Because ART is SmART

Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation

Nothing moves us like art. Amy Sherald, Frida Kahlo, and Yayori Kusama inspire us to renew our commitment to art as an essential part of education. With a renewed focus on social and emotional health, educators are seeing an academic shift where the arts are again welcomed in the classroom – empowering students to embrace their creativity and inner-Picassos.

Studies have shown that students who have the arts included in their core curriculum also see fundamental improvements in both literacy and math. Arts education has also been linked to not only higher GPAs and SAT scores but also lower suspension and dropout rates. What’s more, young people who study the arts consistently demonstrate higher levels of empathy, social tolerance and civic engagement. Qualities that may be needed now more than ever. Face it – the last few years have been TOUGH. Between a global pandemic, rapid inflation, civil unrest, and a general sense of chaos and disruption, today’s youth are overwhelmed and under attack. It is no coincidence that students at the lowest-performing schools in the country don’t have access to the arts. As the shift to digital learning widens the educational equity gap, the arts can give the most disadvantaged students a fighting chance to succeed.


Making the arts an academic priority helps young people to not only express and channel difficult emotions, but also to find their spirit’s true song. Painting and ceramics, music and dance, photography and film—these aren’t merely hobbies; they are some of humankind’s most liberating pathways to creativity and catharsis. Anyone who’s stood before an ancient sculpture and felt wonder or listened to a piece of classical music and felt peace or gazed at a Renaissance painting and experienced the sublime truly grasps the power of art to transmit emotion across the ages. And arts like architecture and design teach us to imagine and create a future all of us can share.

Therefore, BCPEF is proud to support artistic vibrance through a partnership with Key Waller, co-owner of EDGE Billboards. Over the last five years, EDGE Billboards have been showcasing student art from all twenty-six Cleveland City and Bradley County Schools. This collaboration not only creates a digital platform for presenting student work but also gives these young artists an opportunity for recognition and pride for their artistic pursuits. After all, our future doesn’t just include young people, it depends on them. It won’t be long before they step out of their childhoods and into our increasingly troubled world. If we want them to have the creative powers necessary to solve the problems we’re leaving behind, then now more than ever, students need the arts.