Cleary helps bring art to Detroit school children

Byline: Ward Mullens
Posted: April 2, 2014

Cleary University, a business school, is helping bring art to inner-city Detroit children who would not otherwise have art class.

The Arthur Secunda Museum at Cleary University is partnering with Art Road Nonprofit in Detroit to help provide materials for art classes to children in three Detroit Public Schools.

“Art Road provides special arts activity classes, including supplies and an instructor, at no cost to elementary schools that lack art programs,” said Carol Hofgartner, founder and executive director of Art Road.

“Our museum staff was first introduced to Art Road through a trustee of Cleary University,” said Grace Farley, program director of the Arthur Secunda Museum at Cleary University. “The connection was immediately established by Art Road's work with Detroit school children, and Arthur Secunda's childhood in Detroit. In the 1940s, Arthur began his art career at the Detroit Institute of Arts. When told of the Art Road connection, Arthur quickly offered several original, limited edition prints for the children's art classes. We also gave them posters and the 440-page catalog that chronicles Arthur’s work.”

Volunteer art instructor Kimberly Holback used the gifts to help teach more than 800 children in grade K-4 at Charles Wright Academy of Arts and Sciences in Detroit. The art is also used in teaching art to special needs children at the school.

“Kimberly used our material to illustrate Secunda's art techniques, and the students were surprised to learn that the artist they were studying was from Detroit and is still alive,” said Farley.

“You don’t have to be perfect with art,” said Holback. “You are allowed to do things differently. You cannot do that in math and other subjects.”

“We emphasis process over product,” said Hofgartner, who has a masters degree in architecture.

Art Road was formed in 2007 after Hofgartner went to an elementary school to speak to kids about architecture. She brought along a model of a boat and mentioned that architecture was kind of like the drawing the children did in art class.

“One of the students raised their hand and said, ‘We don’t have art class,” Hofgartner said.

Hofgartner spent the next seven years volunteering twice a month to help bring art to students. The program began with one school, Edison Elementary, and now has grown to four schools serving more than 1,500 students.

Along the way, Hofgartner has gained support from Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, the Lear Corporation and the Fisher Foundation.

The annual cost to provide Art Road classes for one school is approximately $77,000. Anyone can donate to Art Road. For more information, go to

The impact of Art Road has been immediate.

“When the kids know they are going to have art class, they don’t want to miss school,” Hofgartner said. “Attendance goes up when there is an art class. That is our measurable.”

Hofgartner said that another measurable is the link between art and test scores.

“There has been research that shows that students who have art classes have higher test scores than those who do not take art,” said Hofgartner.

The challenge for Hofgartner is that the number of students without art class is growing. She estimates that about 60 percent of Detroit Public Schools lack art and said that Lansing just eliminated it’s art and music programs.

“It’s a national issue,” said Hofgartner. “We need to ensure that our children have access to art and art instruction.”