to enhance students' introduction to the arts and stimulate interest.
Every fall, Theatre in the Square performs a children's theater production geared toward elementary audiences. The Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre exposes children to dance by partnering with the Marietta After-School Program and the Arts Academy at Hickory Hills Elementary in Marietta. Curtain Call Youth Players has programs that teach students theater skills and production techniques. The Georgia Ballet sponsors several learning programs. And the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art offers annual summer camps.
"Artists have always known that the arts open up both sides of the brain," said John Schmedes, founding director of TellTale Theatre, which performs for students, offers summer camps, and trains teachers how to use theater in the classroom.
"But there also now are an increasing amount of studies that show that schools that have arts has a full-partner in curriculum of every socioeconomic level - whether they're elite private schools or inner-city, poverty schools - the children have better test scores, attendance and graduate rates."
The United Arts of Cobb was formed in 2002 to create and administer a permanent endowment fund to provide additional financial resources to its members. It seeks to build a $10 million endowment whose interest is distributed annually among members.
Most arts organizations' funding comes from earned income, such as ticket sales, fundraising events and sponsorships. They also rely on private contributions and government funding. But the sluggish economy has taken its toll on fundraising, said Ziemann-DeVos.
"It has been an extremely difficult two years," she said.
"With the state funding being reduced so drastically, I think a lot of what arts organizations have had to do - both with the economy and Georgia Council for the Arts funding being reduced - a lot of us really have had to cut expenses, lay-off employees and reduce the amount of art and programming we're able to give to the community."
Jennie Collier Johnston, a Hillgrove High School art teacher, said students can't afford to miss out on the arts. She cited an article titled "The Creativity Crisis" in a July edition of Newsweek magazine that reported research for the first time showing American creativity is declining.
"Where the arts are all about problem solving and different solutions to different problems, and as we drift away from the arts, we also drift away from those types of things that even Einstein said were so important," said Johnston, Cobb County School District's High School Art Specialist of the Year for 2009- 2010.
"If you can't think creatively you're not going to be able to invent things and come up with new theories. If they're not seen as hand in hand, we start having the links in the chain break for our total education."