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.
My two after school art clubs, six parent chaperones, and I were walking back from our enormously successful field trip when one of my students beamed: “Mrs. Murphy! I never knew there was so much art!” We’d spent the day elbow deep in art processes at The Shirt Factory in Glens Falls–a historic shirt factory turned haven for artists, crafters, and healers. If you find yourself in upstate New York, do yourself the favor of checking it out.
My students had the incredible opportunity to participate in hour long workshops in pottery, digital photography, felt making, flower pressing, and ‘plarn’ bracelet making–crocheted bracelets made from reused plastic shopping bags. My “art clubbers” were deeply engaged during each workshop, all of which were led by working artists. I excitedly traipsed through the stairwells trying to be in all the workshops simultaneously.
I loved watching them dive into the art making they’d only heard of in our pre-field trip meetings.
I loved watching students who weren’t typically friends bond without reservation over the processes they were sharing.
I loved watching them realize the arts are a viable career option, not only an activity to complete in the art room. Read the rest of this entry »
I remember little about my first time on stage: a ballet recital at age three. We danced to “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” and I had no idea what I was doing. Happily, the VHS evidence shows that I did not fall down.
In first grade, I made my theatrical debut. My class produced a short skit about caring for the environment, and I played the crucial role of Super Recycling Kid (who recycled to save the planet). My favorite part was wearing my superhero cape for the rest of the school day.
Ever since, the arts have been a constant in my life. As a kid, I loved the transformation inherent in theater: we created a world together onstage and, for a few hours at a time, it was just as a real as anything else. Read the rest of this entry »
In this age of rapid technological change, it seems that the number of worthy causes known to people around the country and indeed the world is also growing at an exponential rate. Take the incredible ALS #IceBucketChallenge, for example, which reached millions on social media and raised over $115 million! But when videos are not flooding your newsfeed, how do you decide which organization to support, and when? Taking this thought one step further, how do you become an ambassador for your cause and inspire others to follow your example? Read the rest of this entry »
I write this as an arts leader but, more importantly, I also write this as a dad. My wife and I have two amazing children, ages 5 and 8, who are lucky to have both parents who are artists and work in the arts. They receive daily
artistic and creative encouragement at home. We want our children to be creative in their approach to everything in life, to learn and grow with a sense of wonderment, curiosity, and discovery. We want them to express themselves in authentic ways and to respect and understand the immense role the arts and humanities play in shaping all of our lives to be more meaningful, fulfilling, and enjoyable.
They attend a fantastic public school, one of the best in San Diego (I know, I’m biased). They receive arts programming once a week, but only through the generosity of parents and families donating to a foundation that pays for it and volunteers who help support in the classroom. We’re lucky they attend a school in a more “well off” area of town whose families have the means to fund the arts programs. If they attended a lower income school, and we didn’t hold the arts as a highest priority in our home, they would receive very little to no arts exposure or engagement. I don’t think that’s fair.
On the fourth Saturday in May, every year, I wake up early to begin a day that continues to ground me in the field of arts education. I arrive at Dance Place San Diego to set up for the Carrie Anne Fipps Memorial Scholarship. Typically, Carrie’s family and friends are hanging banners and posting direction signs as I walk up. I am greeted by warm and cheerful embraces before I run upstairs to set up the check-in tables, the audition space and the judges table. It is an hour before the event will begin and parents and children have already begun to line up in the narrow hallway.
Once the doors open, students are signed in, given their number and ushered into the large dance space. The room quiets as I approach the middle of the floor to greet students and families, “Thank you all for coming today to support your child and this gift. We are all here because of one child – one young dancer who believed that dancing was a gift worth fighting for and one family whose mission has been to provide that gift to others – help me in welcoming Carrie Anne Fipps’ parents and brother to the microphone.” Read the rest of this entry »
In my last job, I worked to develop audiences. Today, I work in arts education. Many people curiously ask me why and how the two are connected. To which, I respond: “To develop audiences in the long run, a venue must work to ensure that future audience members receive a quality arts education.” This is exactly how I ended up in my previous position, before uncovering a chicken-and-egg style conundrum.
My work was with a large (2,111 seat) theatre in a European country capitol city. The venue was the first of its kind to bring blockbuster musical theatre to its audiences and capitalized on the new-found economic stability in a post-2008 economy. The time was ripe to be developing robust theatrical calendars, and audiences were justly on board. However, the question became: how is this sustainable in the long run? I began my work in the Marketing Department to understand the audience and devise strategies which would deliver on long term audience development goals. Read the rest of this entry »
If you read past the title of this blog entry you are probably one of the chosen people: the data geeks. You are the ones who love debating bar graphs vs pie charts (answer: bar graphs win. In general, they are clearer and easier to understand.) You spend hours deciding if a survey question should be multiple choice or single answer. You look for any opportunity to include an excel chart in your presentation. Yes, I’m talking about YOU. Don’t be afraid: you are among friends.
