Creating Space for Collaboration: The Heartbeat of the Arts

One of the most enriching aspects of working in the arts is being a part of collaborative partnerships. I see the quality of the work we do as arts administrators as a direct reflection of the relationships and partnerships we’ve developed with other artists, organizations, and practitioners. Student work takes on a life of its own when students create work together. When a violinist, a poet, and a dancer collaborate on a project, or a community partner works with students to reinvent and add meaning to a cultural performance, the audience can feel and see the difference on stage from the depth of that relationship and experience. I was reminded a few weeks ago of the importance of encouraging, expecting, and creating the opportunity for collaboration in the schools and arts institutions we lead.

A Conversation with Kansas Pioneer Laura Ramberg

Laura Ramberg is a ceramicist, sculptor, and dancer who has been working as an artist in the Lawrence, Kansas community for the past 40 years. A true innovator and creative pioneer, she has taught art classes three times a week at the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center in Lawrence for two decades. Working with literally hundreds of students over 20 years, she has witnessed fluctuations in policy, changes in facilities, and the digital revolution in youth culture. She has experienced firsthand how art can help people in crisis in the moment, but also how it can change their lives. Arts Education Council member Margaret Weisbrod Morris sat down with Laura to hear about her experiences working with incarcerated youth.

Tennessee Governor and Country Music Association Announce New $1 Million Music and Arts Education Initiative

Thursday, April 12, 2018

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Called "Tennessee: State of the Arts," the program is an unprecedented public-private partnership to provide school districts statewide the opportunity to apply for funding to improve or develop their music education programs for the 2018-19 school year. 

Americans for the Arts Celebrates the Life of Maestro José Antonio Abreu

Friday, April 6, 2018

Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, was a professional musician, economist, and one-time cabinet minister, but his life’s mission was to democratize and universalize music education.

Creative Youth Development National Partnership Releases National Action Blueprint

Friday, April 6, 2018

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The Blueprint builds on the 2014 Collective Action for Youth Agenda by prioritizing three strategic areas—Visibility and Impact, Funding, and Field-Building—and identifying specific actions for cross-sector advancement of the field. 

National Coalition for Core Arts Standards Releases New Report on The Status of Arts Standards Adoption

28+ States Have Adopted New Arts Education Standards Since 2014

Friday, April 6, 2018

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More than 28 states have adopted new arts education standards since 2014. The NCCAS report includes a comprehensive list of states that have revised their arts standards and an up-to-date status of other states that are currently working on standards revision. 

Arts Education: Nothing Standard Here

After a recent successful community event, I was able to meet with different community business leaders, one of whom asked the ubiquitous question: How can we, as community leaders, help education? My answer likely surprised him when I said, “You can stop talking out of both sides of your mouth.” He looked at me somewhat stunned as I continued. “You can quit saying that you want us to produce problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and collaborative workers while also complaining about ‘school grades’ that are based on standardized tests that assess none of those things.” My point was simple: You need to demand better data. You need to critique the misuse of standardized test data.

Group Creation in Theater and Dance Builds Trust Among Students in High School Academic Classrooms

There’s an important role arts education can play in relation to school violence: prevention. Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Maine high schools have had access to Building Community Through the Arts, a performing arts program that lowers social barriers and builds trust within the classroom. The Maine Alliance for Arts Education sends professional theater and dance educators into high school academic classrooms to engage all the students in the class in creating an original drama or dance piece together over eight hours of class time during school hours. The group experience is daunting at first for many students, and many are initially reluctant, but by the end the students feel differently about each other and about theater and dance itself. A pre- and post-test administered to each class, designed by the University of Maine, gives us the data that confirms this.

Our DC

On Friday, March 9, 2018, twelve 4th-8th graders from four Turnaround Arts: Milwaukee schools boarded a plane for Washington, DC—a city largely defined to them by what is depicted on television, on the internet, or in a textbook. Their purpose: to perform in the Turnaround Arts National Talent Show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Many of these twelve had never performed before on a national stage—let alone a stage at all, for those whose schools don’t employ arts educators and have only what we refer to as a gym-a-cafe-torium. Some of them have discovered their passion and love for the arts as a means to motivate them to higher academic and social levels, while others had been selected knowing this would be their first time ever performing! Regardless of experience, we held all the students to high expectations—not only to practice, prepare, and perform, but to represent their school, district, city, and state. 

