If you take a minute to reach out and feel the pulse of the arts education landscape around the country, I’m willing to bet you’ll hear the phrase “Community Engagement” a lot more than you’d expect: cultural institutions in every state provide education programs that engage the community through the arts; schools across the nation fight for arts programs that engage their students both in and out of the school day – and don’t expect to receive any money from the philanthropic sector unless “community engagement” is at the center of your argument. And it should be. In the arts (and even more in the world of arts education) we are in the business of engaging audiences (and students), so we need to constantly be in-tune with what makes them tick.
But do we often stop to talk about demographics? No. So let’s…
One of the highlights of my year (so far) was listening to Manuel Pastor discuss the demographic shift in communities around the US and how they will inherently affect those of us who claim to work to serve community needs. In my opinion, some of the most important facts to come out of his research are:
- In the last decade, the number of Latinos in the US has grown by 43%, whereas the number of African Americans has grown by 12%, and the number of Non-Hispanic Whites by 1%.
- Statistics show that in 2010, the number of Non-Hispanic Whites dying was greater than the number being born.
- Studies indicate that the “net migration” from Mexico is “0” – almost at a standstill. Which indicates that the growth of the Latino community is a result, in large part, of family planning: the average Mexican family is 3-5 times larger than the average American family.
Pastor’s findings indicate that the largest demographic shift in the US today is affecting the youth population: there are currently 4.3 million less Non-Hispanic White people under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago; and there are 4.7 million more Latinos under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago. By the year 2020, the majority of people under the age of 18 will be people of color.
So what are we doing as a field to engage the ‘new’ American community?
Earlier this year, I was honored when Americans for the Arts asked me to translate their Arts Education Navigator into Spanish. Not only am I incredibly proud to be associated with a group that believes in the importance of publishing tools like these, but also I am humbled by their belief in making it user-friendly – not just in content and format, but in language too (there are few publications on arts education readily available, free of cost, in English and Spanish). My excitement was soon humbled when I sat at my computer to begin the process.
In lieu of boring you with every little ‘Aha!’ moment throughout this process, I want to share one that encompasses how enlightening and how complex this journey was:
After reading and re-reading the English version to familiarize myself with the style and format of the e-book, I opened a blank Word document on my laptop, took a deep breath… saw the first phrase I needed to translate… and realized I couldn’t do it. To my surprise, the phrase was: “Arts Education.” I was in shock. There were too many options in Spanish, and each of them meant something completely different. I immediately reached out to everyone I knew that spoke Spanish and had some knowledge of arts education. Dr. Christina Marin at Emerson College suggested Educación Artística (literally meaning “artistic education”). My brother, a jazz trumpet player who was also a music teacher in Argentina for many years, recommended Artes Educativas (literally meaning “Educational Arts”). And while we ultimately ended up going with Educación de las Artes (literally meaning “the education of the arts”), none of the other options were technically wrong.
So why was this so hard? Other than English being a language of economy compared to Latin-based languages, some might argue that the very nature of our field is ambiguous; that arts education doesn’t know whether to live in the arts world or in the education world. I had to answer for myself what arts education meant to me – was it arts education, or arts integration? Was it esthetic education, or creative learning? The possibilities, if we look close enough, can also be endless in English.
Ultimately, the process of translating this text wasn’t based on re-interpreting the ambiguities of our field in order to share them with Spanish-speaking communities. Rather, and interestingly, it depended on having to re-define what it meant to me in English. Only then could I truthfully and efficiently share it with others.
This is my takeaway: I invite everyone to join me in this process of efficiently translating Arts Education so that others can understand it better. There are many ways to do this, and not all have to be as cumbersome as knowing a foreign language: explain what it is you do to you parents (who probably still don’t understand what it is that you do), try articulating it to your friends from High School, or practice your elevator pitch before meeting with a funder. If we all self-impose this level of detailed scrutiny, just imagine how much stronger our field could become – not just internally, but, more importantly, as it continually attempts to find its place in the world.
If you don’t know where to start, click here.