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.

Researching the Benefits of Art Museums—A Nationwide Study

One of the most pressing needs in the cultural sector is to identify the difference that art museums make in people’s lives and to demonstrate this value with evidence that can withstand intense scrutiny. Without research-based data, art museums and art educators will not succeed in convincing policymakers and civic leaders that museums are vital to civic life, leading to the significant reduction or even absence of opportunities to engage with original works of art as an integral part of education and community experiences. That museums are more than nice—they are necessary. To begin to answer the question, The National Art Education Association (NAEA) Museum Education Division and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) joined forces to conduct a nationwide, four-year intensive research study on the impact of single visit art museum school programs.

UPDATED! Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts for National Arts & Humanities Month

October is National Arts & Humanities Month, a time to celebrate and champion the arts locally and nationally. 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 effective arts advocate needs a full quiver of case-making arrows to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic. To help fill your quiver, I offer an updated Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.

Impact Investing in the Arts: Bringing arts and business together for economic and social impact

Arts organizations are situated in a prime spot in society for changing community outcomes, but are not recognized or leveraged by impact investors as a critical resource. Can you imagine a world in which capital is connected with arts organizations that dually function as social entrepreneurship firms, B Corps, and employee-owned co-ops? This very well could be the future of social impact investing. There is a rising tide of organizations working to facilitate the interaction between investors and arts organizations that create a social and financial return, both in the USA and abroad. We could be finally witnessing the genesis of a trend that whittles away the wrongly perceived line dividing artists from economic contributors. 

A New School Year Means New Opportunities for Arts Education in Schools and Communities

As the new school year has officially begun across the country, I feel a renewed sense of possibility for the role the arts can play in learning, in all subjects, in the year ahead. Even greater, I feel a new sense of opportunity for the role the arts can play in cultivating new awareness and understandings for students of all ages, across our communities.

Daily Inspiration to Fight the Good Fight: Gard’s “To Change the Face and Heart of America”

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.”

Why We Celebrate: The Power of Youth Voice

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.

Stepping to Success #BecauseofArtsEd

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.”

You need to know the Truth of ART!!!

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!

Photographer and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron of New Orleans Drops #TruthBombs about Arts Education and Cancer

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.”

Support People, Progress, and Empowerment

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.

My Past, Present, Future in Music Education

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.

Contact Crash: How jumping head first into arts education affected my life

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.

The Arts Give us a Social Conscious

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.

Unexpected Insights

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.

My Time as an Artist

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.

An Interview with Megan Kim: 2017 Oregon State Poetry Out Loud Champion

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. 

Advocate with Grace

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.

“To My Fellow Combat Veterans”

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.

Ballet Folklorico? Not for me! Or, So I Thought

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. 

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