Learning and participation in music, dance, theater, and the visual arts are vital to the development of our children and our communities. Through advocacy, research, partnerships, and professional development, Americans for the Arts strives to provide and secure more resources and support for arts education. Visit AmericansForTheArts.org for more information on the Arts Education Network.
In the late Eighteen Hundreds Harvard decided to add an “art appreciation” course to its offerings and thus began a recognition by higher education that knowing about and, later to come, engaging in the arts was a good thing for students in American colleges and universities. Centuries before, the University of Paris had established music as one of the major subjects of study but that effort, of course, was driven by the University’s interest in mathematics, not aesthetic sensibilities.
By the 1940’s and 1950’s American higher education was steeped in both required arts courses as well as the blossoming of full-fledged programs of study in the arts. By the end of the Twentieth Century music, theatre(er), visual arts, and dance were acknowledged members of the academy. In most places, respected; in some, only tolerated.
From this admittedly brief and over-generalized history it is clear that the arts were increasingly enjoying a place of acceptance, even respect, within the academy. Those good days seem to be passing as the nation tightens its fiscal belt and increasingly questions the value of higher education, gravitating now toward a valuing system that focuses on careers and income potential (e.g., check out this naïve post to Yahoo! Education, Don’t Let your Kids Study These Majors. Business practices are dictating the course of higher education and the arts are being forced into a box lined with expectations that tend to minimize the “real” values of the arts and ignoring the “real” contribution the arts have and continue to make to our system of higher education. Squeezed into submission, American colleges and universities are scrambling to parasitically survive by attaching themselves to STEM or giving lip service to career development or just giving up and eliminating arts programs. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2006, the U.S. National Academies, expressing their concern about the state of education in our country, recommended improving K-12 math and science education. In 2007, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act, which authorized funding for STEM initiatives, kindergarten through graduate school. I think most everyone would agree that we are not where we had hoped we would be. 2012 National Assessment of Education Progress tests results showed only a tiny increase in 8th grade science scores over 2009. This same test showed that 4th, 8th, and 12th graders performed poorly when asked to use problem solving and critical-thinking skills in laboratory settings. So why aren’t these initiatives working?
Now, President Obama has announced a major initiative to create a national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps. This is to underscore that STEM education is a top priority for the Obama administration. “A world-class STEM workforce is essential to virtually every goal we have as a nation – whether it’s broadly shared economic prosperity, international competitiveness, a strong national defense, a clean energy future, and longer, healthier, lives for all Americans.”
Of course, this is important for the future of the United States. But, I believe it is equally vital that “longer, healthier, lives for all Americans” include reference to productive, creative, fulfilled, happier, inspired lives as well. We truly need to focus on developing creativity in order to help achieve these lofty goals – otherwise , I believe , all these initiatives are doomed to continue to fail. Read the rest of this entry »
In January 2012 I started the New Year with an ARTSblog entitled So Many Resources, So Little Time. I wrote, “With endless emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed.” For the most part, that statement was true – except for one thing. I wasn’t using Twitter!
Of course after mentioning Twitter in the resources ARTSblog someone would reach out to me in an email requesting my Twitter handle. Uh oh. Once upon a time I had set up an account, but when I tried to remember what the original handle was and how to login? Forget about it. I had been caught red-handed!
Just what I needed, one more thing to add to what already felt like an overflowing plate. I couldn’t respond back with, “sorry, I don’t do Twitter” after mentioning it in my blog so I decided it was time to officially throw myself into the #Twitterverse. Hence, @JessicaLWilt was born.
Over the past year I’ve been teaching myself how to navigate and speak the language that is Twitter while building a truly authentic and genuine community. I don’t have thousands of followers – yet – but I do regularly interact and connect with a diverse group of people. Never could I have imagined how vast the information, people, ideas and life-changing events I’ve experienced through Twitter would enhance my personal and professional circles. Read the rest of this entry »
Four years ago, when I first heard the phrase “turn STEM to STEAM” – i.e. add the arts to the federally-recognized acronym for science, technology, engineering and math — I was skeptical.
As a theater geek born to a physician and biologist, I understood that the artistic process and scientific process have a lot in common, and that participants in each arena can learn a lot from one another.
