Winter Wonderings in Arts Education

As arts educators, we should always try to dream big. We don’t need a Broadway budget to create good educational theatre. What we need are dedicated arts educators who are passionate about the message of the production and how it can be a transformative experience for young people. So many students often tell us that this may be the first play they have ever seen and how powerful the storytelling experience was for them. Rain, sleet, or snow, like the post office, we always deliver an authentic theatre experience; no matter where we go or how we get there, the rewards are always worth the effort.

Rehearsing “Madeleine”: A Personal Story of Hope

A few weeks ago, a Lawrence Arts Center School of Dance staff member popped into my office to say hello. A few minutes into it, I realized her real reason for stopping in: they needed someone to be a walk-on in the fall production of Madeleine put on by our pre-professional company, Lawrence Ballet Theatre. That first rehearsal? Let’s just say this: I felt like I was losing a real-life game of Frogger. With ballerinas instead of cars. Unprepared, I stumbled, quite literally, upon what comes from commitment and practice. These young dancers spend 5-6 days a week in class, in concentrated training for years, to make an extremely difficult art form look not just beautiful, but completely natural. They make dance look effortless, like anyone could do it. At this point, I couldn’t match their training, but I certainly could find it within myself to try to match their commitment. With this humbling realization, I promised to stick with it. The next evening, I sheepishly slipped into our next rehearsal full of apologies: to the ballerina I almost hamstrung, to the junior stage techs that had to reset the stage twice for me, and the duet whose sequence I stumbled into the middle of. Expecting to be met with frustration and annoyance, I found exactly the opposite.

Twelve Things Americans Believe About the Arts in 2018

There are many studies that document the social, educational, and economic benefits of the arts to communities. But how does the American public feel about the role of the arts in their lives? Do they value arts education and support government funding of the arts? How important is creativity at home and at work?  We put these questions directly to the public to find out. “Americans Speak Out about the Arts in 2018” was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for Americans for the Arts in May 2018. It is based on a nationally representative sample of 3,023 American adults, making it one of the largest public opinion studies about the arts ever conducted.  As one might expect when hearing from the public, we find a mix of assumptions challenged and observations confirmed.

The Art of Relationships

As my time on Americans for the Arts’ Arts Education Council winds down, I’m given to reflecting on the power of “art-relationships.” Over the past three years, these relationships not only have benefitted me on a personal/social level, but also have elevated my professional expectations and performance. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met on the Arts Education Council, I’m honored to call them friends, and I’m appreciative that they’ve made me a more successful arts administrator. With my final council post for ARTSblog, I thought I’d share some insights I’ve learned as they relate to developing professional connections.

2018 Council Elections: Voting for Advisory Council Members is Now Open!

Voting closes November 16 at 5:00 pm ET

Monday, October 29, 2018

Americans for the Arts wants our members to elect art professionals from the field to serve on one of four network advisory councils: Arts Education, Emerging Leaders, Private Sector, and Public Art. Voting closes November 16, 2018 at 5:00 pm (ET).

The Ohio Arts Education Data Project

All students deserve high quality arts education that develops important skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive workforce. Many of the skills developed through arts learning—collaboration and cooperation, problem identifying and problem solving, decision making, design thinking, articulation and critique, constructive communication—are considered key attributes by employers around the world in the 21st century. After all, they are the skills of leadership. Since 1989 the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Department of Education have worked together to gather data and report on the status of arts education in Ohio’s schools. The Ohio Arts Education Data Project launched in September 2018, and Ohio is proud to be among the first few states in the nation to provide online arts education data dashboards available to the public!

Challenging Teaching Norms: A New Art History Curriculum

In the rise of a socially-conscious zeitgeist, a spectrum of practices across the vast catalog of art institutions and programming have come into question, specifically around the issues of representation and equity. From hiring policies to curation, art audiences are demanding more inclusive narratives. Often our digital platforms provide the unfortunate circumstance of sustaining a highly contentious environment around these conversations. A common response across many institutions has been to remain steadfast and inflexible in questionable practice, as opposed to considering the validity of such cultural objections. But some institutions have found a way to respond to the current state of cultural criticism in more productive ways. 

What is our impact?

Impact. That is what every arts educator hopes for when they greet a new crop of students. To impact their lives through the art form they love. Whether a student develops an appreciation and love for the arts, decides to pursue it as a career, or just discovers something within themselves they may not have known without experiencing the arts, it all comes down to impact. A few weeks ago, we had an opportunity to see this impact on a national level as people all over the world told their stories during National Arts in Education Week. The #BecauseOfArtsEd hashtag gave us a chance to reflect on our story and how it was shaped by the arts. Like many of you, I was excited to post stories about the educators we work with and add to the tapestry of stories across the country. The response to our educators was overwhelming.

Introducing the Arts + Social Impact Explorer

To improve the perceived public value of the arts, we must connect into the places where people find value. To get members of our community to stand up and say, “We want more,” we have to tell them why “more” matters. If we’re trying to create advocates for arts and culture among the members of communities, we need to increase the occasions where thinking about the arts makes sense. Because the truth is, the arts make more things possible, from better education to greater health outcomes to a more civically-engaged citizenry—it’s just that people don’t always see the connection to the arts when change happens. Knowing people prioritize core issue areas like education, job security, housing, public safety, and health and wellness, how do we show the important ways the arts intersect with their day-to-day lives? At Americans for the Arts, our answer is the Arts + Social Impact Explorer.

Of Safe Havens and Wide Awakeness: Arts Educators as Agents of Transformation

This is the second year that I have taught a freshman course at Berklee College of Music about Neurodiversity. Over the 15-week semester, we examine topics and issues in neurodiversity and their relationship to the arts. We start by talking about the origin of the term “neurodiversity,” and we go on to consider issues of language, power, and representation as they relate to individuals with disabilities. We work with scholarly writings in disability studies and the arts to better understand and question the rhetorical frames at play in various cultural contexts when it comes to artists with disabilities. Every time I teach this course, I am struck by the openness with which these freshmen—brand new to Berklee, just getting to know each other, only recently living on their own—share their personal experiences and challenges. The respect and kindness that they show their classmates helps us all to create a safe space for learning and vulnerability for every student.

A Step beyond the Stats: The Miraculous Impact of Music on the Mind, Body and Brain

We’ve all seen the extraordinary figures released earlier this year by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis: The arts and cultural sector contributed over $760 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015. Staggering statistics, to be sure; indisputable in their depth and breadth. But within and behind these statistics lie stories—stories about human capital and the limitless power of the arts to transform, to teach, and to trigger the brain to soar and to accelerate well beyond its own limits. What falls beyond these extraordinary figures—and here, I refer to music and music education in particular—is a piece of knowledge that is at once as simple as it is profound: Music matters.

Two Sides, One Coin

As an arts educator, it’s crucial to your students that you’re able to bring your artist self into the room as a living example of how they too can be artists. However, it can be difficult for individuals like myself who work as arts teachers and administrators. So how do you balance the two?  For me, the solution has been to let the two be one. It took me a while to do this intentionally, but I let my creativity influence my approach to administrative solutions and let my task-oriented thinking manage the flow of my class. The key is remaining aware and perceptive of when it’s time to let things be, and when it’s time to stay organized—or as I frequently say, “create structure for the chaos to happen in.”

Americans for the Arts Reports Record Number of Celebrations Held During National Arts in Education Week September 9-15

Monday, September 24, 2018

Category: 

Americans for the Arts reported that more than 800 celebrations were held in communities across the nation for the 8th annual National Arts in Education Week, September 9-15 – a significant uptick compared with 428 in 2017. The celebrations ranged from block parties to city hall meetings to online visibility campaigns. 

