When budget cuts happen within school districts, arts education programs are usually the first to go. This happens despite numerous studies that show arts education is beneficial for children. According to Americans for the Arts, students that are involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and twice as likely to graduate college. For students with a low socioeconomic status, participation in the arts can result in a dropout rate that is five times lower than their non-arts participating peers.
The frequent cuts to arts education affect students all across America. An upcoming screening of the film The Whole Gritty City will show just how prevalent these issues are, regardless of city or state. Hosted by Music Connects Students at the Wealthy Theatre on February 24, The Whole Gritty City screening also doubles as a fundraiser for the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation (GRSAF), an independent nonprofit organization that serves as the strategic fundraising partner of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS).
The Whole Gritty City focuses on three New Orleans school marching bands and the struggles they face in a city that is incredibly musical, but also dangerous. The connection between the New Orleans students in the film and GRPS students is simple to make. All youth face adversity, albeit in different ways, and music is often the key that transcends adversity and instead, creates possibility.
“There are differences, but the underlying idea that music education can be a key that unlocks something for children and keeps them actively engaged is true, no matter where you live,” said Michele Suchovsky, GRSAF executive director.
The film touches on the importance of arts education, but also highlights the perseverance of the students and their teachers in a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
“The film is extremely eye opening,” Suchovsky said. “It makes you remember that other people’s lives don’t consist of the normal routine we live in. There are a lot of people out there that live in the same country – even in the same community – that have very different lives, realities and struggles.”
Kent County commissioner Stan Ponstein is one of the organizers behind the movie showing. For the past year, Ponstein has been working with fellow Kent County commissioner Candace Chivis to host events like The Whole Gritty City viewing in order to bring awareness to the music programs at GRPS and raise money for organizations like GRSAF.
“The goal is to raise money for GRSAF, but if we can put some awareness on an issue and start the conversation in the community, that would be incredible,” Ponstein said. “There’s not a lot of talk about correcting the cuts to GRPS music system.”
The Whole Gritty City will be screened at Wealthy Theatre on February 24 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 and doors open at 6:15 p.m. Ticket proceeds will benefit the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation.