‘PGATI Has Come A Long Way’ Says One Of Its Founders Brenda Makle
Good things are worth fighting for.
Nearly decade ago, PGAHC Board Member Brenda Makle and her colleagues Harriett Gossett and
Pat Carmody noticed the academic potential in bringing the arts to schools and decided to do
something about it.
“The goal was to increase the arts in schools. We thought that if we could get administrators to see
the value of the arts, student exposure to the arts would do better on standardized tests,” Makle
says.
“The director for curriculum and instruction at the time showed that there was improvement in
county schools where this was applied.” It was 2007.
The idea was to convince education leaders that the arts weren’t just about expression but also
about balance and depth to the education system. “We knew that children learn in a variety of
ways. This was about getting them to improve their thinking skills and take the curriculum beyond
paper and a pencil.”
At the time, although most schools had a music teacher, others art disciplines such as theater, dance
and visual art were grossly underrepresented. For example, in 1997, an art teacher could be
floating through as many as 10 schools, so they would only get to see their kids once a year.
Originally the program was called The Visual Arts Institute and it primarily drove in more visual art
education. Today, the Prince George's Artist/Teacher Institute is a much bigger and broader
program in Prince George’s County Public Schools. Makle says it has been a difficult path to success.
“We had to keep going back and pushing for support for this,” she says. “You had to ask over and
over and not quit.”
“Dr. Maxwell believed in this and he supported us,” she says of the current administrative
leadership and others like PGCPS Arts Integration Officer John Ceshini. “That’s what it takes–
someone to believe in it.”