Here’s something to celebrate about Fresno County: Local business leaders and educators are leading the way in terms of supporting arts education in our schools.
I got to know a lot more about the county’s innovative arts-business coalition and its SPARK! program when writing a freelance story that was posted yesterday on the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation website. The folks at Hewlett are so enamored of this program — which was originally conceived by Bob Bullwinkel at the Fresno County Office of Education and Darius Assemi of Granville Homes — that they awarded two sizable grants, totaling $280,000, to build the SPARK! program’s website and market it.
The foundation wants to get the word out to other California business leaders that arts education isn’t just a frivolous luxury. It cultivates an important advantage for the viability of a 21st century workforce in terms of problem-solving and analytical skills necessary to compete in a new global economy. One of the voices in the story is Jake Soberal from Fresno’s Bitwise Industries, who sat with me for a cup of coffee and a conversation on why he thinks the arts are so important.
From my story:
It’s about jobs. It’s about building a skilled workforce attractive to companies either starting up or looking to relocate to the area. It’s about preparing young people for employment in a rapidly changing technological world.
Soberal, who found his artistic passion in writing, is blunt. “This idea that art is philanthropy is completely bunk,” he said. “Virtually every career is amplified by some sort of arts training or experience. It’s much too narrow a view of the world to suggest that art doesn’t have a commercial outcome beyond, say, selling a painting. I think it’s a critical foundational skill to expand our workforce.”
I invite you to read the piece and share it as a celebration of the importance of the arts, with Fresno as a leading example. To get involved with SPARK! on your own, the program is always looking for more business and individual donors.
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