My skepticism was not rooted in whether the arts and sciences are connected. What was missing for me as the “STEM to STEAM” mantra started to pick up more and more (ahem) steam was an articulation of how they are connected. Sure, there are elements of geometry in visual art, and yes, you need to understand basic math in order to read music or follow rhythms in dance. But arranging letters on a page is one thing; bringing different disciplines together in a thoughtful and authentic way is something entirely different.
In my mind, the ability to articulate and explore the authentic relationships between the S, T, E, A and M is crucial. The arts and the STEM subjects have similar processes, but provide different means of understanding what currently exist, as well as imagining what does not yet exist. If we want the STEM to STEAM movement to have longevity, we need to get specific about what those relationships are. Read the rest of this entry »
For those of us who’ve been involved with arts education for any length of time, we’ve seen many theories and practices arrive on the scene. All are well grounded, express a philosophy of teaching, and hopefully build upon the education foundations already laid since the late 19th Century and the rise of the Picture Study Movement. Today, over one hundred years later, Common Core’s focus on national standards is receiving much attention from educators, commentators, think tanks, and politicians.
What seems overlooked in this evolution is the tectonic change that’s occurred inside the classroom. Specifically, inside the arts classroom–or on the mobile cart that carries the arts into the “regular” classroom.
Much time, it seems, is spent studying arts education practices at the macro level. We in the field read, listen, talk, debate, and write consistently on how theory and practice impacts students. In my household, alternatively, we generally eschew theory and instead talk a lot about reality. Why is that? Because my wife is a visual arts teacher in a K-8th grade public school.
In her 27 years in the classroom, things have changed. Kids haven’t really changed all that much, but the atmosphere surrounding public education certainly has.
The challenges she faces in her job on the front lines of education have evolved significantly. At one time, she felt supported by her principals and school administrators, especially in areas like discipline. Today, the kids rule. Principals now consider the child’s side of a dispute more than the teacher who brought it to their attention. School board members bend sideways with any angry parental breeze. Imagine an eight-year-old lying through their teeth after being caught doing something wrong, in spite of plain evidence to the contrary, and having the principal castigate the teacher for not “truly understanding” the child’s behavior. Read the rest of this entry »
This is my 149th ARTSblog post as a writer. It’s also my last—at least as a staff member here at Americans for the Arts.
I have been with the organization for almost six years and started blogging four years ago (after becoming ARTSblog editor a little over two years ago).
In those two years, I have tried to write, recruit, or find at least one relevant post per day to publish on the site. Some weeks were easier than others, but it is pretty amazing to see the depth and breadth of the quality of the posts that I have had the pleasure of adding to the site.
And, of course, I can’t help but think of the 20 Blog Salons I have worked on along with the fantastic program staff at the organization who work hard to find the bloggers, gather the posts, pictures, and profiles, and send them along to me for editing, formatting, and social media promotion.
While those weeks are some of the more stressful due to the work that it all entails, I think the fantastic collection of resources in the right side bar speaks for itself.
I’m leaving ARTSblog in the perfectly capable hands of our marketing and communications staff members, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for visiting our little corner of the web to read, comment, and share the amazing work of our bloggers.
Americans for the Arts represents a diverse group of interests—from arts administrators to marketing professionals to advocates to arts-education-supporting parents—and I hope that my work on the site has represented you at one point or another. If it hasn’t, I hope you will consider adding your voice to the mix sometime soon.
Until next time…
As a university administrator and associate professor, I frequently interact with parents who visit our campus with respective students. The one question that is always interesting to field is, “What will my child be able to do with a degree in (fill in your respective arts area here)?”
From a financial standpoint the question is a valid one: parents want to know that their investment in their child’s future is going to lead to gainful employment and prevent him/her from returning home and living on their couch after graduation. However, the assumption that any college degree, regardless the area of study, will lead to a specific job is a misconception.
While a degree does set one on a career path with a specific skill set, it does not guarantee employment in any specific field. The question is also valid because in my experience, the knowledge that a majority of students and their parents have of the opportunities in the arts is limited to practical involvement in their respective art area of study: singing, painting, dancing, acting, etc.
