The primary goal of the teacher study was to capture the current state of visual arts education from the perspective of those most directly engaged in it on a daily basis. The feedback we received offers a revealing picture of how our art teachers, and, by extension, our children, experience arts education in the classroom: the resources they rely on; the challenges they face; and their vision of what arts education is, and, most importantly, could be, in Western New York.
Classroom time devoted to the arts in public schools has been slipping for more than three decades due to tighter budgets, demands placed on K–12 curricula by rigorous state mandates, and an all-too-common sentiment that the arts are nice but not essential. These cuts continue as mounting empirical evidence demonstrates the importance of arts education and the valuable role it serves.
The Education Discovery Project sought to begin to address the gaps in the educational experiences of our region’s schoolchildren. In an effort to best understand the needs in our schools, a research team of sociologists from the University at Buffalo, in collaboration with the staff of the AK Innovation Lab, conducted an in-depth survey of elementary and secondary school visual art teachers and school administrators in the eight counties of Western New York.