Nominations Open for Advisory Council Members

Monday, September 17, 2018

Americans for the Arts Council Members

Americans for the Arts invites arts professionals from across the country to submit nominations for incoming advisory council members to advise on programs and services in the fields of Arts Education, Emerging Leadership, the Private Sector and Public Art. Nominations close Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

Experiential Education for the Future of Arts Leadership

Often, the pathways to job positions at the highest levels in the arts field are not very clear. The Diversity in Arts Leadership internship (DIAL) helps ensure undergraduates interested in leadership at arts organizations gain the skills, networks, and experience needed to assume leadership roles in the arts. Each intern in the Americans for the Arts’ DIAL Internship has displayed a combination of passion for the arts, some experience leading meaningful projects, and self-identifies as being from a background traditionally untapped for arts leadership. The DIAL internship then provides the platform for competitively selected undergraduates to explore nonprofit careers in the arts, taking the arts practices they love and combining them with meaningful experiences in business and leadership. While most internships can be considered experiential, the DIAL internship is a ten-week experience.

Fostering Diversity among Future Leaders in the Arts

I will never forget the day I first heard the phrase, “If you can see it, you can be it.” Fast-forward thirteen years, and these words ring true in the work I do to help facilitate the annual National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Collegiate Advocacy Summit and Hill Day. Over the past five years, more than 400 undergraduate students from across the United States have traveled to Washington, D.C., to learn leadership and advocacy skills from leaders in the field of music education. Additionally, and arguably most important, is the work these students do to advocate for the importance of music education to our elected officials during congressional office visits. The stories they tell and the passion they bring make all the difference when connecting a face to a name and cause for our representatives on Capitol Hill. These experiences often lead these young leaders and future music educators to report envisioning themselves as leaders and decision-makers—not only for the arts and arts education, but for our country and our world.

The Privilege of Voice

The MOCA Teen Program, which I co-manage, is an academic yearlong paid internship for 18 students that supports teens on a journey of self-discovery through learning about art, the museum, and the world. In the process of selecting candidates, we look for individual voices that can become part of a diverse and connected community. Students who come from privilege are empowered to have a voice from a young age. Students with fewer resources are not, and face a disadvantage before even applying for the MOCA Teen Program. The unequal empowerment of student voices illuminates a systematic barrier for youth to be prepared and competitive candidates for art and leadership pipeline opportunities. While the MOCA Teen Program aims to empower the voices of our program participants, we may be perpetuating cycles of privilege if our selection process gravitates towards privileged applicants. We must put more resources and thought into equitable recruitment and application processes to creative pathways if we are to overcome this barrier to diversity in our field. 

Expanding Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Museums through Teen Programming

The High Museum of Art has been on a journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion in recent years. With the diversification of our board and staff, the inclusion of programs for students with cognitive and physical disabilities, boosting our family programming, and more, the Museum has taken a concerted effort to truly reflect the community it serves. One of these areas is in our teen programming. In 2016, we applied for a contract with the Kennedy Center VSA to develop programming for students on the autism spectrum. In this program, we work closely with the students, teachers, and administrators to develop tours and workshops that are interactive, sensory-friendly, and responsive to the needs of all learners. The High Museum also has a program called Teen Team, a yearly group of 15 to 20 rising juniors and seniors representing a wide range of students from public, private, charter schools who create and host public programs at the Museum. 

New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival: Inspiring Future Generations of Creative Innovators

The New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival celebrated the third year of its revival this past spring at Ocean County College in Toms River. Thousands of students and teachers from 18 counties gathered with professional artists for the three-day statewide arts festival, to celebrate the important role the arts play in enriching all of New Jersey. This year’s festival was a great success, reaching 3,500 students and 400 educators in attendance. At the center of the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival programming are the showcases and displays of student creative work. The students that present at the State Festival are selected as the exemplary representatives of the outstanding artistic talent blossoming all throughout New Jersey’s local communities. 

