Santa Ana High School Orchestra students and their director Joseph Kaye

The arts matter. They are a critical component of a child’s development of 21st century learning. Not only do the arts address the needs of the whole child, they are extremely important in developing the skills students need to enter the creative workforce and succeed in the global market. Research has demonstrated that students who study the arts learn how to think critically and creatively, to persevere beyond failed attempts to reach goals, and to work collaboratively with their fellow students – important qualities for the next generation of leaders. Business and industry leaders recognize and understand the need to hire people with the ability to have imagination, creativity and to be innovative.

“A broad education in the arts gives children a better understanding of their world. We need students who are culturally literate as well as math and science literate,” said Paul Ostergard, Vice President of Citicorp.

The National Standards of Arts Education states, “the arts are inseparable from the very meaning of the term ‘education.’ We know from long experience that no one can claim to be truly educated who lacks basic knowledge and skills in the arts. Society depends on the arts to carry us to a fullness of humanity and are part of the healthy development of children’s minds and spirits”

Many leaders throughout the United States believe arts education is the equal rights issue of the 21st century. Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, “… unfortunately, the arts opportunity gap is widest for children in high-poverty schools. This is absolutely an equity issue and a civil rights issue–just as is access to AP courses and other educational opportunities.” And, more recently, John B. King, “The bottom line is clear: a rich range of course offerings isn’t a nicety, it’s a vital part of a thorough education and a crucial element of social justice.”

The arts are communication and creative realization. They are culture, history and connectors. They contribute to the overall well-being of individuals to provide joy, inspiration, peace, intellectual stimulation and other life-enhancing qualities and experiences. The arts are community engagement with citizens who seek artistic experiences.

In order to realize these critical philosophical foundations and lifelong goals, students need to become artistically literate. And, their education needs to begin at an early age to explore and develop through experiential learning where they become reflective, life-long learners who know how to receive critical feedback, engage collaboratively and problem-solve effectively.

First lady, Michelle Obama said that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation’s leaders for tomorrow. In order to prepare students to meet the demands of the marketplace and creative economy, students need more arts education beginning in elementary school so they can work at significantly advanced levels to be college and career ready.

Santa Ana parents want more arts education for their children in SAUSD. In response to LCAP outreach and community feedback, Santa Ana Unified School District is launching the first public school of the arts, SanArts.

Santa Ana High School
Santa Ana High School

Housed at Santa Ana High School, this conservatory model will offer students throughout Santa Ana and Orange County the chance to earn a VAPA diploma and certifications that allow them to be college and career ready with industry-related competencies in the arts.

Conservatory students will be able to study in 5 areas of intensive and multiple-discipline arts studies including dance, theatre, cinematic arts, vocal and instrumental music, and visual and digital media arts. This-school-within-a-school model allows students to work at conservatory levels in advanced arts studies while securing a strong academic foundation. They will have benefit of the amenities, athletics and activities of a large public high school while getting the individualized attention and support to pursue full artistic potential. Students who work at conservatory level in the high school will need to be developed in the district’s elementary and intermediate arts programs. Therefore, it’s essential that all students have equitable access to this unique opportunity. In addition, students from all over Orange County will be invited to audition.

Partnered by professional arts organizations and industry professionals, the conservatory will provide students with abundant opportunities to study and view professional artists through master classes, workshops, guest artist residencies, and field experience. They will have opportunities to work as apprentices and interns to gain industry-level expertise, and will be fully immersed in arts studies by their senior year, including working as interns and apprentices in arts-related industries. They will graduate with rich portfolios and bodies of work in preparation for students to be thriving contributors to the creative economy.

Students heavily involved in the arts for at least one full year are four times more likely to have been recognized for academic performances, are elected to class office three times as often, are four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, and are three times more likely to win an award for school attendance according to research.

Robyn MacNair
Robyn MacNair

Robyn MacNair is the Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for Santa Ana Unified School District’s new Art Conservatory being built at Santa Ana High School.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

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