Melissa Eckes, a senior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in Wisconsin, sent me a message this week asking for ideas on how a local public awareness campaign could increase support for funding arts education in public schools. She’s writing her thesis on the importance of art education and wanted my advice, and yours, on how to create a powerful campaign message.

Do have any thoughts you can share with Melissa? Leave a comment on this post if you want to help. You’ll find my suggestion below.

Here’s what Melissa says about the benefits of arts education:

“My idea is creating an public awareness campaign for art education in the Milwaukee school area. A lot of the research I have been doing is finding articles and interesting facts about the benefits of art education. How it helps you be creative and teaches you self-discipline, which is important to many careers today. I understand that when schools are in money troubles, the first thing they cut is art programs. I’ve found that there’s only national advertising for saving art education, and I want to do something local to be more effective.”

One idea I shared with Melissa is to use the power of the unexpected. If you are are talking about art education in schools, use adults instead of kids and more left-brained imagery (less artsy) than right-brained (more artsy). I suggested using images of analytical professionals with tag lines that talk about how arts education helped them get where they are today.

For example, an ad could picture a surgeon with text like “Top brain surgeon. Moves a scalpel with precision. Learned to control his hands that way with a paintbrush in fourth-grade art class.” Then you could include a stat or two about the value of arts education, followed by a strong call to action — whatever the campaign wanted people to do, whether that’s asking the school board to restore funding for the arts or whatever.

What else could Melissa’s arts education campaign try?