Support the arts through volunteerism

Gracing the walls and football display cases at the New Orleans Museum of Art are original works of art in watercolors, self-portraits, sculpture and pastels.

The work is not of famous artists from around the world but right here in Jefferson Parish, students in the public school system’s Talent Education Program.

Established five years ago, the program recognizes talented students, nurtures their abilities and provides an educational environment to enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of the arts.

In addition to art, music and theatre are also studied.

“This is the first time the students have had their work displayed in a public setting,” said Cheryl Milam, an instructional programs consultant with the Jefferson Parish Public School System. “The response has been very positive and this is good for the students. It helps to validate and value their talents and enhances their self-esteem.”

In order for a child to be eligible for the Talent Education Program, parents can ask their child’s school to have the child screened and evaluated. Milam said applicants are accepted on the basis of teacher recommendation, auditions and/or portfolios.

There are more than 500 students in the program.

“As more and more parents hear about the program, more students will be referred to us through their schools,” Milam said. “Right now, we not only have more students than before but we also have gone from 11 to 22 teachers. These educators work with the students both during and after school, developing and nurturing their talents.”

Milam said she sees several important benefits of the public having a chance to see the talents of area students.

“The Talent Education Program gives a student an opportunity to explore areas of interest to them and to work with others who have the same interests,” Milam said. “In the future, whether these children pursue any of this as a vocation or as an avocation, we, as a community, will benefit.

“If some decide upon art, music or theater as a career, we can look forward to seeing more of their talents, maybe locally and nationally. And if some choose to support the arts through volunteerism and fund raising, they will be helping to improve our area’s quality of life through the arts. As a community, we win either way.”

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