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County Secures $250,000 for Arts in Public Schools

By Suzanne La Barre
Tuesday April 04, 2006

Thanks to a grant from a major national nonprofit, arts education in Alameda County is a quarter of a million dollars richer. 

The Alameda County Office of Education recently secured $250,000 through the Ford Foundation, an independent grant-making organization based in New York. Funding will support professional development for arts educators in Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville unified school districts. 

“It’s a great thing,” said Suzanne McCulloch, visual and performing arts coordinator for the Berkeley Unified School District. “The arts are often the first thing to get cut when funding’s tough, and funding’s been tough for a few years now. This really supports arts education.” 

The grant is part of the Ford Foundation’s nationwide effort to address the snowballing deterioration of art, music and performance in public schools, said Louise Music, Alameda County Coordinator of Arts Learning.  

Other communities to receive funding include Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Baltimore, Dallas, Jackson, Miss., and St. Louis.  

In Alameda County, the grant is the result of a year of planning conducted by a countywide network of school district and arts organization professionals called the Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership.  

Funding will supplement the Arts Is Learning Anchor School Initiative, an education reform effort taking place at 15 schools in three county school districts, including Berkeley’s Arts and Humanities Academy. The initiative aims to make arts learning available to all students.  

Berkeley School Board President Terry Doran, who headed up Berkeley High School’s art department for several years, said arts education is of great importance.  

“All the research I’ve read leads me to believe when students get an arts education, it helps them to be more open and accepting to other academic work,” he said. Art “helps to build ego and confidence as well as build an appreciation for visual beauty.”