Give More Kids a Voice Through the Arts. Then Listen Up.

Although the average household income in Marin County is high, the income gap in the county is wide. And Marin public schools serving lower income families are as cash-strapped as any in California. Yes, Marin’s pricy private schools offer rich arts experiences. But most of our public-school students receive a haphazard mix of programs hustled together by hardworking PTAs. And in our lowest income communities, where schools often serve predominantly immigrant youth of color, many have no arts at all. During National Arts in Education Week, my organization Youth in Arts and a team of stakeholders will present data illustrating local inequities in arts services before unveiling the first ever Marin Arts Education Plan. This plan offers first steps towards addressing the arts divide and creating a framework for all students to access quality arts learning.

From Diversity to Justice: How One Intern’s Experience Informs Efforts to Diversify the Arts Education Leadership Pipeline

Since the age of five, theater has served as my safe place, my platform, my passion, and my megaphone. It empowers me, strengthens me, and mobilizes me in an ethereal and visceral way that nothing else can. And yet, for the first nine years of my theater career, all my directors and theater teachers were white. Even now, years later, the vast majority of the faculty in my college’s theater department are white. This reality is an injustice. And still, my existence is proof that theater, and more broadly, the arts, shape our notions of what is possible for ourselves and the world around us. Art is restorative. Art is transformative. Art is healing. Art is resistance. It is for this reason, among many others, that arts leadership, and especially arts education leadership, must be representative of those who exist at the intersections of marginalized identities.

Working Through and Around Challenges of the Pipeline in Arts Education

Working in any field, we want assurance that there is upward mobility in our careers. Once upon a time, that is something that would often happen. One would start in a specific entry-level role and move up the ranks to be a top-level executive. However, today things in the nonprofit sector, and more specifically in arts education, look a little different. This is due in part to several systemic challenges that often limit the opportunities of growth for emerging leaders. Given these challenges, how can an emerging leader in arts education work through and around these systemic barriers?

Far and Beyond: to Fulfill a Promise

My name is Elbert Joseph, I have cultures in me, because of experiences and battles; I have learned. I live in cultures where I have to pick between a community and the chance to fit in. My cultures are Black, Deaf, and Gay. Family, friends, and colleagues are different from each other. Not many of them understand about certain matters: with acting I have to learn mostly on my own to improve my articulation and diction, for the sole purpose of equalizing myself to my hearing peers. I combat hearing privilege in the theatre community, working twice as hard for my skill and talent to be seen and appreciated. But I had to choose to fight. 

Meant to be Mentors: Who is Right for Your Circle of Support?

They say, “It takes a village to raise a child," but the need for a community of support doesn’t end after adolescence. As you move into adulthood, you have the opportunity to expand your village and seek out those who inspire you to join your team. But, before you welcome someone into your circle, you should learn what motivates them. Do they genuinely value the importance of sharing knowledge with the next generation, or are they driven by ego and status? If you are lucky enough to find a mentor who wants to see you succeed for purely altruistic reasons, welcome them with open arms and do everything you can to keep them close.

Feel the Turn

Dennie Palmer Wolf, mentor: I have half a century of work in the arts field behind me: successes, publications, and big, noticed projects, right along with my full share of mistakes, disasters, and misjudgments. When I speak nowadays I claim my white hair as a badge of office and call myself a “crone emeritus.” I started down that “remembrance road” and then thought, “For what?” Better to pass it on actively—why not mentor a next generation of leaders?

Sanuja Goonetilleke, mentee: I am lucky to have had multiple mentors in my life. Each is a double reminder: first, I am not alone and second, I have a responsibility to the world to pass the torch on. This is not only the torch of mentorship, it is also the torch of doing the work that my mentors have done and continue to do. It is more than knowledge; it encompasses showing up (with a smile), making an effort, pushing oneself to do one’s best, and keeping faith with what gradually becomes our shared work.

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