Funding for the arts has been dramatically decreased ever since the state cut a majority of its funding.
Art teacher Suzanne Puzinauskas, commonly known as “Mrs. P” explained how this will affect her and her classes. “For years, the art departments have relied on funding for grades six through twelve, through the city board,” she said. “Basically we rely on a fund, then we ask our students, each student in our individual art class, to donate twenty five dollars, and that is how we purchase our expendable supplies, because we are always going through our supplies. It’s not like buying a book [that] you can just read and close and reuse. We have to rely on that [donation].”
Puzinauskas explained why they could not directly ask for funding from students anymore.
“Well last year, the city board did some research, and they felt that by asking students for funding, we were contributing to discrimination because some students cannot come up with the funding,” she said. “At some point I believe that students had to pay all of their funds before they graduated, and some students could not come up with the funds. So basically they took classes, they could even take classes for four years if they wanted to, and at the end if they did not pay those funds which they [had] accumulated, it could end up being a lot of money, and if they couldn’t afford it, then they couldn’t graduate. So somebody at the board, made a unanimous vote and essentially said ‘Nope, we’re not going to ask for funding anymore.’ And so, someone like myself with a new department, that’s painful because I have very little money in my account, however I am allowed to ask for donations from my students and some have been very gracious and have donated funding. We as a high school department, need a big budget and so we are always looking for funding. We’re brainstorming all the time, and trying to recycle things. I try to come up with different options to get funding.”
She is relieved however, that they are trying to make up for this deficit.
“All said, I was in a meeting and I found out that the city board, the financial department, is coming up with some funding and they will be giving it to us,” she said. “It’s good news because they have great intentions to give us funding, and that’s very important. Out of this whole research and situation, Ed Levine, the head of finances at the Board of Education, did some research and compiled some data that the city board never had before, because up until this year they didn’t know how much people were spending in their departments, and he was shocked. We keep records of all of our money, all of our transactions, every invoice that we write, and any money that comes in and he was absolutely blown away when he found out how much money the visual arts department spends for the city. So all said, it is good news we have data now and we are getting funding, and we can ask for donations and do fundraisers. I spent over 5,000 dollars last year [on art supplies]. We do buy tax-free but the supplies are still outrageously expensive. For example, one little pint of acrylic paint, which if I’m doing a project, I can go through that in a week is like twenty five dollars. I owned an art business and I transferred all of my supplies, thousands of dollars worth of supplies that I personally brought here. Because when I came here, this classroom was empty.”
Art teacher Richard Nowell said that the funding cuts were made to make classes more accessible for all.
“They cut it out of the course of study, and they’ve made it to where there aren’t any fees for any student for any class,” he said. “So it wasn’t just picking on fine arts, it was just making it more accessible for all classes, like even AP and stuff like that, for kids to have it. And so in that, I’m in favor of free education, we just need sources to come from other places. According to Mr. Levine, he’s going to try to match with what the students would’ve been paying [fee-wise]. From this year forward, there shouldn’t be any class fees. In the past, we were charging twenty five dollars a person, and this year we’re asking for donations in any amount, but we’re asking for 10 or 15 dollars and hopefully if funding comes through from the central office, they’ll try to give us $22 per student.
He explained how his years of experience have prepared him for moments like these.
“If I was a brand new teacher coming in, starting up from nothing, I’d be a little scared [of the funding cut], but since I’ve been here for years, and have been building supplies, I’m okay… for about a year with donations coming in. I do use a lot of my personal money but I think most art teachers do. We waste a lot of stuff, so we try to recycle. In a moment’s notice we might think of something we don’t have, and it usually takes a week or more to go through the office to do a purchase order, so it’s just easier sometimes to run out to the store and buy it yourself.
He says on the bright side, the funding cut makes art more accessible to those who might not have been able to afford it.
“I think the whole block schedule makes it more accessible to have 4 electives each year instead of 3,” he said. “There’s the opportunity to have more art students, but that’s the same for other classes now that they’re not requiring AP tests. You can take the AP class and they’re not requiring you to pay for the AP test, so that will influence more people to take more AP classes too.”
Senior Maria Potts expressed her disappointment with the funding cuts.
“Cutting the art funding was not a great decision in my opinion. If you look closely at the art program in this school, you’ll see that we don’t have all the resources we need to do anything past grade level talent. Anything else that’s somewhat high-end comes out of the teacher’s pockets. It’s a good thing the art teachers care enough about their students to provide quality supplies for them, because if they didn’t, then we’d be using crayons and broken supplies to create things. It just goes to show how much this state — let alone the school system — cares about sports and athletics as opposed to the arts. Don’t get me wrong, I love sports, but the arts are just as important. The administrators need to start seeing that.”
Senior India Woods says the funding cut limits creativity.
“I think the art fund being cut shortens our variety of different art forms and doesn’t let us explore and expand our knowledge in art.”
Senior Sabrina Wright noticed changes from her freshman year art class to her senior year art class.
“The lack of funding to the art program at Northridge has limited something meant to be limitless. Having taken three years of art, the difference between my first class and my current one is evident. Suddenly, clay projects are a rare feat in a class dedicated to three-dimensional art. The students’ artistic abilities are being stifled by busy work due to the cut funds in classes whose purpose is supposedly ‘freedom of expression’. To my knowledge, funding has been cut in all areas of art – theater, band, not just the actual art classes, which has made it clear that the artistic programs here are majorly under-appreciated.”
Junior Walker Ferry says art is a good break from reality and thinks funding cuts could take away from teachers and students.
“Art is one of our choices for electives at Northridge and one or two classes are often required to graduate. They also give us a break from challenging core classes and student often find a talent they are passionate about in these classes. With the cutting of art funding and our teachers already not paid enough, the fact that our art teachers are expected to pay for supplies out of their own pockets is absolutely ridiculous. Until changes are made, I think the best way to raise money for the art department is through fundraising and class fees.”
Junior Emma Curtner-Smith says funding cuts limits what art students can do in class.
“Having the funds cut for the art program really limits what we are able to do in the class due to lack of supplies. It questions the importance of requiring a fine arts credit if the school board doesn’t believe it deserves the funding it needs. This also keeps students from being able to explore certain mediums and the field itself in the long run.”
Senior Meredith Vaughn says funding cuts would be especially hard on people trying to major in the arts in college.
“As I am planning to study within the arts department in college, cutting the arts program would be difficult on those who wish to pursue arts or wish to be a part of the arts department, primarily theatre, as it is a career that I hope to pursue as well as many other aspiring actors.”