Mesquite’s art program adapts during closures, for new school year

During the July Mesquite ISD Board of Trustee meeting Steve Andre, director of fine arts, presented the board with an effectiveness report on the district’s art programs.

According to Andre’s presentation, the art and theater programs in MISD provide a creative outlet for those students interested in the visual and performing arts. Arts education is one of the cornerstones of a well-rounded and quality education. The arts give children a unique means of expression, capturing their passions and emotions, and allowing them to explore new ideas, subject matter and cultures, the presentation stated.

“The arts bring us joy, it brings our kids joy whether that’s in person or online, and we try to do the best that we can with all that,” he said.

Andre reported that elementary art starts in the third grade and there were 2,124 students enrolled in middle school art.

“Starting next year, we’re going to be offering art every other week in second grade,” he said.

In high school, there are 2,188 students enrolled art.

In theater, there are 1,080 middle school students enrolled and 1,060 high school students enrolled.

That’s 6,452 secondary students, which is about 30 percent of all MISD secondary students.

“If you add band, choir and orchestra to that then that takes that number to approximately 62 percent of all of our students in MISD,” Andre said.

Prior to school closures the district was able to have their fall production, high school musicals, middle school and high school one act plays, and the MISD Children’s Theatre.

They were also able to have the Vertical Team Art show at elementary, middle and high school; an art show at the Mesquite Arts Center; the Futuremakers at Eastfield for AP students; the elementary fine arts festival; a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Arts and most of the elementary students were able to visit the Nasher Sculpture Center. They also participated in regional VASE and had some students qualify for state VASE, which did not take place.

Andre reported MISD students received 148 medals at regional VASE, and there were going to be 12 students advancing to state VASE.

“In the virtual learning we had our visual arts department put together Art at Home art show. Kids were able to put together art and submit them and upload them to the teachers. The teachers (then) picked their best and uploaded them … and we put that on our Facebook pages,” he said.

He noted that the students were able to take their art concept and put them together using what they have at home.

According to the presentation, the top 10 skills children learn from the arts are creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance and focus; non-verbal communication, receiving constructive feedback, dedication and accountability.

“These are things that any chance I get to be in front of anybody (and) talk about the arts and what the arts do and the benefits of our students being involved in the fine arts. The expression (and) the self-confidence that grows from all that,” Andre said. 

“One of the big things that we’ve talked about in the shutdown is social emotional learning,” he added. “Social emotional learning is huge, and the arts can really enhance that.”

He stated that because football has been pushed back so has marching contests and doesn’t anticipate contests to happen until around December.

“We have protocols in place regarding safety for our students,” he said. “In choir, for now, we’re going to sing in masks, reduce the size of the groups. For now we can put kids on risers at a safe distance; single file in, single file out; same thing in band. We’re looking at purchasing bell covers to reduce the spread; we’ve brought face shields for all the teachers; (and) it’ll be a lot of small group instructions to start with.”

Andre added that unless the COVID case numbers go down and the district feels like they can safely perform, there probably won’t be musicals this year. Plays are still a possibility with social distancing and masks.

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