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Delaware Increases Access to Arts Through Transportation Grants

A new grant program in Delaware is aimed at breaking down a common barrier for teachers who want to expose their students to real-life arts performances and events: the cost of transportation.

TranspARTation, run through the State of Delaware's Division of Arts, is one of a growing number of state programs that fund transportation for schools. The TranspARTation grant program offers $300 to Delaware teachers to help support transportation costs to an arts event in the state. 

"Many of the arts organizations offer reduced ticket prices for students, but they don't address transportation," Paul Weagraff, the director of the Division of Arts. "We thought this was an opportunity to facilitate students' attendance to quality arts programming in the community and to augment what they're learning in the classroom."

Weagraff said that both schools and arts organizations surveyed by the arts division said that transportation costs were a major obstacle. FirstStateBallet-69.jpg

"It clearly provides an opportunity for students to benefit from experiencing the arts," Weagraff said. "But it's also a way we can directly support arts organizations here in Delaware."

Weagraff said the grants will support trips to a variety of cultural events, as long as they are in Delaware. "We're open-minded," he said.

"There is a great value in allowing children to attend events out in the community," he said. "Not only is it an enrichment to their education now, but also as future adult citizens. It allows them to be aware of the cultural richness of Delaware and to understand what is out there."

In the first year of the program, approximately 25 teachers will receive grants. Weagraff said that number may grow if enough schools are interested.

Since the TranspARTation program was announced earlier this week, the department has already heard from a number of teachers and schools.

Weagraff said introducing students to outside, professional artists can be life-changing. He described one Grammy Award-winning musician who said the impetus for her entire music career was a 6th grade field trip to a symphony concert. 

"That was the spark that ignited her interest in music," he said. "Not every student will become a professional musician. But especially when a trip includes educational materials and an introduction to the professions that are related, it becomes such a rich educational experience."

This is not the first program of its kind: The Arts Bus Xpress in San Diego also provides transportation to arts programs. Ohio's Arts Council has a program called the Big Yellow School Bus that helps fund field trips, and the Kentucky Arts Council's is even called by the same name—TranspARTation.

Photo: Audience members at a performance of First State Ballet Theatre at The Freeman Stage in Selbyville, Delaware. (Division of Arts)

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