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.

Veterans Supporting Each other Through the Arts

Denver’s VFW Post 1 Commissions Glass Poppies from Tacoma’s Museum of Glass “Hot Shop Heroes”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Michael Mitchel, post commander of VFW Post 1 in Denver, Colorado commissioned 100 glass poppies from Hot Shop Heroes at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 2018. The poppies will be available for purchase to support the revival and renovation of Denver’s VFW Post 1, our country’s oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars post and home of the only VFW Post Veterans Arts Council.

Professional Development: Not an Add-On

When we think about partnering with schools, we’re generally pretty clear that success requires changing how work is currently getting done. We’re also (usually) clear that it’s unfair to ask people to make such a change without providing support. Within that context, professional development is a no-brainer. In arts administration and within local arts agencies, however, professional development is often considered a luxury investment. The hidden assumption in this attitude is that changing how we work is rare, or undesirable. The truth is that any arts organization operating under a “business as usual” mindset is in for an awakening—if not now, then in the near future. Local arts agencies have a responsibility to create space to support those awakenings—and a responsibility to prompt them.

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. 

Business Builds Up Brand and Artists in the Bronx

Founded in 2016, Bronx Native is a brand that highlights the Bronx through apparel, art, and media. It was founded by two multi-faceted individuals, siblings Amaurys and Roselyn Grullón. Bronx Native is not only a brand that represents the Bronx as a borough, but also their words and actions provide a platform for the Bronx’s artistic community, entrepreneurs, and its residents. In this interview with co-founder Amaurys Grullón, we discuss how Bronx Native marries their art with business, and the ways they have impacted the Bronx’s cultural community through creative collaborations, live events, and a commitment to showcasing the borough's history and culture through visually appealing design creations.

VSA Texas Distinguished Artist Veterans: A State of Arts & Military Outreach

VSA Texas works with people with disabilities as they access the arts. This can be as a patron of the arts or as an artist. Through our Artworks: Creative Industries program, we meet artists where they are in their hobby or career and act as a resource to move them to where they want to be in that hobby or career. My challenge is to find out what the barriers are for our artists and find ways for each of them to work through those barriers to reach their personal goals. In 2009, we noticed a barrier for Veteran artists within our own services. Veterans in our community were not identifying as artists with disabilities, so they were not entering our art exhibitions or attending our workshops and events. Rather than trying to change their viewpoints, we adapted ours and started programming specifically for Veterans.

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. 

The Falling and The Rising

US Army Field Band Connects Civilians and Soldiers Through Opera

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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"The Falling and the Rising" is a new American opera based on the true stories of dozens of active duty soldiers and veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Old Guard at Fort Myer, and Fort Meade, Maryland. The opera chronicles the imagined journey inside the mind of a soldier following traumatic brain injuries suffered during a roadside attack, and was first proposed by a tenor in the Soldiers’ Chorus, Staff Sgt. Ben Hilgert.

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.

Arts and Gentrification: Potential for Change

In informed discussions about the role of the artist when communities undergo change, words like privilege, displacement, and tools of gentrification often come up. The point is not that the blame for the detrimental effects of gentrification lies in the artist—of course there are much larger forces at play. Rather, the arts are being used as a tool on the path to displacement. If national trends are any indication, the artists who encroach as community outsiders in fact have a stake similar to longtime residents in the process of gentrification. Across the country, the artists initially involved in neighborhood “transformations” are themselves pushed out as rents rise. Artists and arts organizations have an opportunity to recognize their place in the system, and to take responsibility in it.

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.

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Arts Marketing and Audience Engagement Initiative

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Focusing on the Western part of Pennsylvania, the second Cohort of this program will participate in an intensive two-year curriculum that provides all participants the opportunity to build new skills in arts marketing and audience engagement. Applications for the 2018-2020 program are open through April 27, 2018.

Eight for 2018: New Obstacles and Opportunities in the Arts

Over the first quarter of 2018 I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time listening to the wisdom of my colleagues in the field. From these gatherings, I continue to see first-hand the spectacular array of work and service offered by the non-profit arts community in our country. It is a vibrant, effective, optimistic, inciteful, and growing field that uplifts our communities across the country. Despite challenges in funding and support, the creativity of our arts field surges forward. There are new benchmarks to celebrate and new obstacles to overcome, all leading I hope to new opportunities for the arts. Here are eight observations for 2018.

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.

Matrons of the Arts Initiative Highlights Female Artists

It’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in the art world. Left out of textbooks, exhibitions, and museum collections, women artists often face an uphill battle to get the recognition they deserve. The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) recently announced a new initiative, Matrons of the Arts, to help change that. The movement highlights female-identified artists in the Museum’s permanent collection and around the world. Inspired in part by the "name five women artists" challenge put on by the National Museum of Women in the Arts—and playing off the phrase patron of the arts—this campaign seeks to bring the public’s attention to women who have been and continue to be major figures in the world of art.

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.

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