As many of you are aware, the Wisconsin Idea at public universities is under attack in many states—one of them sadly being Wisconsin. Allocations by states to their universities are either reflecting this ideology or simply the tough choices created by fiscal reality. Lacking the affluent alumni and profit-generating research, arts and humanities departments in particular are in peril. This flies in the face of Gard’s own legacy in Wisconsin. There is a forgetting, as Gard points out, that the arts “enable the individual to explore the creative potential of his intellectual and emotional self, and … can result in new understanding of the human environment.”
We don’t empower young people for the simple concept of empowering young people—but instead because it is the right thing to do. How dare we sit around as adults to discuss the future of arts education without the young people who participate and benefit from that arts education present? Additionally, I know that from experiences like advocating publicly, we are building the leadership skills of the next generation through intergenerational dialogue and cyclical mentorship. We learn just as much from young people as they do from us. Lastly, we know that decision-makers respect the power of authentic youth voice, speaking from experience. So, my message this National Arts in Education Week is simple: Let us take the lead of our youth to support a shared vision for the future of arts education in America.
From my interview with Shemar Pelzer: “The idea of how arts are made and what it takes to create art—all of those skills can apply to other things. Through dance and through my work with the New Victory Theater Usher Corps, I’ve seen a lot of growth in my willingness to be more open to different things, seize opportunities and speak to different people. I recognize that this will help me in the future and I want to share that with others.”
There wouldn’t be anything to do on earth without creativity! For example, a phone. The creativity is in all the technology put into the phone to make it what it is. You can be talking to someone all the way in Canada while still in the United States! C’mon, we all know that’s creative. Don’t deny it! The arts and creativity can take on many different forms and be important to everyone in different ways. Most people don’t even realize that art and creativity are everywhere and can come in so many forms. Examples can be music, arts-integrated learning, drama, singing, instruments, and dancing. That’s just 6 examples. If art and creativity are everywhere and in everything just imagine how many more examples there are!
From my interview with 16-year-old student and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron Washington: “Photography came when I was going through a hard time in my life with cancer. When I started it, it brought me into a different world and into seeing different things with a deeper meaning. It helped me learn how to tell a story and say things without using words. It helped me see where I was in the world. I feel like art is really important because you can express a side of yourself that you normally wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with strangers.”
In my role as chair of the Educational Theatre Association’s International Thespian Officers, among my responsibilities is to advocate on behalf of theatre and other arts education. Last month, while I stood near Capitol Hill, just a few yards away from where policies were being made and bills were being passed, I asked myself a simple question: why arts advocacy? Why was I, a high school senior, standing in my nation’s capital for the second time in the past year, pouring my passion, time, and hard work into this cause? My answer is one that may seem perplexing at first, but is easily echoed by every member of my Thespian community.
I have begun to develop a philosophy of music education, which has guided me in all the decisions I have made in my collegiate career. I strive as a music educator to provide a quality music education in a classroom that is accepting, accessible, and safe for all students because, just like music, humans come in many different forms. Music, like students, cannot be confined by the regular restraints common in areas such as math and English; it allows people to be expressive in an experience that encompasses body, mind, and soul in ways no other form of expression can.
There is so much that I was able to do because of arts education. Having the arts in high school opened many doors to my academic and personal growth. Even the way I see the world is different. I can look at things and analyze them for what they are, and what they could be. I can dissect things in my mind to understand the process behind them. I have gained so much. My high school experience was built upon arts education. Now, I have started college, and the knowledge I have collected about the arts, and the experiences I have had through the arts, has not only given me new friends, but has opened doors in terms of what I can do with my life.
On October 11, businesses of all types and sizes from all across the country—Vermont to Hawaii and eight states in between—will come together for the BCA 10 gala at the Central Park Boathouse in New York to be recognized by Americans for the Arts for their outstanding commitment to the arts. But WHO are these honorees? Learn more about their arts partnerships below including corporate performance groups, extensive art exhibits, and some fierce board leadership.
Equity issues are deeply rooted in and infiltrate our society. My understanding of equity issues in arts education has given me a context to understand inequity in a broader sense. It brought to light the impact of socioeconomic status, race, geography, and how equity is different than equality. My arts experiences nurtured a social conscious that otherwise I may not have developed and allowed me to see so clearly that my experience was a privilege. This is why the arts are so important, and this is what will keep me advocating for arts education.
You have to remember, legislators spend their days with adults worried about infrastructure, healthcare, and taxes, all of which are legitimate concerns. However, the needs of high school students and their right to a well-rounded education are just as important as all those. As Ben Martin, Executive Director of the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education always told me, “They work for you!” So, we have just as much right to meet and express our sometimes surprising insights as anyone else.
Art is fluid and very multidimensional, and coming in with very little technical skill I didn’t think that I was a legitimate artist because of my lack. The problem with that is that it was hindering me because I was viewing myself in this negative light. In the same way silence is just as much music as sound is not, being able to make a straight line doesn’t disqualify you as an artist. The important thing is that you remember to make it meaningful and about something you care about. Making a difference is no easy task but doing it alongside other amazing people made work feel like fun.
By bringing poems into high schools, Poetry Out Loud exposes large numbers of students to a wide variety of poetry, and in doing so, opening up their lives to all that it can offer. It encourages community among contestants and builds up confidence in participants, as they learn to identify with the poet’s words and discover the best way to share them with others. It connects at an intensely human level that transcends the words it relies upon.
