As a kid, Symeon Robinson remembers art as something he always looked forward to while he was attending Milwaukee’s Fifty-Third Street Elementary School.
"I couldn’t draw worth two pennies but I still liked going," he said. "The art teacher made art really fun and she did a really good job of helping everybody feel like they had a chance at doing something."
But art and music were cut, Robinson said.
"Like, 9/11, when that happened, I was in art," he said. "I remember vaguely them talking about cutting out art after that year."
According to a Milwaukee Public School District spokesman, Robinson’s old school has had an art teacher for the past four years but it’s unclear how long the school went without one.
Still, it’s not just his old elementary school that has seen a loss of programming. Robinson said he’s seen the arts and other extracurricular activities get gradually cut from public schools since he was a child.
"I couldn’t draw worth two pennies but I still liked going," 26-year-old Symeon Robinson said. "The art teacher made art really fun and she did a really good job of helping everybody feel like they had a chance at doing something."
Now 26 years old, Robinson is a teacher at Townsend Street School in Milwaukee. He said it’s a shame that programs that got him excited at a young age, like art, do not have a fixed place in schools.
Whether teachers are contracted to teach art and music for the school year, depends on how much money is left in the budget.
"There’s kids that have very good talents and gifts that aren’t, a lot of that stuff isn’t getting pulled out of them because (schools) don’t have the resources," he said.
Restoring the arts and funding to inner-city communities so they can pay for after-school programs that engage young people is one of Robinson’s greatest concerns this election season — although, he says he understands that budget cuts are sometimes necessary.
"I’m sure the money has to go somewhere but I want to see it more so back invested in our communities to get kids to brighten their horizons and not just think basketball, or not just think sports to make it out," Robinson said. "But there’s other ways to make money, you know by using your artistic abilities and that’s kind of being taken away right now."