Art is big in Bristol. Yet, similar to most school districts across the country, the Bristol Board of Education is not mandated by the State of Connecticut to offer courses in the visual arts or the performing arts. So, the question is WHY? In a time of tight budgets, why does the school administration continue to support a program that it is not legally required to offer? Why is 4% ($2.3 million) of Bristol’s education going to the Arts? Why?
"Music and art are essential in the development of the human mind." Continuing, Dr. Clouet, BCHS principal, also feels that being totally educated helps you "enjoy life more and gives you a better understanding of your surroundings." If these thoughts sound familiar, it is probably because you heard them echoed in history class – the Renaissance. The Renaissance started in Italy during the 14th century and spread to the rest of Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. The word "renaissance" means "rebirth," and that’s just what the Renaissance was, a rebirth of European society. In a time of church-dominated life, European society was reborn as more and more people became interested in music and in the visual arts. They believed it was important to expand their horizons beyond religion and to broaden their education. They turned to the Arts. Interestingly, the Greeks and Romans, two of the first great civilizations, also believed that the Arts held importance. They realized that the Arts contributed as much to a person as did science, math, and athletics. Superintendent of Bristol Schools, Dr. Ann Clark believes that the Arts are an essential part of education because they give you a "unique opportunity to learn more about yourself." Further, she feels that through developing critical skills, like teamwork, communication, and creativity, students not only have an opportunity to learn more about themselves but to learn about others as well.
The Arts are a huge part of Bristol’s schools and they are still increasing in number. According to Mr. Battisto, an art teacher at BCHS, the number of art students in the past ten years has increased by about one-third. Plus, there has been an increased interest in the school’s art club, which promotes art by taking students on field trips and by working on art projects such as painting pumpkins for needy individuals. Bristol Central music teacher, Mr. Ravita echoes that sentiment, stating that there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of music students. There are now more than 200 students in choir, band, and other music groups, and they are active. During this school year alone, BCHS has produced at least seven major performances, including three theatrical productions, concert performances in the "Music in our Schools Month" during March, and a "Music Marathon," an entire day of non-stop musical performances. Also, the BCHS Performing Arts served as ambassadors from Bristol when they traveled abroad this year to perform in France and England. Talking about the Performing Arts, Mr. Ravita feels "the Arts tend to make a person generally more caring, more human." There it is – the Renaissance rediscovered. The Arts help to develop character, understanding, and expression. They help to make a better person, a better society. All things considered, there should be no question why Art is big in Bristol!
Battisto, Joseph (BCHS art teacher). Interview.
Clark, Ann, Dr. (Superintendent of Bristol Schools). Interview.
Clouet, Christopher, Dr. (Principal, Bristol Central High School). Interview.
Ravita, Michael (BCHS music teacher). Interview.