Arts / Education / News

New program to expose Buffalo students to the arts

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Artist and Yahoo engineer Alex Fernandez demonstrates some of the immersive technology students will be exposed to in the Buffalo City Summer School of the Arts.

Clifton Robinson
thebuffaloreview@gmail.com

(Buffalo, N.Y.) – Buffalo Public Schools students will have the opportunity to learn more about the arts this summer.

The Buffalo City Summer School of the Arts is scheduled to begin July 5 and will educate 100 students in grades 7-12 in five different areas of the arts, including visual arts, musical theatre, dramatic writing, dance and multimedia arts.

“It is a rigorous program, so it’s not for everyone,” said Michele Agosto, supervisor of arts education for the Buffalo Public Schools. “It’s really meant for students who not only have an appreciation for art, but actually have worked hard and have some skill or talent in the arts.”

STEM classes – including science, technology, engineering and math – are often the main focus in schools these days, so the program may provide students with opportunities they may not otherwise have.

Although, Agosto told the Buffalo Review that Buffalo schools haven’t seen the drastic cuts in arts education that schools other cities have experienced. “It’s really incumbent on arts teachers and arts programs and the arts leaders to show the strength that the arts can give academically and socially,” said Agosto.

Last fall, a study conducted by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, concluded that 80 percent of public school teachers reported that their art departments had been shut down, while just 30 percent of private school teachers reported closures of their art departments.

“Unfortunately, many of the students in schools are simply not exposed to arts as strenuously as other schools may be,” said Alex Fernandez, an artist who also works for Yahoo as an engineer.

“As a teaching artist and a former teacher in the (Buffalo) district, I truly believe that the arts and creativity are an element that needs to be infused in the curriculum,” said Fernandez. He said the term STEM should be replaced by STEAM, to include the “A” for arts.

Fernandez, who will teach in the summer arts program, told the Buffalo Review he has started a small company that works with immersive technologies, such as virtual reality.

Fernandez said his goal for students this summer will be to give them a head start on creating portfolios. “I think we’re going to work on creating content. Were going to work on exposing them to career paths and future career paths that don’t exist today,” he said.

“One of the things about cutting and bleeding edge technology, with its evolution being so rapid, it’s very important to not only understand what the jobs are today, but what will be available tomorrow.”

Fernandez said he thinks administrators are often quick to cut arts programs because it’s difficult to measure a student’s aptitude with creative work.

“The testing that is used to evaluate our children growing up is so focused and so rigid on metrics and metrics are very difficult to get in the arts because a lot of it is interpretation,” Fernandez said.

“They cannot put numbers to it, so they can’t statistically analyze and show value or return on their investment, which really disappoints me because when you look at science and you look at invention and you look at engineering; the ability to create something and come up with an invention really requires an artistic mindset, it requires a creative person.”

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