Incubating Art for Social Impact: An Interview with Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington, DC

This spring break season has seen an increase in the numbers of students, teachers, and arts advocates choosing civic engagement over a hedonistic week at the beach. As engagement in the arts for positive impact towards civic engagement and social justice continues to trend up, community building around organizations and practitioners working in social practice becomes increasingly important. So I reached out to Nicole Dowd, Program Manager of Halcyon Arts Lab—a newly launched residency and incubator program for artists working in social justice in Washington, DC—to learn insights gained from the first full year of the program. With local influences and resources ranging from Capitol Hill to an actively engaged tri-state area with interests in arts, policy, civic engagement, and everything in between, visiting artists to the Halcyon Arts Lab are welcomed into a profoundly energetic creative environment.

Increasing Arts Education Through a Service Year

At Lighthouse Elementary in Queens, NY, the kids love to dance. They just never expected it to be tap dance. That’s where ArtistYear AmeriCorps Fellow Crystal Simon comes in. “When I told them no hip-hop dancing—they fought me tooth and nail. But once we actually put our shoes on and we actually started to make noise the kids’ face lit up! They were enjoying it. And they would even come to me in the halls and be like, ‘Ms. Simon! I’ve been practicing! I’ve been practicing!’” ArtistYear is the first national service program dedicated to partnering with school districts to provide every underserved student in America with access to arts education through a year of national service. ArtistYear trains and supports AmeriCorps members to serve as full-time teaching artists alongside established arts educators or classroom teachers in federally-designated Title I schools.

Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in 2018

The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. This advocacy season, find your stories and pair them with the research-based findings in the “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.

The Art Is What Heals!

Now in the middle of its fourth year, the Cincinnati Arts Association's Arts in Healing Initiative is integrating performing and visual arts in medical and non-traditional settings. Its mission is to promote community wellness and encourage our community to explore the arts as an active part of healing and ongoing wellness. When asked to write a blog about the program, I questioned if I could give justice to the stories of these artists, and the administrators, medical partners, and participants of the Initiative. Then I remembered the lesson I’ve learned: even the developer of such a program should see herself as a primary participant, too. I’ve had to ask and answer every question, face every barrier, plan and discover the founding perspective: who will the programand the art, impact? First and foremost, this journey requires a belief that art changes lives.

Arts Education becomes Arts Advocacy

I was excited to enter Randolph High School back in 1980, mostly because of its thriving music program. I couldn’t wait to sing in the different choruses, and to audition for the competitive show choir. Yet when I arrived at school, I learned that, as a result of Proposition 2 ½, music had been cut from the high school curriculum—along with other reductions to busing, foreign languages, sports, and library staff. I was devastated. My arts education came to a sudden end, but my education as an arts advocate was just beginning. Along with other students and parents, I wrote letters and attended meetings, imploring administrators not to abandon the music program. And our efforts began to pay off.

Shooting Survivors Turn to the Arts in Wake of Tragedy

On February 14, 2018, seventeen people, including students and adults, were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since this tragedy, the voices of young people from the community have been lifted through their dynamic advocacy to call for reform to national, state, and local gun- and mental health-related policies. Many of the strong skills that they are using for their advocacy came from their immersion and studies in arts education. As the school re-opens and our lawmakers continue important discussions as a result of this tragedy, I hope that young people in every community across our nation continue to embrace the arts to inspire change in their communities, in states, and in Washington, DC. While nothing can lessen this tragedy, the arts are one way for people to find solace and strength.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Arts to Engage Parents and Caregivers

Since the beginning of our Early Literacy Learning through the Arts program, parental engagement has been a purposeful component. It is our belief that a healthy and active relationship between a Pre-K child’s parent and their teacher will lay the foundation for continued parental engagement throughout the course of the child’s academic career. Further, it is our belief that the arts offer a level playing field of sorts, a non-threatening environment for risk-taking and trust-building, that can play a unique role in cultivating a sense of comfort and rapport on the part of the parent. Previously negative experiences from personal schooling of the parent can be replaced by new, long-lasting, fully-engaging and empowering relationships with their child’s teacher for years to come.

The Positive Power of Art

Everyone should have access to making their life better and living a healthy life. This is where we can all make a difference: advocating to make the benefits of creative activity, arts education, and arts experiences more openly accessible to more people. You might be surprised to know that the arts and health have over 100 years of partnership. Visual art, music, dance, creative writing, dramatic play, and theater have been used for decades to enhance individual experience in hospitals, mental health treatment centers, senior care facilities, emergency rooms, occupational therapy clinics, in pediatric care, and more. Wherever people are in crisis—health or otherwise—creative activities are found. 

