Perpich Art Center—An awesome but underused resource

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by Joe Nathan, 6/13/08 • Anoka veteran teacher Kevan Nitzberg and Deanna Gotschall, a younger music teacher from Forest Lake agree. As Gotschall told me, ”it’s a very good resource that helps save us money.” But while many Minnesota art teachers praise the Perpich Center, it appears to be an under-used library for the general public.

Founded in the mid-1980’s the Center was one of the things that Governor Rudy Perpich and his wife Lola viewed as one of the most important things that happened during his administration. The Perpichs valued art, and wanted better programs throughout Minnesota. They also wanted a place where some of the state’s most talented students could be challenged and encouraged.

So the Governor and legislature established a statewide, publicly-supported Arts High School, a Center for Professional Development and Research and a Library. About 310 11th and 12th graders attend the high school, which receives more than $10,000 a year per student. This makes it one of the highest funded public schools in the state, and does not include costs for dormitories, which some greater Minnesota students use.

Gotschall explained that she and about 10 other Forest Lake art teachers visited the Perpich Center two years ago. “Now I can review materials “on-line,” and decide which just to borrow (for free) and which I’d like our district to buy.”

Amy Atherton from Apple Valley, who has just completed her first year of teaching (in Robbinsdale district) says the Perpich Center is “absolutely incredible.” She used the Center to develop a unit on hip-hop music, and plans to continue working with them.

Kevan Nitzberg, who has taught for more than 30 years in Minnesota, is former president of the Minnesota Art Educators. He recalls that when the school and resource center were first established, “many teachers saw it as a band aid for a lack of funding for arts education statewide.” However, “as educators reached out to the Center, and it responded, feelings changed.” Nitzberg listed many ways that the Center has helped teachers:

• a vast array of resources that schools can borrow
• Training programs that keep educators current on new research
• Space for art teachers to meet
• Funding to help start new art programs

Pam Teorey, an art teacher at Lakeville North High School, calls the Perpich staff “knowledgeable and a great inspiration.” She has used their materials, and participated in a Quality Teachers Network that the Center organized. She also has shared some resources from Perpich with Lakeville English and social studies teachers. She believes that art helps add life and excitement to other classes, while being valuable thing to study by itself.

While teachers praised Perpich Center resources, it appears that many of Minnesota’s families and other residents don’t know that they also can borrow materials from the Center. According to Larry Etkin, Perpich Communications Director , their Library has 17,881 titles including books, videos and DVD’s. Last year 188 individuals directly checked out 2,071 items. Another 335 individuals received materials through statewide interlibrary loans. According to Etkin, these were “primarily students, staff and faculty from post-secondary education institutions in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota.”

Dr. Nathan Davis, Perpich Center director told me “we’d love to have more Minnesotans use these materials.” Families looking for summer activities should check out these incredible resources that our taxes already have paid for, at
www.mcae.k12.mn.us/lib/lib.html or by calling 763 591-4700