For arts education in 2018, the State of California allocated $44 million. That’s just $7.30 per year for each of its 6 million students.
What’s more, that sum is a significant increase over previous state budgets, which all but abandoned arts education in 2002, when No Child Left Behind forced reduction of instructional time for the arts by 22 percent.
The dearth doesn’t sit well with the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation, the nonprofit which has contributed $1.2 million to local arts education since its inception.
Contrary to the popular disparagement that study of the arts is a frou-frou indulgence, Kristen Madsen, director of Creative Sonoma and the keynote speaker at Sonoma Plein Air’s 2016 gala, cites NEA studies, UCLA research, and the California Alliance for Arts Education to prove that it’s not.
According to the data Madsen presented, students who take four years of arts and music classes in high school score an average of 90 points more on their SATs than students who took half a year of arts study or less. Students who study creativity and the arts have higher test scores in every subject across the board. Schools with arts programs have significantly higher attendance and graduation rates than schools without. And at-risk students who have access to multiple arts education experiences have higher GPAs and graduate from both high school and college at far higher rates than peers who didn’t.
So rather than being a silly waste of time, say Foundation officials, the disciplined study of fine art, music, performance, design and creative writing are fundamental to the development of intellect, and more likely to put kids from all backgrounds on a college-bound track.
But the 35 award-winning painters who’ve come to Sonoma in search of the ideal location to paint fast outdoors know that already. It’s why they’ll spend the week beautifying canvases at a furious rate, in vineyards and parks and on cliffs at the ocean. They’ll paint publicly for onlookers at the Tuesday farmers market, eavesdropping on the commentary of passers-by. They’ll display the best of their efforts for sale at Bump Cellars, and more at the plein air gala on Friday evening, and then donate 40 percent of their haul to the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation, because these artists know well the transformational power of art and that, when creativity is valued as an academic pursuit, society reaps tangible dividends.
“We know for sure that art impacts academic performance. But we also know the effects range wider, too. We need to remember what art meant to us when we were kids, and what a relief it was to express ourselves in that way,” said Mandy Bolling, president of Sonoma Plein Air’s board of directors.
“We hear all the time about kids who only want to come to school on days when they have art,” added board member Jennifer Parr. “It’s the highlight of the day for some of these kids, a real way for them to engage.”
While the mission remains the same year after year, Sonoma Plein Air’s programming gets tweaked annually. This year, some of the protected private lands of the Sonoma Land Trust are available to the painters, who will work their mediums at Glen Oaks Ranch, Laufenberg Ranch, and Sears Point Ranch for the first time.
Paint by Numbers
Tuesday-Friday, Sept. 11-14
Studio Works Show, 12-6 p.m.
BUMP Wine Cellars, 521 Broadway
Select studio paintings on display and available for purchase.
Tuesday, Sept. 11
Quick Draw Event, 5 to 7 p.m.
Watch artists paint “on the clock” and acquire your favorite painting on the spot.
Friday, Sept. 14
Gala Auction and Dinner, 5:30 p.m. reception, 7:00 p.m. dinner
Buena Vista Winery
Silent auction followed by dinner under the stars.
Saturday, Sept. 15
Art Show, Art Demos, and Art-Making
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Live music, artists demonstration, and activities for the whole family.