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How can arts programs thrive at a time when budgets and bottom-lines are tight? The Fine Arts Department at Marygrove College is doing everything it can to breathe artistic life into a distressed city like Detroit. “Collaboration is really the key to getting things done effectively,” says Mary Lou Greene, Institute of Arts Infused Education Director and Assistant Professor, Fine Arts. “Everyone has a voice--from the Dean of Fine Arts, to the chair, faculty, students and the community we serve-- everyone brings their ideas to the table.” It’s teamwork at its best, championing the cause for arts and activism.

An excellent example of their efforts happened during the Michigan Arts Education Association Annual Conference in November. The Fine Arts Department hosted 50 arts educators from around the state to get acquainted with Marygrove. “Since the conference was in our neighborhood this year, we thought it would be important to showcase what we have to offer here,” Greene said. “It was a rare opportunity to bring arts teachers inside our doors to see what we do—and how well we do it.”  The event was a success.

Guests from all levels of pedagogy, K-12 and up, were treated to a day of dynamic sessions by Marygrove faculty, including a hands-on, multi-media presentation on creative change/creative solutions by Chris Seguin, Dean of Education; a workshop on contemporary photography without the darkroom by Nicole Parker, Assistant Professor of Art; an easy application of printmaking for the classroom by Tim Gralewski, Assistant Professor of Art; and an overview of arts-infused education as social justice by Greene herself. The sessions also allowed them to show off their beautiful art galleries featuring the Marygrove Faculty Art Show and be welcomed to campus by the Chair of the Department, Jim Lutomski, and Dean of Fine Arts, Rose DeSloover.

“We hope that the take-away from this one-day workshop was that teachers can make a difference with art virtually anywhere,” Greene says. “We have been making great strides, energizing students and giving instructors the tools and training they need for arts-focused activities.”

Greene stresses that “we aren’t just preaching arts-infused education—we’re living it.” The difference here is community outreach. It can mean anything from making an art project the bright spot in a child’s school day, to offering fresh ideas for teachers looking to inject something new into their coursework. Art matters.

Recently, the Institute partnered with Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, offering up Marygrove instructor, Tim Gralewski, to teach a 14-week video production class. Enthusiasm is high for this course, as students learn new skills in a field with growing popularity.

In addition, a massive mural project based on the work of esteemed Detroit sculptor and painter Charles McGee is underway, uniting several community groups, Detroit schools and civic organizations. “This is an ongoing project, organized by Dean DeSloover,” Greene said, “which you will see a lot more of in the coming months.”

 And, don’t forget the Institute for Arts Infused Education, led by Greene, that partners with area arts organizations to impact learning at high-needs schools in the city. Their continuous work with teachers and students has been part of a six-year research study that shows that the program is responsible for a high degree of impact on academic success.

The Fine Arts Department also serves to expose the arts to prospective students, and even existing ones, who may want to rethink how arts can enhance their academic careers. Greene adds, “We keep saying to students—you can make art your minor, if you aren’t willing to commit to an art major.”

A Marygrove minor in art, fine art or art history is roughly 20 hours of coursework, and complements many fields of study, such as humanities, language and history. “An art minor will give you the well-rounded education that future employers are looking for,” Greene says.

Studies show it.

When the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities looked at best practices around the country in 1999, their research showed that young people who study the arts have heightened academic standing, a stronger capacity for self-assessment and the ability to plan and work for a positive future. This applies to all students, regardless of socioeconomics.

The National Governor’s Center conducted a wide-spread study of the arts in education in 2002, examining multiple case studies. They found overwhelmingly that diverse arts education programs in and outside of school have proven to be valuable for states seeking to develop advanced workforce skills.(NGA issue brief 2002).

“Corporations are looking for workers who want to work collaboratively, as part of a team,” Greene says. “…Industry is looking for creative thinkers…that’s the kind of student Marygrove turns out; our students are design-thinkers.”

She also cites the New York Times best-selling book A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, as a good way to put it all in perspective. The book asserts that “the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind.” It is predicted that so called ‘right-brain’ qualities such as inventiveness and empathy are going to give ‘left-brain’ dominance a run for its money. Fortunately, Marygrove’s Institute for Arts Infused Education is already in the race.