“Art saved my life. Without it I would’ve dropped out of school,” Joanne Casella, Yonkers Federation of Teachers, told News Channel 10 at a Monday night rally at the state capitol in Albany. “A lot of art and a lot of music has been cut. It’s been proven when you do well in art and music, you do well in other subjects, too.”
Casella decided to major in art in college, and then become an art teacher. She first taught in New York City, but budget cuts eliminated her job. Her next teaching post was in Peekskill, where the same thing happened. When money gets tight, well, go hide the paint.
Now she’s in Yonkers, where she’s been teaching since 1995, and she’s the only pre-k-8 grade art teacher left for 1,000 students.
“They only get art or music, not both,” she said.
Why are art and music always pushed to the front of the line when it’s time for budget cuts? Both are universal languages. Both are enriching — for life, not just for school. They are forums for expression and contain within them opportunities for lifelong interests and passions.
Yonkers used to have 100 art teachers for 27,000 students, and now it has 34, she said.
Art, she said, “is what got me through school. Art was a way to express myself.”
Casella’s been to all three NYSUT Committee of 100 lobby days this year to let lawmakers know the results of their actions in cutting funding for public education again and again and again.
“You have to make yourself heard,” she said.
Or, since a picture’s worth 1,000 words, maybe she could send them a mural.