When Allison Rojas looks at a painting by Alice Neel, the high-school junior sees more than a seated woman in a purple sari.
“She uses very bold lines as you can see,” says Rojas. “Very fleshy paintings.”
Rojas has an eye that’s been trained in fine-arts classes at Miami’s Design and Architecture Senior High. DASH is an arts magnet — consistently ranked among the country’s top public schools — and every year, Rojas and her classmates take a field trip with the school to Art Basel, where she gets to see works like Neel’s "Woman."
It’s a unique opportunity for these students — especially as so many of their peers don’t get this kind of exposure.
Research published by the Center for Fine Arts Education shows that the more arts courses Florida students enroll in, the more likely they are to take the SAT and score well on standardized tests. And conversely, students who appear to be struggling academically generally take fewer arts courses than their peers.
“We really want to have a report — like a school report card,” says Dr. Kathleen Sanz, president and CEO of the Center for Fine Arts Education.
Sanz is supporting state legislation that would require schools to report arts access the same way they report information like graduation rates and demographics.
“I think it will help heighten the importance of the fine arts in the schools,” says Sanz.
Arts educators aren’t the only ones who are troubled by the downward trend in arts enrollment.
“Not everybody is academically inclined — because, you know, there are people who can lead a full life without having to touch a paintbrush,” says DASH senior Aaron Alonso, but he worries that other students may not get the chance to discover a passion in the arts.
“It’s all about keeping [the arts] so that sort of thing doesn’t happen,” says Alonso.