The Pryor Times

State News

February 1, 2013

Bill seeks to shut down arts money

“All of the arts; music, painting, drawing, choir, band, theater, are a vital part in the development of children. Watch children when they play. What do they do? They invent things, this is the creative part of their brains at work,” said Dr. Mary Mackie, Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Rogers State University.

“They interact with each other as they play out their drama. They draw their best dreams as well as their deepest fears. Art helps them speak when words cannot. Music draws them out and touches emotions that words and painting cannot. All are of vital importance.”

Mackie is speaking in response to the proposed House Bill 1895 that will reduce funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council.

“There have been many studies, and there are many statistics out there that show the importance of the arts to our developing children, as well as to the continued development of our young adults,” said Mackie.

Mackie directs people to the National Association of Music parents as they can direct anyone interested to the studies. Included in these studies is information that students who participate in band are more likely to attend college, and once there receive higher grades.

A Huffington Post article has Quincy Jones speaking about the value of the arts to children.

“It has been proven time and time again in countless studies that students who actively participate in arts education are twice as likely to read for pleasure, have strengthened problem-solving and critical thinking skills, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance, and four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem. Can you imagine what that does for the self esteem of a child? The confidence it instills in them to overcome any obstacle that they are presented with?”

“Children with access to the arts learn skills that children faced only with rote in the classroom never learn. And our children deserve the best education we can give them, on which they develop all parts of their brains, and make responsible adults with critical thinking abilities,” said Mackie. “It distresses me to even think of a future where our children do not have this opportunity to learn all sorts of creative arts, music, theater, choir. We need more access to this, not less.”

House Bill 1895 has educators, and Oklahomans for the Arts, in an uproar.

The Bill, authored by Rep. Josh Cockroft, intends to reduce the amount of money appropriated to the Oklahoma Arts Council each fiscal year by 25 percent every year until 2017.

The concluding paragraph of the bill states that it will go into effect July 1 of this year. It continues: “It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.”

According to their website, Oklahomans for the Arts is prepared to advocate against HB 1895.

“We will aggressively advocate for the nearly $4 million that more than 400 Oklahoma arts and cultural organizations receive every year via grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council,” Jennifer McCollum, executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts said. “In the days and weeks to come we will advance the largest grassroots campaign for public funding for the arts in the Oklahoma Arts Council’s nearly 50-year history,”

While Cockroft was contacted, he was unavailable to speak on the subject.

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