• Brian Curry

Fine Arts and our Schools

If you look at me, there is probably nothing about me that would indicate that I'm an elite athlete. I like to note that my golf game is such that I pay to play instead of getting paid to play! That goes for most of us, I suspect.

In talking to some of our parents, I have discovered a huge gap in our educational opportunities when it comes to our fine arts programs. They have been neglected for quite some time. That's not the case at all of the schools. I can speak for my experience at Dogwood and Forest Hill Elementary with our outstanding music teacher, but the experience is inconsistent across the district. Only through a recent generous donation from one of our residents did we see some much-needed facility improvements at HHS. If some of this money wasn't specified by the donor to go to fine arts, would any of it been spent on fine arts?

Did you know? Our city wholly-owns the building that houses the Germantown Performing Arts Centre (GPAC). The ordinance below is from the Germantown Municipal Code. You can see how the hotel tax dollars collected by Germantown are distributed:

Did you know? GPAC charges our GMSD fine arts programs rent to the tune of about $500/night just to use the facility. They also charge setup fees and fees for audio and visual. This can cost our fine arts programs a couple thousand dollars, just to put on a performance. Is this the best we can do as a city? The money for renting the facility is then put back into the GPAC 501 (c)(3). How can we say that this is a good partnership? Students and parents have to do a lot of fundraising, just to be able to use a city facility (one that is very nice, BTW). How about we let the funds raised from mattress sales and discount cards go back into their programs and not charge rent? Grants shouldn't be an option, as that is just more taxpayer money going to pay for the grant.

We've got to step up as a district and as a city and make fine arts a priority. We don't have to choose one or the other. We should be able to do it all. How many students do we lose to private schools or other options due to the state of our fine arts? Collierville is a Steinway School and is proud of it...and rightfully so. They will attract students on that alone.

At the end of the day, I want us to do what's right for our students. It starts with a School Board that makes this a priority. I'm not afraid to speak up and do the right thing. Most in the city probably have no idea of any of this. That's unfortunate, as I think most would agree that we can and should do much better when it comes to our fine arts. I hope you feel the same way. Make sure you vet your Alderman candidates on this issue. I've given you the ordinance in this post. Are they okay with all of this?

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