Step into the Fear

Above the door of my theatre teacher’s classroom is the saying, “Step into the fear.” This saying has become a motivation of mine during this turbulent environment where support for arts education is more important than ever before. As a theatre student, history and human behavior jump off the page and come alive, forming an ensemble of different perspectives from a wide range of characters. These characters help me better understand the evolving world in which I live and inspire me to make a difference. Theatre has taught me to speak up, and this skill is not lost on me as an advocate. As I learn more and more about the world through plays, art, and music, I find myself with a greater efficacy and understanding of the value of arts advocacy.

The Issue of Creating Across Generations

Myah Overstreet (20) and Jason Wyman (41) are an intergenerational producing team with The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture. They have worked together for over two years co-piloting The Alliance Youth Media Initiatives. Their latest endeavor with The Alliance is The Issue, a new arts + culture magazine designed to inspire a future where we all belong, which was published on January 11, 2018. The Issue is a model of intergenerational collaboration and mutual reciprocity, where diverse voices are artfully represented and joyfully celebrated. Overstreet and Wyman recently sat down to chat how and why they collaborate and create across age as a means to create a more inclusive future. 

Volunteers = Impact

For those who are on the ground working directly with communities, we know our work simply cannot be done without a number of partners, including donors; local, state, and federal government; other organizational partners; and of course, the children and families themselves. I’d like to shine a light on one of Pablove’s most important constituents—our volunteers—and discuss why they are so instrumental to the work that we do in the healing arts.

Enacting Change in the Performing Arts World Begins with Changing the Conservatory Culture

Twenty-five years ago American orchestras began a conversation about what would happen to excellence in performance if orchestras broadened their missions to focus on education and community engagement. The fear, unfounded, was that excellence would be compromised. The opposite was true. Today, administrators of top performing arts organizations are begging for those of us who train artists to start training like it’s the 21st century and not the 19th. More than new skills—which is certainly part of it—this requires something more difficult: a change in the mindset of musicians. We must understand we’re all in the audience development business.

Museums and Creative Aging

In the United States, 1 in 10 adults age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. As the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will escalate rapidly. Although cultural institutions have created programs for this population for many years, how these programs are created—how educators are intentional in the works of art they select for the program, how much research and evaluation is put into a session, etc.—are growing and becoming more substantial. So, how are we doing it? And are these programs effective?

Why I support Americans for the Arts

The arts are important to me, and if you’re reading this, I bet they’re important to you too. I know you’ll agree that the arts help communities heal, learn, and grow. And that’s why I'm proud to support Americans for the Arts: because they help make it possible for arts organizations and artists in communities all over the country to do what they do better, through education, advocacy, professional development, case-making research, and more. I hope you'll join me.

Arts High Schools: A Unique and Essential Model

I recently joined an arts high school community, and I live in awe of the complexity, depth, and flexibility that the arts school model provides. I’m enamored with the space we create when we design schools for students who have a demonstrated passion and aptitude for the arts. Arts schools allow our most creative young people in society to feel supported, celebrated, and encouraged to grow. I contend that the confidence, skills, and sense of community students gain from attending arts schools helps them to become the best version of themselves. 

Undoing Power Dynamics by Incorporating Youth and Community Voices

By wishing to incorporate youth and their communities in decision-making for initiatives that are intended to engage them and their peers, organizations and program managers are (knowingly or unknowingly) giving these young people a lesson on power dynamics, the power of organizing, and policy development via focus grouping, researching, and consulting with experts (aka themselves). By welcoming youth into the decision-making process, we can begin to show them how decisions—within our organizations and more broadly in society—could be made differently. Let’s lean into it and, in fact, give these young folks more power over programs that are meant to be for them, particularly in organizations that have little or no history of incorporating young people in admin-level spaces.

Arts Education Helps Train Tomorrow’s Workforce: A strong arts education helps prep kids for the future

To build the workforce of tomorrow, let’s invest in arts education for our youth today. Studies show that early arts engagement for students from low socio-economic backgrounds significantly increases their likelihood of college attendance and graduation. Increased graduation rates lead to increased employability, and studies also show these students demonstrate increased volunteerism and political participation. Exposing young people from all backgrounds to the arts is an investment not only in their future, but in a collective future with an employed and engaged next generation.

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