2016-03-03 / Editorial

Arts grant to benefit classrooms

Beyond the Headlines
by Rep. Justin Chenette

Our area is rooted in a deep educational commitment to the arts. It’s one of our best assets. We have plays, musicals, dance recitals, choral and instrumental concerts, and more. For students, this means a wide array of opportunities to get cultured, learn new interests and discover hidden talents.

The science is clear, arts education is critical to the creative development of an individual. In fact, studies have shown that students who participate in some form of art do better in school across other academic subject matters.

Back when I was a student at Thornton Academy, I earned the Arts Department Award as a graduating senior. It meant a lot to me. I was a student who found his voice, his passion, his drive through the arts. If you asked me to draw something, it would look pretty bad, but the arts is a broad topic. For me it meant broadcast journalism and TV production. That is considered a visual art through storytelling. For others it may mean pottery making or another type of physical art form or a performance based art. So many variations, so many opportunities to gain new experiences, skills and discover yourself through expression. It allows you to see the world differently, to open up your spiritual energy into something beautiful.

One of the reasons I started my nonprofit organization, the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, was to help the next generation succeed. It’s a form of engagement that is critical to all of our futures. For the past year, I’ve been having discussions about how to best assist teachers and students when it comes to improving access, experiences and opportunities in the arts. Thus the Arts Action Fund was born.

The Arts Action Fund is a mini-grant created for the purpose of assisting creative, visual or performing arts teachers as major needs arise throughout the school year. Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, fine arts teachers in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach schools will be able to apply for grants that will support programs and supplies to enrich the education of our local children.

This could be used for anything from a broken musical instrument repair job to a new stage curtain and everything in between. The exact amount and frequency of the grant will be largely dependent on our fundraising efforts. Our upcoming Kidz Winter Jamboree will be a major way we achieve this. Rick Charette and Rob Duquette will perform at benefit concert at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at Thornton Academy. It is something you don’t want to miss if you have young children. All proceeds will benefit the fund we’ve created for the grant.

If you would like to purchase tickets to the concert or if you can’t make it, but would like to help support the cause anyway, you can log onto our website, www.SacoBayCenter.org for all the details. Together we can be sure our students in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach have amazing arts-based experiences before they head out into the world. Together we can make sure teachers have the resources in the classroom to make it happen. Hope to see you there.

Justin Chenette is serving his second term as state representative for Saco District 15. Outside the Legislature, he is owner of Chenette Media LLC, a multimedia public relations company, and is the president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Follow updates at www.justinchenette.com, Facebook.com/JustinChenette, and Twitter.com/ JustinChenette.

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