By Caitlyn Johnson, Contributing Writer
The City of Wheeling’s Mayor and West Liberty University alumnus Andy McKenzie recently went on the record about how the arts, education, and the economy are an integral part of a successful community.
“A community must embrace the arts in order to succeed,” McKenzie said. “The arts create opportunity, education, and economic development.”
One program that is currently working to integrate arts into classrooms from Pre-K to 12th grade is the Center for Arts and Education at West Liberty University. The center is a collaborative effort between the Appalachian Education Initiative and WLU’s College of Education and College of Arts and Communication.
The efforts of the center coincide with programs within Wheeling, such as the Arts and Cultural Commission, which is a committee that works to offer a profusion of arts and cultural activities to the local community just as larger cities are able to do.
West Liberty students have already worked with the commission to decorate one of the bridges that leads into downtown Wheeling in an attempt to make the city aesthetically pleasing for residents and visitors.
McKenzie explained that the arts, education, and economic development go hand-in-hand. He explained that a community that implements the arts is a vibrant community that attracts students to stay within the area.
“The Center for Arts and Education serves as an advocate for other schools that are considering ways to further implement the arts into the educational world,” he said. “The efforts of the center could lead to a collaboration among local higher education schools.”
The center has raised $1 million in funds from a combination of private partnerships and donors. The funds will be applied to programs aimed at expanding curriculum development and fostering economic development through the center’s efforts.
Lou Karas, director of the Center for Arts and Education, explained, “Our goal is to build and maximize the Center for Arts and Education’s public-private partnerships not only to expand upon curriculum offered at WLU by integrating the arts in all classrooms, but to also expand students’ exposure to the strategic, private-sector partnerships we have built.”
This coincides with McKenzie’s thoughts on the correlations among the arts, education, and the economy.
“The arts are a key component to economic development. Through the Arts and Cultural Commission as well as organizations like the Stifel Center and the Oglebay Institute, the community can be educated about the arts as well as take advantage of programs that utilize the arts as part of a strategic focus for growth.”
This article originally appeared in the April 17th edition of The Trumpet