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.
Three years ago, I made a significant shift in my teaching artist career. After a decade of TA’ing in K-12 settings, I felt stuck in a rut and wanted to try something new…I just wasn’t sure what that was. I threw a lot of new options up against the wall, and the two that stuck were an unlikely pairing: working with older adults on memoir-writing, and leading creative play classes for babies, toddlers, and their caregivers.
My days are now a mix of encouraging parents to get down on the floor and create acrobatic tricks or dance routines with their one-year olds, and nurturing the creative impulses of older adults who have always believed that they had a story to tell – but until this point, never felt ready to pick up a pen. While the energy, laughter, and frequent tears in these two settings are very different, one common theme ties them together:
We are all artists, and we can help each other create art. Read the rest of this entry »
The next time you hear yourself justifying inclusion of the arts in an educational setting stop and ask if this could be true:
ART IS THE MOTHER OF ALL LITERACY.
EACH ARTS DISCIPLINE IS A DISTINCT LITERACY IN ITS OWN RIGHT
Then back up and ask yourself:
- Is my art form a vehicle for communication?
- Does my art form support personal engagement and community participation?
- Does it distill my insights and synthesize my meanings?
- Do I use a symbol system that emerged to support my art form?
- Does my discipline support idiomatic expression for me and my community?
- Does my art form invite engagement and gain meaning from critical interpretation?
- Is it guided by particular structures, rules or agreed-upon [cultural] customs?
- Does my discipline adapt with relocation or change over time?
Let us assume, for now, that the answers to the above are all yes! Read the rest of this entry »
The concept of “practice” has always been a word attached to my own personal art form of music. But the very verb-ness of that word has taken on a completely different dimension as a noun of serious proportions in my current work with visual artists to develop curriculum to support the new Next Generation Science Standards.
At my work at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California, I have the incredible opportunity to work with a brilliant faculty of highly trained and creative teaching artists in a program called, “Children Investigate the Environment.” While this program has existed in a variety of forms since 1986, it was the release of the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in April of 2013 that prompted an idea to increase the rigor of the science content of the program.
Working in grade level teams with the teaching artists to create the curriculum, it took a while for us to wrap our heads around each of the aspects of the NGSS – Performance Expectations, Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross Cutting Concepts, etc. However, the first thing that resonated with all of us was the focus on Scientific and Engineering Practices. In reflecting on our own various practices as artists, we realized that we had found an important connection. It was there that we started. Read the rest of this entry »
I facilitate arts education workshops and conversations nationally. Teaching artists often ask me why it’s important to discuss arts education and social justice. I’m still honing my response, but here’s my current thinking:
We live in a country with undeniable barriers in education and the arts. I’m not even going to get into the differences between private and public schools, or the historic divide between formal arts training and cultural and community arts in this post. (Although, you should take a moment to read this great piece from the The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Helicon which makes the case that more foundation funding in the arts should directly benefit lower-income communities and people of color). If we accept the idea that social justice is a vision for a society in which all people, of all identities, are treated equitably then we also have to admit the landscape is currently inequitable. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been a teaching artist for many years—long before the profession had this name.
I work with students and teachers in all grade levels integrating drama with oral language development and reading comprehension skills and like all teaching artists try to stay abreast of educational shifts and trends so that my work can be relevant and meaningful to students and to teachers. I have written two books on drama and the classroom and one book on integrating drama with reading comprehension skills.
After 35 years of performing, directing, presenting, writing, and teaching, I am still amazed by the joy and passion I still find daily in my work. When a student tracked as “low ability” unexpectedly utters a jewel of dialogue during a drama that demonstrates the student not only understands the text explicitly but implicitly I still often get the feeling that I had better sit down quickly or I may fall down. When a teacher after a professional development workshop or after observing a demonstration lesson looks at me in amazement and says, “This is the way I know I can reach my students.” I again feel so lucky to be able to do this– amorphous, hard to define, and difficult to quantify– work. Read the rest of this entry »
If School of Rock taught us anything, it’s that art can have a major impact on students’ lives, and that even a slacker musician can inspire the next generation. What it also showed us was that maybe the world of teaching artists is too ad hoc and doesn’t really have any form or professionalization to it – someone can just walk in to a classroom, hook up an amp, and start jamming (ahem, teaching).
