By Senator Doug Overbey, Op Ed, The Tennessean, January 25, 2014
On March 5, 2014, Tennesseans for The Arts and Tennessee Arts Commission will officially launch a new Arts license plate, the first in over 10 years. With its vibrant colors and look reminiscent to the traditional printing style of the letter-press, it will definitely stand out on the highway. But more importantly, it will allow Tennesseans to show their support for the arts while also investing in their communities and schools.
So why is this important to Arts Education? Every time a Tennessean makes that personal choice to purchase certain Specialty License Plates, a percentage of the plate’s cost goes to fund the arts through grant programs distributed by the Tennessee Arts Commission. As you probably know, the Arts Commission offers substantial arts education funding that positively affect the education of thousands of our children. For example, since 2011, the ArtCommission’s Student Ticket Subsidy (STS) program has given more than 300,000 students the chance to experience the arts by visiting a museum, seeing a play or attending a concert. National and state research has shown that children who receive quality arts education do better overall in school. Students gain cognitive, social and emotional skills when they participate in a curriculum rich in the arts.
The new Arts plate will help the Arts Commission continue to fund important grant programs like STS and others such as Arts Education Artist-in-Residence grants.This school year, 13 Middle Tennessee public schools received the Artist-in-Residence grant including Smyrna West Alternative School whose student body is economically disadvantaged. Many of the students’ academic challenges can be traced back to the issues they face at home. Working with Southern Word poet mentors who offer spoken word, poetry and creative writing sessions, Smyrna West students discover their talents and express themselves in a structured environment. The activity cumulates as a poetry slam resulting in an expression of the students’ deepest emotions that nurtures respect for themselves and others. This program offers the students an opportunity to shape their story of how to overcome obstacles in order to be successful in school and life.
Another great example is the Nashville Children’s Theatre’s Arts After-School Program. Funded through the Arts Commission’s At-Risk Youth grant program in partnership with the mayor’s Nashville After Zone Alliance program, the program provides drama classes for at-risk youth in Nashville public schools. Presented by professional teaching artists, students experience theater arts that emphasize process and exploration while guiding them to create a performance piece to share with others. The program helps students build confidence and social skills. The content is also aligned with theatre education standards and students are assessed on such content. The students, seeing their semester’s work presented on stage through voice, thoughts, ideas and opinions, receive a sense of accomplishment, validation and self-worth.
I hope you will consider choosing the new Arts plate for your vehicle, available at your County Clerk’s office. You can purchase a Speciality License Plate anytime—not just when your tags expire, and your purchase really can make a difference. Together, we can help more children get arts education—one plate at a time.