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Art Road

Art Road Nonprofit provides art classes in Detroit Public Schools where there were none. And these aren’t just any art classes. Art Road’s instructors are Cranbrook Academy of Art graduates who bring high-quality teaching and techniques to Detroit elementary school students – enriching their school experience tremendously.  
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?          
Stephen Hofgartner, Operations Manager / Volunteer Coordinator for Art Road: In our view, we are all three. We are innovative because we give our artists/instructors the ability to design their own projects. All we ask is that they be creative and challenge our students. We are effective because principals are telling us attendance is up on art days.
We are remarkable because we are the only local nonprofit that brings art back into the classroom and into the curriculum for the entire school year (September to June) where it wouldn�t exist otherwise.
We are remarkable because we are the only local nonprofit that brings art back into the classroom and into the curriculum for the entire school year (September to June) where it wouldn’t exist otherwise.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
The best lesson learned this year was that we are providing a great program, based on feedback from visitors from Cranbrook, and that it is making a difference to the schools’ staff and students, based feedback from both.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
The hardest lesson learned is that no matter how great your program is, and how many people agree it’s important and necessary, you still have to continually fundraise to keep it going. The constant fundraising is the hardest part of what we do.
What really differentiates this program?
The overall length of the program and the freedom we give our artist/instructor really differentiates our program. We have not found anyone else that goes from September to June and in the actual school served. We re-integrate art instruction back into a normal school program. This allows students to get to know us, and we them over the course of the school year; and with multiple years at one of our schools, we have seen students for five years now and can know their names and see how they progress artistically. We also give our artist/instructor creative freedom to create art projects that students might not normally see, and we vary them so that they don’t do the same project twice.  That’s lots of new creative projects over a full school year.
What are the keys to success for your program?
The keys to success are: find a school with a principal and staff that are willing to get on board with the art program. The two schools we are at, Edison Elementary School and Charles Wright Academy of Art & Science, love us and consider us as part of the staff. They will work with us on any issue, and we have a great relationship from the top down.
Next, our instructors are practicing artists first, teachers second; that way our students are learning from actual artists that are passionate about art and have the ability to teach.
Then we have a board that is passionate about bringing art back to schools that don’t have it, and they all believe that art can bring positive change to our students; because it brought positive change to them.
Finally, we believe in creativity from our board, to our instructors, to the students. 
We try new things, repeat what works, and have created a program that we proved works from school to school and achieves great results.
We try new things, repeat what works, and have created a program that we proved works from school to school and achieves great results.
When kids are falling so behind in math and reading, why shouldn’t art instruction be considered a luxury or an enrichment program?
Constant studies are coming out showing how art instruction affects students’ ability to learn. More and more studies are showing that students with art instruction are doing better in other subjects. Some, because they begin to have a greater interest in school (with art as a subject, you still have to go to school for the others), and other disciplines incorporate many specific things that also occur in art. Mixing paint, for an example, demonstrates mathematical proportions and volume: one part of a color, added to three parts of another color create a whole new color and you have to measure and mix leading to math. In drawing you have to proportion foreground, background and middle. All that is math; it’s just a fun way to do it.  
Other studies have shown benefits with art instruction having increased test scores, increased problem solving (due to creative thinking), decreased behavioral issues, and resulted in many other positive impacts.
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