San Diegans Focus National Attention on Lack of Art Education With New Documentary | “Art Across America” Seeks to Reignite Creativity in Schools

April 21, 2013

Blake Byers (left) and Andrew Fisher (right) gave Conan O'brien
a portrait that Byers created, to spark his interest in their cause.
By Megan Gallagher | SanDiegoVille Contributor

In January 2013, filmmaker Andrew Fisher had just moved back to San Diego after living in Los Angeles for seven years, working in restaurants and trying to launch his film career. Artist Blake Byers was wondering what his next step would be after selling all of his belongings and spending 10 months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to raise awareness for multiple sclerosis. Flash forward just four months later and the pair have assembled a team of eight artists and producers, and are in the midst of making a potentially ground-breaking documentary about the state of the United States art education system.

Art Across America is a documentary that the pair conceived after hearing the dismal statistics about art education in the US – the average student receives only 1 minute and 47 seconds of visual arts education per day. The film will follow their journey throughout schools in the United States where they will teach art classes, create their own art to share, and speak with educators who see the effects of funding cuts first hand. Travelling along with Fisher and Byers are three other San Diego-based artists, Monty Montgomery, Carrie Anne Hudson and Jason Feather, who were just as inspired as Byers and Fisher when they heard more about the current status of art education.

“It started off as just an idea to take a trip, but when we started talking to other artists, it snowballed into this project,” Fisher said. “It was amazing to see everyone’s involvement come together. These artists were all first inspired by teachers and they understand how important it is to keep art in the lives of kids.”

In order to get their project off the ground, Fisher and Byers, along with their Director of Photography, Jake Borowski, and other team members, have been taking a grassroots approach to fundraising. To date, they have raised $3,000 on the internet project-funding website, and they continue to attend art expos and other community events. Most recently, their artwork and information about the cause was on display at Pacific Magazine’s ART Event in downtown San Diego. They have also been visiting local schools and community centers, including Roosevelt Middle School.

“We met with a language arts teacher who has completely funded an art program for her kids,” Fisher said. “She bought supplies and spent all of her money to make these kids have an art program. It shows you that teachers see a need for this and that it is a growing problem in schools.”

While the date for their cross country trek is on hold until they reach their fundraising goals, the tentative list of cities they will visit include Los Angeles, Tucson, Santa Fe, San Antonio, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Philadelphia. The trip will conclude in New York City where they will showcase and auction all of the artwork produced along the way. All proceeds from sales of the artwork will then be infused back into the very same schools and community centers that they visited.

“The money is a great thing to give back, but it’s not the money that is actually going to help,” Fisher said. “It is inspiring people to volunteer their time and it’s about inspiring change. You never hear from someone ‘oh man, when I was in school I hated all of my art classes.’ It’s never a negative thing, so for it to be being taken away from so many kids is terrible.”

By documenting their journey and distributing the film, Fisher and Byers hope to create an impact that is far reaching, beyond the classrooms that they visit along the way.

“All of the kids who we visit will be affected in some way,” Fisher said. “We could give way to the next Picasso or the next Van Gogh, but we won’t know until we try. The scope of that would be enough, but if we were able to get the rest of the country to see it and start getting involved, that would make the most impact.”

To learn more about Art Across America or about upcoming fundraising events for the program, visit and check out the video clip below.