Merryl Goldberg, professor of music and chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at CSUSM, has been awarded a $25,000 grant as a finalist for the 2012 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. The Foundation’s Leadership Award, now in its seventh year, aims to uncover and spotlight breakthrough solutions that have the potential to better the lives of more Californians if policymakers and others replicate and expand these approaches.

Goldberg believes in the power of art to improve lives and the education of children. Her mission is to teach with and through the arts. Capitalizing on this rapidly developing and expanding field, and pioneering the field along the way, she has created and implemented diverse arts education programming, documenting tangible results.

Goldberg was the project artistic director of DREAM a four-year arts integration program funded by a nearly $1M Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.  As a result of DREAM’s initiatives, elementary student test scores in reading improved an astonishing 87 points.

DREAM’s goal was to train third and fourth grade teachers to use visual arts and theater activities to improve students’ reading and language arts skills. Begun in June 2009, the program offered one week summer institutes coupled with coaching by professional artists throughout the year. Students in classes where teachers integrated theater to teach reading scored much higher on the reading comprehension and inference standardized tests.

Ten school districts had teachers participate in the project, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Fallbrook, Julian, Oceanside, Ramona, San Marcos, Valley Center Pauma and Vista, representing 141 teachers and approximately 3,000 students.

“I am honored to be recognized by the James Irvine Foundation,” said Goldberg.  “Given recent budget cuts, art is often considered an educational ‘extra.’ But the arts are crucial! They open up the natural abilities of children to wonder, to take risks, to feel confident, to be disciplined and to understand that learning is not a simple matter of ‘either/or’ it is — indeed life is—more complex.”

Proceeds from the James Irvine Foundation grant award will go toward supporting another three-day DREAM Institute for third and fourth-grade teachers this June. In addition, Goldberg and CSUSM are issuing a challenge to the community to match the Foundation’s award to double the number of teachers that can be served by the program.

“Our goal is provide training for 100 teachers who have the potential of touching thousands of students across this region,” said Goldberg.

In addition to her work through DREAM, Goldberg founded Center Artes at CSUSM in 2003.  Center ARTES is an organization dedicated exclusively to arts education in K-12 schools while also serving as a vehicle for exploring and contributing to the developing field of education in and through the arts.Center ARTES incorporates many arts education partners under one umbrella. At the heart of Center ARTES' success are fruitful partnerships between CSUSM, local school districts, award-winning SUAVE (Socios Unidos para Artes via Educacion, or United Community for Arts in Education) and many professional organizations, such as the San Diego County Office of Education; The California Center for Arts, Escondido; The Playwrights Project; La Jolla Playhouse; The Old Globe; and other art institutions. These partnerships connect artists and art institutes with the teachers and schools that will most benefit from their services.

“Today our society doesn’t value arts and sports as much as it used to—there’s a bias against them. But our kids need to learn discipline, perseverance, and how to work as a team—all valuable skills that they learn through these types of activities,” said Dr. Goldberg. “When I see kids so alive, so interested in reading, acting and learning, I know that our work is successful. These things keep me going.”

For more information on the $25,000 matching grant challenge, contact University Advancement at 760-750-4400. Contributions may also be made online: www.csusm.edu/giving.

About the James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on three program areas: Arts, California Democracy and Youth. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided over $1.3 billion in grants to more than 3,500 nonprofit organizations throughout California. With about $1.6 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $65 million in 2011 for the people of California.

“I am honored to be recognized by the James Irvine Foundation,” said Goldberg.  “Given recent budget cuts, art is often considered an educational ‘extra.’ But the arts are crucial! They open up the natural abilities of children to wonder, to take risks, to feel confident, to be disciplined and to understand that learning is not a simple matter of ‘either/or’ it is — indeed life is—more complex.”