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Reading, 'riting and . . . 'rtwork?

The three R's of education don't include art classes, but a new group in Citrus County hopes to change that.

Arts for a Complete Education (ACE) is a state project meant to bring together arts educators, legislators, parents and community groups to ensure students in Florida are exposed to fine arts, including dance, drama, music and other visual arts.

A task force, in partnership with the state Department of Education and the Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs, developed ACE under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991.

By forming ACE locally, there is hope for a collaboration among the community, schools, art groups and businesses to support arts in the lives of young people, said Pat Simon, curriculum specialist at Citrus Springs Middle School.

The idea to form ACE came after educators realized "how fragile the arts are in public schools," said Simon, who is a member of the county ACE committee.

Simon said the committee wants to look at what is offered during the summer, after school and in the way of scholarships for pupils who want to expand their experiences in fine arts. "Ultimately, the goal is to realize arts as an integral part of the education program," Simon said.

Casey Kearse, director of student services for Citrus schools, said the arts programs in this county have been supported by the district administration. "This coalition is another way to emphasize and promote, to move forward with what we are doing. The arts are so important in the total educational process of the child. We want to be sure every child has the opportunity to be exposed to the arts," Kearse said.

Dave Brown, an art teacher at Lecanto High, said that now, as advisory enhancement councils have more control to decide the direction a school will take, the arts should have a major role in school curriculums. Brown and other ACE committee members want to make sure fine arts programs are taken as seriously as core academic courses and that the programs are funded, even if there is a budget crunch.

"We decided it would be a good idea to have a group of concerned people who know how important it is to have the arts," Brown said.

The ACE committee, which is made up of community members, fine arts teachers and a school district official, would like to see a broad range of offerings in areas including dance, orchestra, jazz, drama, photography and visual arts, Brown said, adding that those areas stimulate creativity and teach pupils to think independently and solve problems.

A reception is planned at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Citrus County Art League building, 2644 N Annapolis Ave., off County Road 486 near the entrance to Citrus Hills. The evening's program will include artwork and musical performances by students and teachers.

Artwork by Citrus County teachers has been on display for the past two weeks at the league's gallery and will continue to be shown through the evening of the reception. Oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors, collages, clay works and mixed-media sculptures are among the works.

The Citrus County ACE committee is looking for community members and businesses to commit time, money, knowledge, experience and talent to fine arts in schools.

For information, call Kearse at 726-1931 or Becky Ickstadt at 637-4400.