Ector County ISD will be among the honorees at the Black & White Ball, the Art of Fashion, presented by Sewell Permian Basin.
The event is set for 6:30 p.m. April 2 in the Permian Ballroom at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.
Aaron Hawley, director of fine arts for the district, said they were notified of the Friend of the Arts recognition about four or five weeks ago.
“In many ways, it’s about being named an honoree. It’s much more important than anything that we would receive per se, but it’s a nice recognition of the things that we’re doing and continue to do for the community,” Hawley said.
He noted that the laurel covers the whole district, not just fine arts.
Executive Director of Odessa Arts Randy Ham said the Friend of the Arts award was something the arts council used to give out years ago.
It was a special award given on a rare occasion to someone who was not necessarily part of the arts community, but someone interested in the arts to help advance the cause of arts through philanthropy, education, or municipal government.
Last year, Odessa Arts presented the award to City Manager Michael Marrero for helping to get more art on public property, Ham said.
Odessa Arts Development Director Cindy Graham resurrected the award as part of the Black & White Ball and it was so appreciated they decided to make it an annual part of the event.
Ham said ECISD has not been honored in this way before. He added that he is a product of ECISD education and the fine arts were an integral part of getting him where he is today.
Many others have gotten their start in arts and culture through fine arts, as well, he said.
Ham said Odessa is known statewide and nationally for sports, but fine arts routinely gets high marks from the University Interscholastic League for theater, orchestra, ensemble, band and others.
“In a time when lots of other school districts are cutting back on fine arts education, ECISD has steadfastly supported their fine arts programs.
“We have a robust, and what I would say is a superior fine arts program, that needs the same recognition that our sports programs get,” Ham said.
Along with ECISD, Lissa Noel Wagner and Joann Davenport Littleton are receiving Friend of the Arts awards.
Hawley said he doesn’t think the district has been recognized with the Friend of the Arts award before. He added that he believes it covers years of excellence for the district and other honorees.
“… They look to honor many different people, so this is our time and we really appreciate that,” Hawley said.
About 80 percent of the school district is involved in fine arts.
“Part of that figure comes from the fact that every elementary student receives fine arts. So that’s a large percentage of the district in and of itself. …,” Hawley said.
“… They are required by the state to have a fine art in both middle school and high school. Obviously, our goal would be that it’s something that they continue to do throughout their time and for many kids it is,” he added.
Hawley said there are scientific studies, specifically about music, showing that if students perform music at a young age, that it makes a critical impact on their learning.
“… For us, it’s learning a different language. And much as it would be learning a different spoken language, music is a language and so it develops different thought pathways. Have you ever seen the studies where students who stutter don’t stutter when they sing? And that’s because it engages different parts of the brain. And so from a purely scientific standpoint, I believe it’s very important for the kids’ growth and their development intellectually,” Hawley said.
“Emotionally, it’s also tied to so much of what we do in our culture. And so, to just leave that out, and to not engage that part of who we are as a society is a major hole if you don’t have arts education at a young age. …,” he added.
Children are active from a young age and that’s why physical education at recess is needed, Hawley said.
“But also their lives are surrounded by entertainment that includes music, lots of times dancing and art. We start coloring when (we’re) very young and if we in a public education system can foster those I not only believe that impacts them intellectually; I believe that nurtures those talents and that creativity that they’ll use for the rest of their lives regardless of the field,” Hawley said.
Each of us is wired differently and the arts allow people to explore parts that math alone wouldn’t, or science alone wouldn’t.
“We recognize that you have to have all of these subjects. They work collectively to make a well-rounded education. And that’s truly, I believe, what the state of Texas believes, is a well-rounded education. The goal is not to create artists, or to create jewelry makers, or dancers. It’s to have every child have a well-rounded education. Some of them will go on to be in theater for their lives; most won’t,” he added.
Hawley said he thinks the concept of recognizing ECISD is to say it is doing a “fantastic job” of preparing students to be good citizens through the arts.
He noted that they are engaging with the community and partnering with other organizations.
Students have performance opportunities and places to display their artwork.
“But also … if they want to continue this as a doctor, or lawyer, or a business person, there are opportunities and they are prepared (to) continue being creative in the community, even though it may not be their profession,” Hawley said.
He added that the State of Texas is very supportive of arts, so the district is appreciative of that continued backing.
“You see a lot of what we do because we’re performance based. But just as any of the disciplines, we’re constantly attempting to improve and get better, etc. And yes, we are supported by the district both financially and allowing us to do the things that we do,” Hawley said.
ECISD has received the National Association for Music Merchants Award as one of the best communities for music education.
“We’re constantly pursuing grant opportunities from a variety of entities. …. This year, we got the TAEA, Texas Art Education Association. We were named a district of distinction for art,” he said.
This recognition means a lot because it is local, which makes it more personal because your own community is recognizing you and appreciating the things you do on a daily basis.