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Wang Award Recipient Ensuring Arts Education for All

By Eric Breier

Merryl Goldberg knows there are some people who would call cuts to arts education a budget issue.

Not Goldberg.

“It’s a priority issue,” said Goldberg, who is entering her 25th year as a faculty member at Cal State San Marcos.

Goldberg points to the Chula Vista Elementary School District as an example. The district’s superintendent has committed to ensuring that every child receives an arts education.

“He didn’t have any extra money, he just reallocated the budget,” Goldberg said. “He put money toward that as a priority, and every other school district can do that as well. It’s really a matter of priorities, not budget. And results and research shows it’s paying off.”

Goldberg has devoted her career to ensuring that all children have the opportunity for an education that includes learning in, with and through the arts. The CSU Board of Trustees has recognized her efforts, honoring Goldberg with the prestigious 2018 Wang Family Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Teaching.

The Wang Family Excellence Award annually recognizes four outstanding faculty members and one outstanding staff member from throughout the 23-campus CSU system who, through extraordinary commitment and dedication, have distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements. Each recipient is given a $20,000 award.

CSUSM is the only university to have a faculty member receive the Wang Family Excellence Award each of the last three years.

For Goldberg, the award is evidence of the value the CSU places on arts education, and not just in higher education but also within K-12. She notes that research shows that children who have arts in their background have a significant edge in college readiness, success in college and careers, and in developing skills such as empathy, risk-taking, thinking outside the box and collaboration.

“There’s a big disconnect between those who have arts and those who don’t,” Goldberg said. “For me, it’s an especially important, critical time where we need to ensure that all kids have access to arts in their education.”

Goldberg is doing her part through myriad projects, including ART=OPPORTUNITY. This county-wide campaign focuses on providing a meaningful education by improving literacy through the arts. A research-based initiative, ART=OPPORTUNITY offers leadership training, literacy residencies, summits, workshops and anchor events for educators, parents, youth and arts providers.

“Bottom line, it’s not fair that some kids have arts and some don’t,” Goldberg said. “The other thing that blows me away is when I think of the talent that’s wasted because a kid didn’t have a chance.”

Goldberg often thinks about a former student who she writes about in her book, “Arts Integration: Teaching Subject Matter through the Arts in Multicultural Settings.

Alex arrived at Goldberg’s popular Visual and Performing Arts 321 class with a skateboard covered in artwork. When Goldberg asked about the art, Alex told her that he had drawn it. Goldberg soon learned that Alex never had an art class during his K-12 education.

Later in the semester, Alex shared a self-portrait and wrote, “No other subject at school achieves such an incredible level of self-realization and self-worth. When a student looks down at the paint on their hands and a work of art they just made, they say to themselves, ‘I made this.’ There is no feeling like that of one who has just created.”

“There are so many students like Alex,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said one of the goals of ART=OPPORTUNITY is to ensure that everyone from parents to children are aware of the research that shows the arts matter so that they can ask for it.

“Parents have so much power in school districts,” she said. “What parent doesn’t think their kid should receive the best education? That includes arts and science and everything else. Getting them educated with regard to there being research to back all of this up is a super powerful thing.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist | Office: 760-750-7314