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A group of 13 high school students stand in front of an orange and yellow step-and-repeat banner at Ashland High School's arts signing day.

Arts Signing Day - Have Pen, Will Commit

Thirteen students from Ashland High School stand in front of an orange-and-yellow step-and-repeat banner.The NCAA has a National Signing Day; for instance, college football reserves the first Wednesday in February as the first day a high school student can commit to a college as a student athlete. It is a legally binding event, and it's a really big deal.

This year, I had the opportunity to attend Signing Day, but it wasn’t that signing day; it was something much bigger and more impressive!

It was an honor to be invited by Ashland High School educators Marty Kral (director of bands and music department chair) and Cameron Dedrick (assistant marching band director, visual arts teacher, and district technology coach) to celebrate Ashland Arts Signing Day.

On May 18, I joined Superintendent Douglas J. Marrah, Mayor Matt Miller, and Ohio Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director Jarrod Hartzler for the big event! Kimberly Payne, Ashland High School’s TeachArtsOhio artist, was also front and center with support.

I hadn’t been in a school for more than a year, and I’m pleased to tell you my muscle memory for the love of students, teachers, and teaching artists, as well as the smells and sounds of an actively engaged building full of human beings, didn’t fail me. It felt amazing! (To be sure, Ashland Arts Signing Day was a physically distanced and masked event in the school auditorium.)

Arts leaders of every stripe were present. Of course, I would expect to see the students and their parents. It was equally as impressive to see the current and past arts education leaders of the Tri-County Educational Service Center: Dr. Michelle Muro and Mr. Gary DeVault. Then I noticed many of the high school’s staff, both from the arts and other academic departments, also were in attendance to support the students.

Dare I say this? Arts Signing Days are something I would love to see at every high school in Ohio.

Imagine a scheduled day when we celebrate the academic successes of students in and through the arts. Picture your community celebrating scholarships, honoring postsecondary commitments, and acknowledging the academic and creative elements of the arts for these talented students. Think of the local impact, too. For example, this year, beyond the college signing, one Ashland student made a commitment to a one-of-a-kind apprenticeship focusing on instrument repair with Mike Metcalf, owner of Mike's Music Corner in Ashland. It all adds up to a bright future for the young people of Ashland.

Arts Signing Day also serves as a public recognition by the superintendent, school board, and community for supporting the arts as a strong component of a complete education. The media was also in attendance—another opportunity to promote the arts and arts education to the public.

As I visited with Superintendent Marrah after the ceremony, I asked, “How does a district garner the support of its board of education for the arts?” This is a question I’ve been asking administrators for decades, so that I too can be a better advocate for arts education. Superintendent Marrah’s response was succinct and brilliant: “I always start with the non-negotiables, and the arts for students are non-negotiable.” He went on to tell me how music education impacted his life as a student, as an adult, and even more so today.

And then it all made sense. Earlier in the evening as he gave his remarks. he told the students, “Keep developing your minds. The arts don’t stop after high school. And, if you can’t find a spot in your heart for the arts, we’ve got more work to do here in Ashland.”


Video courtesy of Marty Kral

On behalf of the Ohio Arts Council’s board and staff, we congratulate the following Ashland graduates:

  • Nelia Alvarez, Fashion Design, University of Cincinnati
  • Lydia Boyer, Art Education and Art Therapy, University of Akron
  • Naomi Boyer, Art Education and Illustration, University of Akron
  • Avery Brown, Music Instrument Repair, Mike Metcalf
  • Jessica Cahill, Art Education, The Ohio State University
  • Adrian Eidsmoe, Studio Art, University of New Mexico
  • Paige Hamilton, Art Education, Ashland University
  • Kaylyn Kopp, Graphic Design, Cleveland Institute of Art
  • Emilie Lemon, Art, Mount Vernon Nazarene University
  • Maiyah Lewis, Film and Television, DePaul University
  • Anna Oellerich, Architecture, Kent State University
  • Olivea Shores, Fine Art, Bowling Green State University
  • Livia Sponsler, Fashion Design, Columbus College of Art and Design
  • Grant Vance, Music Performance, Ashland University
  • Grace Zeigler, Art Therapy, Ursuline College

As we move into summer, school administrators are already planning the 2021-22 school year. Staff, boards, local leaders, and the community all have roles to play in how we support arts education. That’s true at the Ohio Arts Council—applications submitted in early 2021 for TeachArtsOhio and Arts Partnership were reviewed by public panels this spring. The OAC board will consider the public panel funding recommendations at their July meeting. I’m so very proud of the OAC’s strong and consistent investment in arts education, which has been encouraged and mirrored by Governor Mike DeWine.

In the spirit of Ashland Arts Signing Day, I hope you will consider this great idea to celebrate arts education and the students in the high schools in your community next spring! I’m quite sure that Mr. Kral and Mr. Dedrick would be happy to share their success with anyone who wants to know more!

Until next time,

Donna S. Collins signature

Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

Featured Photo: Students honored at Ashland Arts Signing Day

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