Eliza (Liza) Rankin, School Board Candidate District 1 – Arts Platform

Statement on the Arts:

A basic education inclusive of the arts is mandatory in Washington State, with dance, music, theater, and visual arts defined as core content areas, but too many students are denied access in our public schools. The arts are a vital part of education that every student deserves the opportunity to explore, not only for enrichment, but for the skills and knowledge gained in arts education, as well as the pathways provided to many wonderful careers. As testing and standards have become drivers of academics, the arts have been minimized in favor of math and STEM, and are seen as “extras,” particularly in schools with higher numbers of students from low-income families. This is an equity issue. The arts are a thread that connects our past, present, and future, the arts are windows to our histories, are vehicles for self-expression, and tools for exploration and communication. As an arts professional, educator, and patron, I consider the arts to be critical.

I hold a BA in Theater and Education from Whitman College in WA, and an MFA in Lighting, Costume, and Scenic Design for Theater, with an emphasis on scenery, from Brandeis University in MA. I worked in NYC and the surrounding areas as a freelance scenic artist (painter and sculptor for sets) and set designer, and was a faculty member at CUNY: Queens College, teaching both the artistic side and technical side of theater as a lecturer in Intro to Theater Design and as an instructor in the scene shop with students learning scenic construction, carpentry, and painting. If elected, I will approach my position on the school board from the perspective of an educator, researcher, and artist, working collaboratively and focusing on the bigger picture and goals of the district pertaining to equity and engagement, so that all students have access to a great public education and school experience that includes the arts.

Describe a meaningful arts experience that has stayed with you over time.

I have so many strong memories of performances and exhibitions I have experienced, but a few of the primary ones that will always stay with me:- seeing both parts of Angels in America in high school, when Intiman Theater became the first regional theatre company in the country awarded the rights to produce Tony Kushner’s two-part epic Angels in America after it won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play.- walking into the theater at Whitman College for the first time as a freshman and realizing theater could be my career, and then trying every possible aspect from performing to backstage to design- Going with the scenic painting staff to see the touring collection of John Singer Sargent paintings at SAM while I was an intern at Seattle Repertory Theater- working as a painter and designer on the premiere of Fela! at 37Arts and then on Broadway- co-organizing and facilitating a youth arts workshop and gallery show at Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange with Art With Heart and residents of Brettler Family Place in 2018 as healing from and to commemorate the 2017 shooting death by police of Charleena Lyles inside Magnuson Park housing.
Learning through the arts is necessary, basic education for all students, and we must enforce policy and ensure that, district-wide, students in Seattle Public Schools have equitable access to arts education. All students must be given the opportunity to develop tools to become creative and critical thinkers, communicators, and engaged members of their communities that the arts enable. I will make it a priority to examine practice, policy, and the budget to ensure the provision of the arts in all of our Seattle Public Schools.