Due to the recent budget crisis, school funds have been cut immensely. Though most students do not feel a huge impact of the decrease in funds in their academic classes, art students, especially those in higher levels, are directly affected.
Last year, the average amount of money allocated to each student taking an art class was $9.50. This year, that amount has gone down to $8 per student, cutting the budget even further.
“I feel like over the years I’ve seen the materials in quality go down,” senior Alisa Glenn said. “For art spectrum kids they should have the same privileges as we did as art spectrum students. “The gap between the amount of money allocated for the art department and the amount needed for students to make the most out of the classes has been increasing.”
AP Studio Art teacher Kate McKenzie has been relying largely on grants, individual donations and the Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA), a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that supports students in the Palo Alto community, to fill the gap. This year, $1392 is allocated to 169 students in art spectrum, $392 for 49 students in the combined painting and drawing classes, and $128 for nine students in AP Studio Art. That averages to be about $8.23 per art spectrum student, $8 per painting and drawing student, and $14.22 per AP Studio Art student, according to Vice Principal Jerry Berkson.
This lack of funding causes student to be conscious about what materials they are using and how to best preserve them so that they can last for the longest time possible. A tube of oil paint costs at least $8, and a good set of brushes would cost well over $30. Eight dollars per student would barely account for a tube of oil paint or an adequate-sized canvas.
“The lack of funding is extremely frustrating,” Junior Jonathan Friduss said. “And it’s not even about being frugal about the supplies I use. There is no access to these supplies so that I can be frugal.”
For example, Friduss borrowed woodcut supplies to create a woodcut to fundraise for the arts department through Project 868, a student-run organization aimed to raise money for the arts department.
He hoped to make woodblock prints for the cards that 868 sells but could not include the amount of intricacy in it as he would like to, since he had to use cheaper supplies.
“The tools are as close to nonfunctional as they can be,” Friduss said. “ As a result, I had to make the simplest, most graphic woodcut ever.”
On average, an AP student would use at least $50 worth of materials per year. Many materials students use that are not covered by the base amount allocated to them are art supplies such as canvases, paints and brushes that have been accumulated from previous years, according to McKenzie.
Many people do not hold the importance of art at the same level as that of other academic subjects such as math and sciences. However, the arts are indeed an academic courses and are essential to fostering student creativity.
Oil paints, canvases and other expensive supplies are especially essential to higher level art classes.They are much more costly than more basic materials that the beginning art classes use due to the more refined and specialized nature.
Artists in the higher classes in particular understand the effect of the budget crisis on the arts, and make every effort to conserve the classroom materials.
“Since the funding is so low I always feel bad using the art department’s supplies if I have paint of my own,” Glenn said.
However, there have been improvements in other areas in terms of the dissemination of department funding. Money in previous years was allotted to each department based on the number of students, but consumables are now being taken into account this year.
The PTSA, grants from organizations such as Partners in Education (PiE) and generous individual student donations play a huge role in keeping the arts department going and have helped immensely in keeping the richness of the arts.
Students and teachers should not have to worry about the art program; rather, having the administration provide funding for the arts department would enable the students to foster their creativity to the fullest without worrying about getting donations to further their study of the arts and continue to do what they love.