Volunteers keeping Lakeville arts alive

/ 6 April 2012 / jennifer

Herón Márquez Estrada, Star Tribune, April 6, 2012 –

When Lakeville schools lost art teachers, the gap was filled in part by parents – at least one of whom has big-time connections.

When the Lakeville school district was looking to cut more than $6 million last year, among the targets were staffers who provided art, music and physical education.

More than 22 positions were cut, including the art instructors at elementary schools in the 10,800-student district.

“They had to take [the money] from somewhere,” said Laura Boche, a parent at Lakeview Elementary, which lost its art instructor. “But art and music really are what took the hit.”

Teachers at Lakeview and other schools were left to fill in the gap, but usually on a limited basis given the increasing focus on testing and preparing for mandatory performance exams for the students.

“They’re so busy with the academics that they couldn’t really fit it in there,” said Boche, who is also president of Lakeview’s Parent Teacher Organization. “And even if they had the money, I’m not sure this is the first thing the district would bring back.”

Instead, Boche and a group of parents and teachers have taken it upon themselves to volunteer their time to provide arts education for the 600-plus students at Lakeview.

Since November, teachers have voluntarily used their prep time to do art with the kids. Parents have come in to talk about art or provide instruction if they have some expertise in painting, pottery, illustration or textiles.

“We’re really missing our art experts,” said Steve English, a third-grade teacher at Lakeview. “So we’re having to get creative.”

On Target

Last week a parent who works at Target Corp. brought in 35 designers from the company to put on an art fair for the students.

“It’s nice to have that expertise,” English said as he watched his kids create while working with the Target designers.

The company has more than 500 designers for everything from home furnishings to clothing at its Twin Cities operations. The company also encourages its employees to volunteer in the community.

“We’re always looking for volunteer activities,” said Dominique Mueller, who heads the design department and also has two students, Audrey and Sophie, enrolled at Lakeview.

Mueller said when she found out about the arts cuts at the school she began to get involved in filling the gap.

It did not take much effort to convince her designers to volunteer their time for the art fair, given that many of them got their inspiration to become artists from elementary school teachers or at art fairs such as the one they put on for the Lakeview students.

“I did stuff like this when I was a kid,” said Jeremy Carling, a textile and graphics designer who works on the Cherokee boys clothing line. “We all had teachers who really inspired us. It’s nice to see the [kids] create and get involved.”

Carling is the one who puts the stripes or patterns or artwork on the T-shirts and other clothing sold by Target. He said he was pleasantly surprised to find many of the kids wearing his designs at the art fair.

“Art isn’t just about painting; it is so much more,” Carling said. “Art is all round us. Someone had to design what they are wearing. We’re just trying to inspire them.”

District officials said that parents at other schools have come forward to fill the gap, but perhaps not to the extent as the parents at Lakeview

“Our parents are stepping forward,” said Linda Swanson, a spokeswoman for the Lakeville school district. “They’re volunteering or spending PTO funds for arts programs. I would say that every school has stepped forward to fill that void.”

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281

http://www.startribune.com/local/south/146178605.html