Advocating for arts education in public schools across the United States is a tough fight. Cause leader MacEwen Patterson remembers the day he joined that fight through the Keep Arts in Public Schools cause on Causes.com. “I pestered the administrators who led the cause because I just couldn’t imagine a world without arts education… A lot of people join a cause because they are against something, but I wanted to be for something.” MacEwen, a screenwriter and DJ in Los Angeles, talked to us this week about his fondness and passion for preserving imagination in schools around the nation and his quest to educate parents and students on the power they have to keep arts in schools.
MacEwen understands the creative power students possess: he has a 13-year-old son whose interests are deeply embedded in creative expression. MacEwen’s son attends a school focused on keeping arts in the curriculum, which makes him really fortunate. “My son has been in music and performing arts since I can remember. He is really athletic and really artistic: to him the two categories easily connect.” MacEwen wants this scenario to be the norm, but knows all too well that preserving arts education is easier said than done.
MacEwen believes impact resides in the educating and empowering of parents and students so they can take matters into their own hands. ”What we want to do as a cause is prepare parents and local advocates to go and have that one-on-one time with decision makers and politicians. We also create tool kits and we also encourage people to set up a network in their community who have a similar point of view. Getting people in front of policy makers is important.” MacEwen updates the one million members of his Causes community through webinars, talking points for parents wanting to chat with policy makers, story sharing to learn from each other, and powerful multimedia videos illustrating the value of preserving arts in schools.
One success story MacEwen shared with me involved a cause member’s fight to save a two million dollar budget cut. “In San Diego, a community member was able to forge a very strong relationship with school board members there and turn them around. They were going to chop millions from the San Diego city budget and the [proposed cut] was turned down by one vote. The money was eventually saved.”
MacEwen’s cause has sponsored fundraisers for Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit that supports the arts and culture through private and public resource development. Yet, it’s the power of the individual community organizer that MacEwen believes will make all the difference. ”Different things have been effective: the most effective has been communicating with people where they take actions in their own communities. We haven’t been successful in fundraising, but we have been successful at having people get out into school board meetings, getting initiatives on the ballot — people have been self-directed. On the ground is where we’ll see change.”
Visit the Keep Arts in Public Schools page to learn more about the cause.