St. Paul students stage walkout to save art programs

Students staged a walkout in protest of cutting art programs in St. Paul.

Highland Park High School students in St. Paul walked out of class Tuesday in an effort to save the arts.  

Their protest comes following school leaders’ latest move to downsize the visual arts program at the school.  

"We often don’t take consideration of the arts because we think it’s an extra curricular activity, but it’s actually a tangible thing that people use…especially during the pandemic to utilize as a healing," said student Jerome Treadwell, President of the NAACP Youth Division in St. Paul. 

The school’s principal sent letters home stating they’re adding teachers for agriculture, food, and natural resources because "courses in these fields align with our expanding career pathway program and expose students to fields that are high wage and in areas of growing demands."  

The assistant superintendent added that "the expansion of the career pathway courses is necessary to prepare our diverse student body and community to explore a variety of fields." 

"When did the arts stop being a valid career? The clothes you’re wearing right now, designed by an artist. Architects, they’re artists too. This entire building had artists working on it," one student said.

"As an art student, art means to me a way to explore my creative side, a way to express myself through culture and tradition and language," added student Iman Abdi.  

Some also worry that reducing resources in the arts program will increase trouble in the city.  

"If we eliminate that, we eliminate the chance for success, we eliminate the chance to lowering our violence rates and eliminate the change for youth to be actively engaged in something that can create hope for their future," Treadwell said. 

Student organizers are now urging neighbors to sign a petition to save these positions and the arts program. They have plans to present the signatures at the next school board meeting scheduled later in June.