In the world of arts education, data can have a negative connotation. We live in an age of over-collection of data, much of which is never used to make decisions or change policy. This is frustrating for the data generators (schools, teachers, grantees) and data gatherers (parents, teachers, funders, administrators, policy makers). When data is presented, it is often over-visualized, leading to confusion and misinterpretation. Google “data visualization” and prepare to have a psychedelic experience with some really pretty designs. But in no way will it increase your understanding of any important issue. Read the rest of this entry »
March 29, 2014, was the final day of the first-ever National Summit on Creative Youth Development in Boston—a national convening of more than 200 youth arts practitioners, funders, policymakers, and students designed to bring new energy and focus to creative youth development. On that day 86 individuals stood up at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and declared personal commitments to advancing creative youth development. I was proud to be one of them. Read the rest of this entry »
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for the field of out-of-school time arts and humanities programs, particularly those that reach children and youth with tremendous potential, but limited opportunities. It is a signature initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Every year the President’s Committee and our cultural partners present National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards to 12 outstanding programs across the US and one International Spotlight Awardee. Thirty-eight finalist programs also receive certificates of excellence for their work. Read the rest of this entry »
As an Arts Education Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts, I am fortunate to see new blooms in the field of education. Earlier this year, I was honored to join more than 200 national, state, local, and community-based youth arts leaders for the National Summit on Creative Youth Development in Boston, sponsored by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the National Guild for Community Arts Education.
It’s exciting to have a quorum of leaders who are committed to taking creative youth development to the next level. We came with decades of experience in this field, and we left with a clear policy and advocacy agenda that our respective organizations could implement at the local, state, and national levels. Read the rest of this entry »
New sustainability models break through belief barriers about the business of arts education. If teens must be employed during their high school career, why not employ them to make art? One organization pays students to participate as employees and upends assumptions about student participation. If fund-raising is challenging for smaller organizations, why not gather together tackle this beast? Another organization runs common development events for multiple arts education organizations, and upends the assumptions that local organizations must be pitted competitively against one another. Both of these examples threw out prior assumptions to create new models. Read the rest of this entry »
Is it possible to rapidly increase the level of arts education offered in an urban district? Based on the example of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Arts Expansion Initiative launched in 2009 by EdVestors, the BPS Superintendent, and local foundations, the resounding answer to that question is yes. This effort was rooted in the belief that arts opportunities play a powerful role in the life and learning of students in urban schools, and that a fundamental part of creating these opportunities was increasing access to quality arts education in order to create equity for all students.
One of the main challenges initially faced by BPS Arts Expansion was increasing the amount of in-school arts education offered in Boston Public Schools. Read the rest of this entry »
Collaborative fundraising provides nonprofits with more donors and more donations for all – $8 million in new dollars in total over a five-year period. That was the experience of the 30 youth arts organizations that participated in the ARTWorks for Kids coalition, an effort initiated and supported by Hunt Alternatives in Cambridge, MA.
How did 30 different youth arts organizations – all collaborators in serving youth in the Greater Boston area, but also competitors for donations – join forces to raise money together? First, we supported the leaders of these organizations as they worked together to build trust with their colleagues. Then, we provided a venue for each coalition member to showcase the great art their youth were producing for a large and diverse group of funders. Read the rest of this entry »
The National YoungArts Foundation was established in 1980 with the mission to identify and recognize outstanding young artists at critical junctures in their lives—the high school to college transition. Since its founding, YoungArts (youngarts.org) has recognized over 20,000 young people through their awards programs and has provided life-changing experiences, fostered connections with colleges, professional training programs, and most importantly, provided life-long connections between young artists who go on to build artistic communities and inspire each other to imagine new artistic possibilities. YoungArts supports the development of arts and the education thereof in schools, at homes and in communities. For many alumni, their artistic possibilities have been realized with careers on the Broadway stage, Hollywood and television, opera houses and symphonies, being represented in internationally known museum collections, listings as NY Times bestsellers, and receiving Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards. The best part of these stories is that they stem out of programs consistent with CYD principles. Read the rest of this entry »
The key to building support for arts education lies in the unlikeliest of places: numbers.
There is beauty in numbers. One under-emphasized aspect of arts education that holds tremendous influence in conveying its invaluable and irreplaceable role is numbers. The power of digits to specify impact (however myopic we consider that point of view) is formidable and surely, not to be underestimated. The statistics that substantiate the holistic impact of arts education are staggering. Sometimes, so much so, that even arts professionals are genuinely surprised. As an education reformer who has been advocating for arts education for over a decade, this post discusses two approaches arts organizations are using to create measurable and tangible support for arts education from funders, policy-makers and everyone else. Read the rest of this entry »