Silicon Valley is known the world over for technology and innovation, for startups and IPOs, for a reliance on skilled labor that emphasizes programming language and mathematical algorithms. In that environment is there still a place for the study and practice of art in our schools? For some Latinas like Carolina Chavez, a senior at a local San Jose high school, the decision about what to study is still uncertain though her desire to attend college is clear. What there appears no doubt about though is her passion for art as evident in her being selected at the young age of 17 as the featured artist on the cover of the posters promoting the 5th Annual Luna Park Chalk Art Festival in San Jose. She participated as a student at the Chalk Art Festival two years ago and came back last year after receiving positive reviews of her work. The event organizers in their planning for this year’s event identified her as a promising young talent and unanimously decided to showcase her art piece, titled Blondie Zombie, in all their 2012 promotional materials. The selection seemed fitting considering that proceeds from the festival benefit the Luna Park Arts Foundation, created to promote the arts in our schools and communities through grants and scholarships. Carolina is still getting used to her newfound fame. Friends have seen her art being promoted and have given her a lot of positive responses. At the 2011 festival a man recognized her as the artist of the previous year and of the flyers. She thought that was pretty cool. While art may be her passion she also keeps her left side of the brain active by taking advanced algebra courses in school. She is a motivated student and earned her way to a trip to Australia based on her fundraising and academics- though admits she’s still struggling with math and physics. But returning to the question posed above- is there still a place for the study and practice of art in our schools? Research on the topic has shown that the study and practice of arts improves academic achievement- enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking. Students in arts programs develop higher order thinking skills, including analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and problem solving- skills that can translate into the field of science or computer programming. For Carolina, like any high school teen set to graduate next year, her mind wonders how she will pay for college or where she will attend. But in the meantime she explores her love of art, looks for ways to get her hands on more art supplies and like any true artist she is eager to learn how to become better at it. The 5th Annual Luna Park Chalk Art Festival takes place Saturday, September 22, 2012 from 10am to 5pm at Backesto Park, North 13th Street and Jackson Street in the Luna Park Business District of San Jose, CA. http://www.lunaparkchalkart.org/
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