Where We Are & Where We Ought to be Going

Posted by Jane Remer On March - 14 - 2012

Jane Remer

In my first post, I suggested we needed definitions of quality, engagement, and partnership. I offered my thoughts on these three issues and left a “tentative conclusion” saying we probably ought to decide whether we as a group want to deal with the three “topics” together, or separately.

The posts from the other bloggers do both and so I have decided it’s best to follow my own train and offer a short list of where I see the field still stuck for answers.

I have no idea whether or how this will clarify or motivate collaborative thinking among us (a disparate group with very different agendas), but here goes…

In random order, here are some of the issues that have stymied us for decades:

1. Without committed classroom teachers and specialist arts educators as well as principals and their assistants, we (arts organizations, artists, consultants, et al) have no solid validity as partners in the arts as education.

2. Without the district’s or state’s education office heavily engaged, represented and fiscally invested, we have no chance, whatsoever, to build a growing and sustained constituency for the arts as education.

3. Without strong leadership and some attempt at unity and dialogue among the schools and the arts and cultural organization, we will continue to face the rather vast chasm between them as “them” and “us.

4. It is critical for us to work together to reach out beyond the normal “barriers” and make allies with those organizations  that deal with cradle to the grave issues so we can break out of our boxes and paint a bigger picture of our new directions.

5. The hope that “models” from the “pockets of excellence” in the field will emerge and conveniently help us “scale up” to country-wide stature has never worked; arts education does not scale up, and we must learn how to take the good and difficult lessons learned from our long experience and weave them together into a quilts of adaptable possibilities.

6. We must not shy away from the words “arts education” and substitute other “fad” language that ends up stuffing the “arts” and their contribution to general education under the pillow. We must somehow unite our overall goals and objectives without pandering to the latest flashy talk.

7. Finally, instead of shrinking back, worrying or complaining about all the challenges we have endured and still face, it is way past time for all of us to take a leadership stance, in our towns, cities, states, and school districts. I believe we can make efforts to bring people together to wrestle with these challenges and find a few strands that can perhaps grow into some kind of unity of thought, action, and valuable outcome.

I still hold to the banner from my JDR3rd Fund days: “all the arts for all the kids K–12” and now colleges, post-collegiates, seniors, and so on. We need national, state, local, and individual leadership, now!

What do you think?

6 Responses to “Where We Are & Where We Ought to be Going”

  1. Good stuff!
    I was working with some students recently in old school photography: teaching art and photography and its potential through development. Somehow in Q & A I spoke of a long past visit to a doctors office. In conversation with the doctor, he asked what I did. I said I’m an artist and teach art. He proceeded with his investigations of me, during which he asked, what kind of art do you do? I said I am a contemporary painter / photographer utilizing collage. He then said who is your favorite painter? When I said Picasso he sort of grinned (because he knew him)however when I added that I have several favorites from Klee to Caravaggio from Miro to Kahlo from Modigliani to Kiefer, he only response was that he was ignorant of all but Picasso. When I asked which was his favorite, he could name none.
    How can the study of Medicine, once considered an Art, continue without an understanding of creativity and creative visualization without the study of art?

  2. victoria plettner-saunders says:

    Jane:
    Loved your list. In particular, item 4 fits with my post on Collective Impact – although your item 6 is cautionary that while we strive to work together and broaden our connectivity, we don’t forget that what we bring to the table is “arts” education first and foremost.
    Item 3 – In San Diego we’ve tried to bridge the us and them issue with our San Diego Alliance for Arts Education.

    Items 1 and 2 – Continually working with district officials as “partners in education” rather than arts organizations with a hand out. But we still keep hammering away at the need for arts education infrastructure in schools despite the ever increasing cuts that are required to meet budget deficits.

    As my dear friend and colleague John Abodeely says – Arts education is a leadership issue.

  3. Jane Remer says:

    Good point via Abodeely….especially these days! I would love to see the next blog about how to cultivate and sustain leadership in a field that has mostly “leaders”

  4. Alyx Kellington says:

    Arts Education is definitely a leadership issue and I encourage the readers to partake in the Arts Education Webinar Series that Americans for the Arts is offering. “Understanding ___ in Arts Education” touches on the role of school board, superintendent, business partners, principals, parents, federal constituents and state level constituents.

  5. Carol Morgan says:

    Hi, Jane,

    Just catching up after some time out of the office. Wanted to add my agreement with you about most things, especially in reference to models and pockets of excellence. I still think that the most important thing that can be “replicated” from all of the excellent work that is being done around the country is to engage in inquiry at the local level and to build capacity through that process. We can no more tell others how to do their work than one artist can tell another. We can, however, learn from and with each other by engaging in dialogue and inquiry and each applying what we learn through it to our our own contexts.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.