Pelham: A community celebrating the arts

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“This community would never allow that to happen,” said PHS Junior Roderick Hall. “The arts matter here.”

Engaged is an AP English Language argumentation exercise, Hall, a football player, insists that Pelham is devoted to the arts. In any other community he might be an unlikely champion for the arts; however, Pelham’s celebration and appreciation of the arts—from those who participate in the arts and those who simply enjoy them from the sidelines—is well-documented.

Of course, enjoying the arts from the sidelines is difficult at PHS. With a multitude of theatre, visual art, photography, sculpture, choir, band, filmmaking, writing and publication classes offered, most students experience an arts class before graduating.

Is arts education key to success? Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has launched a website dedicated to transforming STEM to STEAM (Stemtosteam.org).

In partnership with Brown, Harvard, Yale and other schools, RISD insists that adding art infuses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Design) with the creativity and collaboration needed to problem-solve. The website states, “Art and design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.”

Stems are delicate reeds, while steam is more robust. Adding human creativity to the equation creates a force powerful enough to propel a locomotive—and to create meaningful change hinged on the acceptance of collaboration. That intersection—where we decide as specialists that our greatest worth lies in a willingness to hear others—and to teach our students to do the same—is the key to meaningful education. Science, technology, engineering and math need the addition of the arts to inspire innovation.

Chosen by the Alabama State Board of Education last spring to assist in writing Alabama’s new Arts Course of Study, PHS theatre teacher Jamie Stephenson has spent a year creating arts standards.

“The standards for the Arts Course of Study are about artistic literacy. The arts help students learn how to use creativity and other tools acquired in arts classes in all aspects of their lives,” said Stephenson.