Well, that film debuted over 10 years ago. In the last decade, we’ve surely seen a surge not only in the professionalization of teaching artists, but also in the field as a whole. With organizations such as the Association of Teaching Artists (of which I am a board member) providing resources and research to the field, and certificate programs popping up through university continuing ed programs, teaching artists have far more resources available to them than they had even five years ago. Even within many arts organizations, programs led by education directors are focusing on the training of teaching artists as opposed to the simple execution of lesson plans. Read the rest of this entry »
I am a Teaching Artist. Teaching Artists are theater artists, visual artists, writers, filmmakers, poets, video artists, photographers, dancers, storytellers, musicians, puppeteers. We work alone in isolation from a national community to bring us together to share the excitement and challenges of our work, ideas, concerns, and resources. We work as employees of arts organizations, on rosters of arts organizations, and as independent contractors. We work in schools, libraries, prisons, jails, juvenile detention facilities, museums, homeless shelters, cultural organizations, senior citizen centers, and in our communities. We work in urban, suburban, and rural areas in densely populated and sparsely populated states.
How does this translate into a practical career track? Liability insurance, independent contractor or employee, health insurance, retirement, intellectual property, copyright, certification, master’s degree programs, fellowships, career track – these are high up in Teaching Artists’ concerns. Read the rest of this entry »
I graduated conservatory in 1988 and my first job out of school was as a teaching artist. I moved back to New York City after completing my studies at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. I was looking for work and had no interest in returning to my previous life in college as a bellman – a gig that paid well, but this was before luggage had wheels. I asked a buddy of mine from high school, who had also moved to NYC to pursue a career in professional theatre, what he was doing and he said he was a teaching artist. I had never heard the term before so I asked him what it was and how I could become one. He said the job had three requirements and in this order:
1. You had to like kids
2. You had to be a morning person because school started early and you couldn’t be late
3. You had to have an expertise in an art form
Sounded reasonable. I applied for a position at the same organization where my friend worked. I got the job. My first assignment was to co-teach with a woman from Schenectady NY, neither one of us had ever stepped foot in a NYC public school. I was given a name of a teacher, room number, and grade level and so began my career as a teaching artist. Read the rest of this entry »
As a field, we have come to understand, as articulated in the recently published A Shared Endeavor document, that Teaching Artists are a vital part of our arts education ecosystem. To this point we have invited 25 leaders in the field, throughout the ecosystem, to discuss the challenges, opportunities and best practices of teaching artists in the field of arts education.
As there are so many angles to discuss on this broad topic, we have clustered the posts in related areas of interest. Throughout the week we will cover the history of the role that teaching artists play in the field to best and most innovative practices for both teaching artists and organizations that work with teaching artists. See the schedule below! Read the rest of this entry »
Recently the 2013 Otis Report on the Creative Economy for California and the Los Angeles Region was released. As in previous years, the presentation of the data generated anticipation and buzz in the arts community. There is a lot of good news for the creative sector, including the fact that one out of every seven jobs is in the creative economy. The report emphasizes the critical role arts education plays in preparing students for these jobs, and we at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission are particularly interested in how we can make these opportunities a reality for all the 1.6 million students in our public schools.
The Otis Report consolidates data from across all 81 school districts in Los Angeles County. These districts range in size from large (over 600,000 students) to small (under 1,500 students) and utilize arts specialists, generalist teachers and teaching artists in different ways to achieve their educational goals.
The data draws from the 2011-12 academic year, which was a challenging time for schools. Districts were struggling with recession era budgets, forced to make difficult budgetary choices and like the rest of the country, much of their public accountability was based on test scores in math and language arts.
