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Phelps/My Turn: Why I want to scream

If I were a political cartoonist, I would draw a representation of “The Scream,” by Edvard Munch with a thought balloon saying, “Oh no, another art program axed!” It would perfectly express the “angst” the committee eliminating the art program at Franklin County Technical School wanted to avoid if parents knew what was on the hidden agenda. Are you able to visualize what it might look like? If not, you may not have had an art or art history course to teach you the developmental skills necessary to see it in your mind’s eye.

The Tech School exists because we citizens and taxpayers of Franklin County recognize that many children need different options as well as the core requirements of the traditional high school, options that allow hands-on experience in mastering skills applicable to specific trades. The elimination of the art program, cuts off development of essential skills necessary for ALL of the trades being taught there, skills that make neural connections between the left and right sides of the brain, and allow for a more complete education, ones that includes creative thinking, visualizing the large as well as the small picture, problem solving, imagining the possibilities and producing a product.

Builders need to visualize the completed project as well as the minute details, and are required to present drawings to acquire permits. Renovators need to be able to problem-solve around unexpected obstacles. Landscape designers need to know color theory as well as design. We see this all the time on TV shows like “Property Brothers” or “Love It or Leave It.” Designers on “Project Runway” must quickly draw their creations on tablets, bakers on “Cake Boss” must create their client’s vision and chefs on “Top Chef” must present a visually appealing dish as well as create the perfect ambiance in a dining establishment.

The Tech School in its promotional booklet boasts a graduate accepted at Mass. College of Art, and answers frequently asked questions” about what art and music courses are available to prospective creative students. What will their answer be now? They are even eliminating the art room where a potential art club might find a space to work. Be prepared parents of students interested in music, you may be on the chopping block next year if transportation costs increase again.

Where do you, citizens of Franklin County, spend your disposable income? Do you go to a movie, attend a play or concert, buy new clothes or go out to eat? All these activities require art and design. Just look at the Arts and Entertainment section of The Recorder to see how much income is generated by the arts.

The state awards grants to River Culture and Fostering the Arts and Culture in Franklin County. Local Cultural Council grants help to support programs in each town. Greenfield Community College has a vibrant arts program, and Artspace offers workshops for children and adults for a fee. Art is a vital resource and income generator to Franklin County.

Creative thinking, invention and innovation are what differentiate American businesses from those of countries such as Japan and China, where thinking out of the box is discouraged, where the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. These countries focus on the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, and our county, fearful of their competitive excellence in those subjects, has been following suit.

There is an outcry from leaders such a John Maeda, former professor at MIT and former president of Rhode Island School of Design, who realize art needs to be added to make the acronym STEAM, where a new American Dream fueled by the passion to create, brings new creative leaders and jobs to American workers in the 21st century and beyond.

My hope is that “The Scream” now comes from the parents and the communities served by the Tech School, and the committee removes their hands from their ears and restores the art program.

Beverly Phelps, a Bernardston resident, is president of the Deerfield Valley Art Association, established in 1931 to foster the arts and artists of western Massachusetts.

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