In higher education, I have witnessed practicing an art form as the point of entry that many students take into their respective fields. However, that initial exposure leads them to a variety of careers within and outside of the arts. Therefore, I try to quell the notion that a degree in the arts leads to being a starving artist. Instead, I point them to resources that will help them expand their perspective of the possible career options for those with arts backgrounds and discuss the transferable skills that students learn within the arts. Read the rest of this entry »
“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves…We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” ~ from A Nation at Risk
Last Friday I attended an event at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looking at the impact of the report released back in 1983, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform. According to the Fordham Institute’s website:
“Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. This report became a turning point in modern U.S. education history and marked the beginning of a new focus on excellence, achievement, and results.”
The report language itself called for many sensible reforms, including more instructional time, higher standards for courses and content, stringent high school graduation requirements, and demanding college entrance requirements.
But the sound bite that came out of the report was that we have a “desperate need for increased support for the teaching of mathematics and science.” And, “We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.” Read the rest of this entry »
Imagine a fast-growing, increasingly diverse school district with approximately 2,700 students in grades K–12, located 12 miles from the downtown area of a city. The district currently consists of three buildings: an elementary school (grades K–4), a middle school (grades 6–8), and a high school (grades 9–12). Also imagine the following:
- Because of the growing population, the district is building a new facility for grades 3-5 that will open in the 2013–2014 school year. This building will have a STEAM focus.
- In addition to visual arts and music, students in the elementary school also participate in an Arts Alive class. Arts Alive is a performing arts class that focuses on storytelling; students employ dance, music, and theatre to tell and create stories. Students often comment that they wish Arts Alive would continue into the middle school because they learn so much in elementary school.
- The administrative team—including the superintendent and other central office staff; building leadership; heads of transportation, food service, and grounds; and other leaders—has spent its last three summer leadership retreats at local arts and cultural facilities, engaged in creative arts-based learning with staff from those facilities.
- The middle school visual arts teacher took it upon herself a few years ago to attend a robotics workshop at a local university. With the help of staff from a special robotics program at the university, she now engages her middle school students in designing, creating, and programming kinetic sculptures that use the elements and principles of design. Read the rest of this entry »
Arts education in our society sometimes gets a bad rap. When I’m speaking with potential students and their families I’m frequently asked questions such as: What do people actually do with a degree from the College of Fine Arts? What kind of jobs do they get? How much money do they make?
These are all valid questions, but the answers are often more complicated than the inquirers desire. I often wonder whether or not these are the most important questions for people who are passionate about studying and creating art.
The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) is an organization designed to enhance the impact of arts-school education. To do this, SNAAP partners with degree-granting institutions to administer an annual online survey to their arts alumni. The information from the survey provides important insight as to how artists develop in this country, help identify the factors needed to better connect arts training to artistic careers and allow education institutions, researchers and arts leaders to look at the systemic factors that helped or hindered the career paths of alumni.
SNAAP defines “the arts” and “the arts alumni” broadly, to include the fields of performance, design, architecture, creative writing, film, media arts, illustration, and the fine arts. The survey population includes alumni from undergraduate programs, graduate programs, and arts-focused high schools. Read the rest of this entry »
For decades, science and math educators have been the beneficiaries of government largesse, which has often been supplemented by corporate philanthropy. As a high school science teacher for three decades, I have often benefited from this policy along with my students and I have never questioned why it was so.
Many of my post-graduate courses were funded in whole or part by grants from the National Science Foundation. A good number of the many summer programs that I have attended were federally financed by one agency or another. Texts, videotapes, and computer software which I used were developed with government, corporation, or coalition assistance. And I have been very fortunate to have received honors and grants which have been sponsored by federal agencies and an assortment of professional societies.
I cannot warrant that every penny used to fund the variety of things just mentioned was spent wisely by the numerous government agencies and grant recipients. But overall I would have to say that from my vantage point, the taxpayers and corporate sponsors got their money’s worth.
People were trained, energized, and assisted so that they could become better teachers of science or math. Resources or teaching methods were developed which were often better than those previously utilized, or if they turned out to be worse, at least it was known for the future that that was the case. Failure was acceptable and looked at as part of the price for future success. Read the rest of this entry »
We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.
