Why art students need more than $3 worth of supplies at J.L. Long

J.L. Long art students with their Art for Dumpsters project (photo courtesy of Desiree Bartlett).

Desiree Bartlett just finished her first year teaching art at J.L. Long Middle School in East Dallas, but she has high hopes for the program that just sent three students to Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Despite the accolades, Bartlett and parents at Long are building an Art Booster Club because the district’s art funding can’t keep up with the desires of the program.

Bartlett says she has about 350 students come through her classroom each year and receives $1,000 for the year for art supplies from the district and school. That means each student has less than $3 worth of art supplies to last through the entire class. Bartlett says she spent around $500 of her own money to help with the shortage. She buys paper, canvases and other supplies.

J.L. Long has a kiln, but some of the heating coils are broken, making firing the clay creations difficult. Bartlett would like to devote more time to ceramics and perhaps develop a class devoted solely to working with clay, but it isn’t in the budget at the moment.

Bartlett helps run an after-school art club, and wants to give her students practical artistic skills such as graphic design, which is what she studied in college. This year, her students competed in Earth X exhibition Art for Dumpsters, where they decorated a trash receptacle to shine a light on the importance of recycling. They also put on art shows, displayed work in the African American Museum and competed in a statewide art competition, receiving the highest possible marks.

Portraits of students in the Advanced Art class by Bella Vitale.

There are a number of supportive parents who are interested in developing the booster club, which hopes to be up and running next year. But with Dallas ISD trustees voting down extra funding for the district last year and the state’s cuts to education funding, the problem is not going away. Dallas ISD will soon be a property rich district, meaning that the state’s “Robin Hood” rule will go into effect and the district will have to give $50 million back to the state, some of which will fund poorer school districts.

Bartlett hopes the extra funds will allow students to see art in the real world, including more field trips to visit Dallas’ vibrant art community, other art programs and work on mural projects. “It’s so limited because we don’t have money for buses,” she says.

“Our projects have to be so tiny, maybe a 9×12 sheet of paper,” Bartlett says. “If they can’t draw big, they can’t imagine big.”

This story will be updated with comments from Dallas ISD when we hear back from them.

If you would like to donate or help out the J.L. Long art program, please email Susan Harris at susan.harris64@sbcglobal.net. 

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