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.
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 »
The tragedy in Boston yesterday was horrific and inexplicable and all of us at Americans for the Arts send our deepest sympathy and thoughts to those injured and to their families.
As we saw and heard things unfold from our offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, the Americans for the Arts staff began calling family and friends and members in the Boston area to see if those closest to us were okay. Some of us had loved ones right there at the site watching or running. Thankfully, all were uninjured.
But it made us think how connected, how close, how much a part of a community we all are even if scattered all across our country. In some ways that makes this tragedy all the more hurtful because it was aimed at community and fellowship itself, the very kind of coming together that marathons, and festivals, and arts events try to create. It takes aim at those who live in a community as well as tourists and visitors from across the world, that broader community created by an event like the Boston Marathon.
For me, as someone who grew up in the Boston area and spent my high school years blissfully wandering the city, this happened on sacred ground. Boylston Street was the place of high school proms, or visits to one of our nation’s great libraries, the site of New Year’s Eve First Night Celebrations, and the Lennox Hotel lounge right there was where my parents would go for end of week celebrations and pop up opera performances.
Sadly, terrible events trying to create hard and horrible memories are now all too common. But in some ways our best defense is to keep investing in the community-building arts activities that, individually and together, form the hallmark of our collective work.
Our hope is the hope itself generated by bringing people together through the arts. My hope is that what we all do in our small way in our many arts organizations across America will make the writing of notes like this one someday unnecessary.
PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.
After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.
I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.
As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.
As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.
As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »
As I have been sitting back at my desk at Americans for the Arts this afternoon, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a way to describe what I experienced last night at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
It could be the lack of sleep, the lack of coffee, or the abundance of Twizzlers and Clif Bars I’ve eaten during and before Arts Advocacy Day 2013; but, I’m not convinced of that.
Watching Yo-Yo Ma’s combined lecture and performance of a speech called “Art for Life’s Sake: A Roadmap from One Citizen Musician” as our 26th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy last night was priceless.
Not only did it feature eloquent points about the power of arts education and being a citizen musician, but it also featured memorable performances by jooker Lil’ Buck, bagpiper Cristina Pato, MusiCorps, and teaching artist Greg Loman and founder Arthur Bloom—two of which brought tears to the eyes of those around me in the Concert Hall.
Before I get too involved in describing it, I guess I should provide you with a chance to watch the entire event below or you can continue reading and click on the links to see the specific parts I point out as I attempt to capture the night to the best of my ability.
I’ll wait here while you watch…