The Art of Persuasion | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

The Art of Persuasion

A paintbrush and paint tube meet to make an A, ballet slippers arch into an R, a bow crosses a violin to form a T, and a strip of film curls into an S. Molding the bold letters with talent and imagination, an eighth-grade student embodies in her poster the motto "Arts = Success."

The image will soon grace buses and billboards around the county as part of the Broward Cultural Affairs campaign to advocate arts education. Why put county funds (and private donations) toward promoting a component of the public school system? A defense mechanism cloaked as an offensive maneuver, the "Arts = Success" initiative is motivated by the fear that drastic cuts in arts education could be only a recession away from a comeback.

"We're trying to wipe out that notion people have that [the arts are] a frill. It's just the opposite," says Steven Glassman, arts-education specialist for Broward Cultural Affairs. He argues that arts instruction improves children's ability and enthusiasm to learn, raising their SAT scores by up to 59 points in verbal and 44 in math, according to reports by the College Entrance Examination Board.

Recognizing that children are their own best promoters, the council enlisted the county's students to make the case for arts education. The visual statements made by about 75 elementary, middle, and high school students -- all on display at the Young at Art Children's Museum in Davie -- are colorful, personal, and persuasive. Bonnie Clas, whose spell-by-medium approach won Best of Show in the "Arts = Success" Student Poster Contest, already knows the power of the arts. "It motivates me in the morning because I know I have an arts project to look forward to," says Clas, age 13. "Sometimes I get frustrated in my other classes, so I express my emotion through art."

Ellen McMillan, Clas' fine arts teacher in the arts magnet program at Parkway Middle School in Fort Lauderdale, reassures her pupils that thinking outside the lines can help them in other subjects, and in the work force. "I tell them we're these kinds of thinkers," she says, pointing this way and that, "but we get there."

For a testimonial McMillan's pupils need look no further than a bumper sticker she has taped to a classroom window: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Its author? The most iconic intellectual, Albert Einstein.

-- Margery Gordon

The "Arts = Success" Student Poster Contest exhibit opens Tuesday, March 16, with a reception at 7 p.m. at the Young at Art Children's Museum, 11584 W. State Rd. 84, Davie. The entries will be on display at the museum through May 2. For more information call 954-357-7532.