This time I have turned to Valerie Beaman who currently serves as Private Sector Initiatives Coordinator.
1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less:
Program planner, council wrangler, seeker of speakers and bloggers, herder
2. What do the arts mean to you?
In my family it was an anomaly if you weren’t involved in the arts in some way. We are all a bunch of introverts and eccentrics who’ve managed to stay sane by participating in the arts. My first stage experience was as a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Redlands Bowl at age 3 ½. I still get goose bumps when I hear Mendelssohn’s music for the entrance of the fairies! Experiences like that never leave you. It’s very important to me to that children everywhere have an opportunity to connect with the arts. They’re a lifesaver. Read the rest of this entry »
It has been an exciting few weeks for arts and arts education professionals and advocates in the nation’s capital.
After a week of activities hosted by the Arts Education Partnership, Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, Emerging Arts Leaders at American University and Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network, training for Arts Advocacy Day began on April 8 and we were off to the races to meet with our congressmen and women all day on April 9.
Quite honestly, by the time I headed home, I expected to be totally wiped out—overloaded with information and overwhelmed by the situation at hand. Instead, it felt like the more time I was able to spend with such passionate people, the more energized and inspired I became.
People do not work with students, schools, community organizations, or become advocates because they are passive. They do it because they see a need to ensure arts opportunities for all of America’s students, but they know that the annual Arts Advocacy Day activities are only a small part of the work that needs to be done.
Coming down to Washington to learn about and discuss federal issues is a change of pace for me, and for most of us who work at the state and local levels.
It is absolutely important to learn about, and try to influence, federal education issues that impact the arts such as the reauthorization status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Delayed. Again. Still.), Race to the Top requirements (which require teacher effectiveness evaluations for all subjects, including the arts), and No Child Left Behind waivers (which allow for more flexibility at the state level to pursue changes in graduation requirements and assessments). Read the rest of this entry »
An installation art museum, a nationally renowned glass studio, and a cartoon museum walk into a bar. Just kidding. Museums and studios do not have legs, and therefore, cannot walk anywhere.
Plenty of cities have great art resources for artists and art enthusiasts alike. When I stumbled into Pittsburgh in 2009, I was amazed by the combination of major arts institutions, niche arts organizations, and scrappy little start-up arts groups; but even more so by how approachable and accessible the Pittsburgh arts community was.
I had a hotbed of arts at my fingertips. By the time I’d been in Pittsburgh for a year, I’d taken two glass blowing classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, dragged every out-of-town visitor to the Society for Contemporary Craft, and learned about Gertie the Dinosaur at the ToonSeum.
Now, I certainly didn’t limit myself to the visual arts scene. During my first year I also saw the Pittsburgh Ballet perform twice, checked out the Pittsburgh Symphony, and saw The Mikado performed by CMU’s School of Drama.
As I’ve settled into the city and put down more roots, I still frequent some of my favorite art spots fairly regularly. I have also continued to explore both large and small performance art groups, while keeping my hands busy (and dirty) at many of the public access and cooperative art studios. Read the rest of this entry »
On a chilly January afternoon, I sat in a high school library, along with 40 students, listening to Suzanne Vega talk about music. Listening to any artist speak about their work is interesting at the very least and more often than not quite compelling. This was not just any artist.
Suzanne Vega is widely regarded as one of the great songwriters of her generation. She is a masterful storyteller who rewrote the book on what female singer-songwriters can say and do, paving the way for artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and the entire Lilith Fair revolution.
Suzanne performed as part of the Kent Arts Commission’s Spotlight Series. In addition to her public concert, she led a school workshop. I incorporate educational activities with professional touring artists as often as I can. Interacting with an artist in an intimate setting, hearing them discuss their vision and process, offers depth of experience that a traditional concert performance cannot. Getting that kind of glimpse into the creative process is unique and powerful—it ignites a passion for and connection with art unlike anything else.
When we have communities that are engaged with art, where art is an integral part of life and a defining characteristic of place, our communities are better for it. They are better economically, socially, and because individuals’ lives are enriched. Read the rest of this entry »