Let Art Freedom Ring! by Pearl Schaeffer

Let Art Freedom Ring©, a program of the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP), teaches students the concept of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Students research and write their own Bill of Rights, consider what liberty means to them, and write essays and poetry to reflect that learning. Then, working with a professional teaching artist, art teachers, and classroom teachers, the students create three-dimensional, 6 ft. interpretations of the Liberty Bell, the iconic symbol of our nation’s promise. The activities of the Let Art Freedom Ring© program stem from PAEP’s experience connecting with and positively interacting with young Philadelphians from all walks of life, especially at- risk youth from under-resourced schools. Let Art Freedom Ring’s program design derives from well established research findings indicating that effective art and civic education programs promote pro-social behaviors and academic performance.

Research also indicates that good art programs strongly aligned with literacy skill building are highly effective at engaging youth. Together with a comprehensive civics program, Let Art Freedom Ring
© successfully raises young people’s awareness and practice of positive life skills such as personal responsibility, collaborative goal setting, respect for others, and conflict resolution. These life skills are directly linked to academic and personal success. Equally important, the program brings our school communities together around a positive activity that makes us all feel proud of our City of Brotherly Love.

The 2010 pilot year of the program debuted five distinct bells that were as diverse as the culture of the students creating them. The program grew to eight bells in 2011, as students, artists, and teachers found new ways to express their views of liberty. In 2012, the third year of the Let Art Freedom Ring
© program, five bells were created as part of the July 4th celebration at the National Constitution Center. Students from Decatur, Bache-Martin, Bridesburg, McCall, and Houston Schools, K-8 elementary schools of the School District of Philadelphia, worked to construct their visions of 21st century liberty bells. Each bell is unique in both subject and materials used to construct it.

Over the past three years, the Let Art Freedom Ring
© liberty bells have gained tremendous attention and exposure. Bells have traveled to CBS-3 studios, the Independence Visitors Center, the National Constitution Center, the National Liberty Museum, the African American Museum, the School District of Philadelphia, the University of the Arts, as well as the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. This year’s bells will be on display throughout the summer at the National Constitution Center (NCC) at Independence Park, and they will be a part of the NCC's celebration of the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution through the week of September 17, 2012. Participating students will recite the preamble of the Constitution as part of this celebration.

The Let Art Freedom Ring
© program is provided at no cost to participating schools through the generosity of PAEP’s sponsors including CBS3, the National Constitution Center, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, Just Born, and through support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

This year, PAEP and the Let Art Freedom Ring
© program were featured on CBS-3’s Talk Philly show. For this year’s segment Talk Philly, PAEP was honored to have artist Kimberly Niemela, Director of COSACOSA art at large, Inc., speak about her experiences over the last three years partnering with and leading the program at schools. Please visit CBS-3’s Talk Philly website to view the segment and learn more about the program.

Currently, Let Art Freedom Ring
© has created eighteen unique Liberty Bells housed at schools throughout the Philadelphia region. In celebration of the 225th anniversary of the United States Constitution, PAEP has exciting plans for the bells past and present. Visit our blog to see where they travel next, and let art freedom ring!

Pearl Schaeffer is Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) and has taught at the University of the Arts (UArts) for the past 25 years as a professor in both the Dance and graduate Arts Education & Design departments. As CEO of PAEP, she has directed two United States Department of Education grants to advance learning in and through the arts for all students and has founded the nation's first Teaching Artist Certificate program in cooperation with UArts.

Artolatry bread image after Salvadore Dalí's Basket of Bread (1926).