Arts fest marches on in increasingly restrictive climate

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

MANY FARMS, Ariz., March 13, 2014

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(Times photo – Cindy Yurth)

Students who participated in the Many Farms Fine Arts Festival last week paint a poster.

These are not good times for the arts.

When the schools tighten their belts, it's not math and English that are gasping for breath. It's band and orchestra and art — the so-called "frills" (although every art and music teacher in the country will tell you that they aren't, really, and whip out the statistics to prove it).

Here on the reservation, many once fine school music programs have quietly been allowed to die after the teacher leaves or retires, and while most schools still have art, the budgets have been slashed to the point that field trips consist of a PowerPoint tour of the Louvre.

In the face of this increasingly discouraging atmosphere, however, two U.S. Bureau of Indian Education schools have renewed their commitment to the arts. Many Farms and Fort Wingate high schools are in the process of becoming fine arts academies, meaning they will tailor their arts programs into more of a college-preparatory track, having the kids record all their festivals, awards and projects for a portfolio and requiring them to keep up a certain GPA.

And Many Farms once again hosted its Fine Arts Festival last week, as it has for the last three years, for the smallest number of participating schools it has seen.

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