I had the honor of creating the Kennedy Center Youth Council (KCYC) in Spring 2016 with a specific mission of investigating how the Kennedy Center can positively impact and be positively impacted by youth. The KCYC founding was inspired by the Kennedy Center’s yearlong celebration of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, which included the exploration of citizen artistry, defined as using the arts for positive social impact. One of our most extraordinary KCYC members, an embodiment of the citizen artist ideology, is Grace Dolan-Sandrino. Grace, a 16-year old senior at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, has accomplished more than seasoned professionals twice her age.
I taught theatre in Lee’s Summit, MO for many years and had the privilege to work with many wonderful students. One of them I truly treasured was Richard Gibson, who went on to enlist in the Marines after high school and serve his country with honor. Richard wrote a letter in response to the budget situation facing the Missouri Legislature this year. From his words, I hope all elected officials realize the value of the arts in education. Adequate funding for schools keep arts programs alive. Public investment in arts agencies allows institutions in large cities and rural communities alike to provide arts opportunities for their citizens.
Arts education is important because it helps others express themselves into music, art, drawing and many other different forms that people use to show how they feel. It’s important for people to show how they feel so you don’t get depressed and push people away. This only makes you feel lonely and dark inside. For someone who is Mexican American, arts education is very important because it helps me learn about who I am and who my family is. And for me, my family is unique and full of culture.
Excerpted from my interview with Xavier Harvey: “What I’ve noticed being an actor and being involved with Actors’ Shakespeare Project is the tools that art gives you is learning more to express yourself. So when you’re hit with a difficult angle at something and you don’t know how to go about it, you learn different ways to conquer those challenges and all those obstacles. And in my way and where I live and the people that I surround myself, I always think about if I was put in that position again, if I had an artist’s way of thinking then I would have taken these challenges different and made better choices in life.”
Arts education means so much to so many people, it seems counterintuitive that its continuation in school communities and beyond is constantly under threat. I know that I would not be the person I am today, a successful and happy museum professional employed by the Smithsonian Institution, had I not had the opportunities in my youth to explore the vast world of visual art provided by my schools and local youth orgs. For the future of all our children, we must defend arts education every opportunity we get. With that in mind, I was extra delighted for the opportunity to get to know my colleague’s spirited and quite profound daughter better through this interview.
During this week of celebration, advocates in every state are working to secure equity in access to arts education and articulate the role of the arts as a pathway to academic success, specifically in the education of students of color, students in rural communities, students who are classified as low-socioeconomic status English Language Learners, or those who require special education. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated, “This is absolutely an equity issue and a civil rights issue.” We recognize this issue. We stand against the barriers that cause this issue. And we are working to overcome this issue.
In the short amount of time I’ve been at SAY Sí, they have made a great impact in my life. As a video game developer, I’ve gained so many connections and branched out as an artistic individual. SAY Sí has made me aware of my environment and my ability to influence as an activist for my community. The arts can mold and change perspectives only to be interpreted differently and we need to embrace the idea that art is capable of influencing the world. I think all youth deserve a creative outlet to express and evolve a future that is woke and powerful.
Jada Quin is a 17-year-old singer-songwriter residing in Howell, NJ. She incorporates her own life experiences and those of others around her into her soul-searching lyrics. We had a wonderful conversation and it was great to share ways that our passions—music and visual art—while different from each other, provide us with similar delight and comfort and are indispensable parts of our lives. Coincidentally, but not surprisingly, we both took a path toward developing our talents with the help of an inspired arts educator.
At the age of 5 I could recite the definition of genocide and explain to people the history of California and its first actions to eliminate Native Americans as a state. My knowledge of the events that are commonly hidden from textbooks did not make me the popular kid in school. I was picked on, not only by kids, but by teachers. I was a know-it-all and viewed by my teachers as a challenge. My mom, the executive director of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, recognized that the problems Native children face today are not different from the ones that she faced as a child. To combat the misinformation and stereotypes surrounding our people, she turned to the arts.
Performers co-create monthly performances at the airport in both pre- and post-security sites, including baggage claim, pedestrian bridges, escalators, near fountains and waiting gates, curbside, and at popular lunch spots. The approach has been, in part, to create scores (creative structures) that have a lot of improvisational movement so that the performers can adapt to the way people are moving through the physical environment. Each and every time, we take people by surprise as they encounter the performance happening around them in an unexpected way.
After reading the article “Most People are Secretly Threatened by Creativity,” I was depleted and infuriated. Creativity is the backbone of most of my identity as well as nearly 100% of the people I have come to know in varying communities including arts administration, marketing, event and hospitality management, and performing arts—even my engineering-focused friends at my alma mater were open-minded, creative vessels. So, what is with this idea that creativity is threatening?
What does adaptive leadership and effective advocacy look like for those working in the public sector? Over the course of the past year, I began seriously wondering how public employees might be able to take an active role in raising political support for cultural agencies and state arts councils, within the legal restrictions that apply to their self-advocacy. I interviewed arts leaders in six states to find out how they were steering their agencies to serve many diverse publics within their state in spite of significant political and economic challenges—and in some cases, a lingering threat of elimination.