arts education information quarterly
Hand in Hand with Your PTA: Pennsylvania Council on the Arts & the Pennsylvania Congress of Parents and Teachers
The Arts Education Information Quarterly (AEIQ) is a publication of Americans for the Arts, offering field-tested strategies for securing a place for arts education in local PreK–12 environments.
By Michael Faison, former Arts In Education Division Director, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
For more than a decade, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) has been building a statewide partnership of regional partners. These partners provide the PCA with the reach it needs to serve the entire state of 12 million people and 2.1 million students. Each partner recruits, selects, trains, and places artists in schools to enhance the efforts of educators to make the arts a part of the curriculum and fulfill state standards. Early in the process of gathering partners, the Pennsylvania Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) became an important part of the PCA’s strategy to enhance the quality of education for Pennsylvania’s students by creating an honored place for the arts in our schools.
The PCA now maintains a close, ongoing relationship with the PTA. It is mutually beneficial, based on shared values in fostering educational excellence and student achievement. It started six years ago, when the PCA and PTA recognized each other’s arts education priorities. The PCA viewed the “Power Parents” of the PTA as a significant voice in advancing arts education for Pennsylvania children. Likewise, the PTA recognized the importance of the PCA in advancing arts education and participation in the creative process for their children as they were advocating for a balanced curriculum in Pennsylvania schools. Ever since, each provides the other with valued services. The PCA supports arts educational activities at the Pennsylvania PTA’s annual convention. The PTA assists in Pennsylvania’s Poetry Out Loud poetry recitation contest, coordinating one of 13 regional competitions across Pennsylvania. The PTA provides parental perspectives as we plan the 2009 Pittsburgh International Early Learning in the Arts conference.
The success of the relationship between the PCA and the PTA, like any thriving relationship, is based on three very human principles.
- Start with shared values
- Build it on human relationships
- Root it in self interest
Shared Commitment to Educational Excellence and Student Achievement
The Pennsylvania PTA and the PCA both hold their own values and priorities, which intersect at the need for arts education for children. Our common belief in the necessity of arts learning in the life of every child brings us together. The trust that led us to recognize this common ground and act on it was generated by people from both organizations who knew and trusted each other.
It Starts and Ends with People
It’s about people. The people involved in the partnership have established mutual trust that opens communication. The relationship between the PCA and Pennsylvania PTA began in 2000 with people who had mutual affiliations. Ms. Robin Crago was, at that time, the state PTA Reflections program chair and a former art teacher in Erie, PA. Mr. Doug Irish-Hosler was, at that time, the arts education coordinator with the Arts Council of Erie, Erie, PA, a regional partner of the PCA delivering arts-in-education services to schools. Ms. Crago and Mr. Irish-Hosler saw the potential in a relationship between the PCA and PTA. Importantly, they knew and respected each other. They brought the leaders of both the PCA and PTA together. Their mutual respect spread its way through both entities. That foundation of trust continues today, long after these two people left their respective positions.
Since that time, as the PCA’s Arts in Education division director, I continue to build and maintain the personal bonds that sustain the relationship, as do my peers at the PTA. I frequently participate in PTA events recognizing student achievement in the arts. As I engage the members and leadership of the PTA, my respect grows for them as individuals. Our common goals are reinforced. My trust builds. And I know that trust is reciprocated.
The PTA-PCA relationship was established by people who saw the opportunities for both organizations. But to achieve success over time, the relationship must have roots in self-interest. What does each of us get out of it? Both organizations need what the other can provide.
The PCA needs parents to advocate in schools to bring the benefits of the arts and creative learning to every child’s education, parental help for statewide initiatives in arts education, and parental perspectives as we plan future activities. What we call PTA “Power Parents” are the organized parents who are actively engaged in their children’s education. They are leaders and can mobilize parents across Pennsylvania to advocate on priority issues. They believe that arts education is an essential part of every child’s education and frequently provide matching funds to schools for artist residencies.
The PTA needs access to arts education policy makers, arts education data, depth of knowledge in arts and arts-infused curriculum development, teaching artists to work in their schools, people who can manage school residencies, funds to support such residencies, annual convention sponsors, vendors, and session leaders, resources to showcase the participants in its Reflections program—a local and national recognition program in the arts—and to expand their reach. The PCA is Pennsylvania’s state arts agency. It supports public programs in the arts for Pennsylvanians. Its regional service network—the Arts in Education (AIE) Partnership—provides localized arts education advocacy, teacher and teaching-artist professional development, and artist residencies in schools. The PCA and its AIE Partners supply skilled teaching artists, residency planning, management expertise, and funds for artist residencies in schools. We provide access to education policy information and current research. We convene state and national leaders in arts education to inform and inspire. We facilitate arts education experiences and workshops at the annual PTA convention. We support the Reflections program, and generally help the PTA to enhance their children’s arts education.
Translating into Action
Finally, for the relationship to have a reason to exist, it must go beyond recognition to tangible action. The PCA provides ongoing support for the Pennsylvania PTA to: provide arts experiences at its annual state convention so their members can understand the work of artists in the classroom, support the presentation of the work of Reflections program participants whereby student artwork is recognized and celebrated, advocate for artist residencies in their region’s schools; serve as a state and regional organizer and facilitator, and most recently, participate in PCA conference planning and development.
Each item above is a tangible action—something of real value to the PTA and the PCA. Each of these action items is rooted in self-interest. Lastly, each action item is reasonable in scope and achievable. Neither organization asks the other to do anything that is either against their self-interest or beyond their organizational capacity.
With statewide coverage by the AIE Partnership nearly a reality, the PCA has begun to focus on promoting the partnership to schools throughout the state. The PTA will be even more important to the PCA in achieving its goal of reaching students and teachers throughout the Commonwealth. Harnessing the PTA’s ability to advocate and promote with the PCA’s ability to provide services is a powerful match of our resources.
Acknowledgement of all of these principles by all of the people involved has built a productive relationship that seems to get stronger each year. The Pennsylvania Congress of Parents and Teachers and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts have become essential partners in our mutual agenda to strengthen the arts education of children in Pennsylvania. There’s nothing more natural, or more right.
About the Author
Michael B. Faison lives in Boise, Idaho, where he serves as the executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. He is the former Arts in Education division director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Mr. Faison was a teacher at McCallum High School in Austin, Texas, where he taught commercial art and design in the Austin Independent School District Magnet Program. Mr. Faison was assistant director of the Oregon Arts Commission, executive director of the Center for Arts Management and Technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and served as an information technology consultant for Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art and secondary art teaching certification from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University, the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management/College of Fine Arts.