Despite these challenges, there are positive indicators:
- Arts course enrollment regained what was lost during the recession, and was only 10 fewer students in 2011-12 compared to 2005-06 (317,000 students).
- The total number of arts education classes offered increased by 20.8% since 2005-06.
- Enrollment in arts courses as a percentage of all courses rose slightly to 7.6% in 2011-12 from 7.0% in 2005-06.
We know there is public will around arts education from superintendents, assistant superintendents and teachers across LA County. Arts for All, the county’s arts education initiative dedicated to making the arts core in K-12 public education, saw will transformed into action through the creation and adoption of 50 arts strategic plans since 2002, twelve school districts implementing robust teacher professional development plans, and countywide interest in the inclusion of the arts as a strategy for helping students achieve Common Core State Standards (every workshop we offer on the topic is filled to capacity).
And the landscape for education in the state is changing once again with significantly more resources flowing into LA County schools. We’re looking forward to greater gains in the next few years and plan to partner with Otis College and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation to provide a more in-depth snapshot of the state of arts education in 2014.
Over the course of the past several years, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle have been advancing ambitious plans to expand access to arts education and creative learning for public school students. Here in New York City – home of the nation’s largest school district – with a new mayor and schools chancellor, and a growing chorus of parents calling for the inclusion of arts in the school day, there is momentum gathering that could lead to a much-overdue expansion of arts and music in city schools.
This December, at the close of his 12 years in office, New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a City Council bill that would require the Department of Education to provide annual data on arts instruction that advocates believe will help identify gaps in the delivery of arts education and drive improvements in what is being offered at schools across the city.
While strides were made in expanding access to arts instruction at many schools across the city over the past decade, large gaps persist in the provision of music, dance, theater and visual arts in the over 1,800 New York City public schools.
That is why on the heels of the successful effort to pass the arts reporting legislation, advocates and leaders from a diverse cross section of New York, released a statement calling on the city to ensure that every child, in every part of the city, receives arts instruction as part of their K-12 education.
The statement – entitled “Every Child in Every School: A Vision for Arts and Creativity in New York City Public Schools” –notes that New York City – with its rich and diverse array of arts and cultural experiences and organizations – is uniquely positioned to be the leader in arts and creative education. Read the rest of this entry »
As a statewide funder of arts education, the trend in my organization’s support of arts education over the last decade has been to push the field towards deeper levels of arts integration. Although the beginning of the erosion of arts specialists in schools predates my career in arts administration, I strongly suspect that this emphasis on integrating the arts with other (perhaps more stable) subject areas was a reactive measure rather than a proactive one. In other words, instead of honoring arts integration as an effective teaching method for addressing multiple learning styles, it was seen as a “quick fix” for the loss of critically important arts specialists.
One of the consequences of this investment has been a decrease in attention to out-of-school work. This may be due to a perceived lack of quality (not aligned with state standards, not assessed, not taught by certified educators, etc.), but is also probably a result of decreased availability of grant dollars. As funders turned their attention to in-school work, organizations dependent on that funding were forced to divert their resources towards in-school programs. While there are still many high-quality out-of-school programs in operation, as evidenced by the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, they seem to lack broad recognition as a valuable component of arts education.
I’ve recently watched the evolution of several new grant programs in Oregon, each with their own attempt to link in- and out-of-school earning. The Oregon Community Foundation’s new “Studio to School” program endeavors to create a lasting arts education legacy within a community over a five year investment. While the final funding decisions have not yet been announced, I noticed while serving as a reviewer in the initial phase that the most problematic section of the application asked applicants to “link arts education during the school day to out of school arts learning.” Read the rest of this entry »
Art education in schools exists, to the extent that it exists at all, within the contexts of wider school cultures. School cultures are currently in the thrall of high stakes—undifferentiated, system-wide models of measurement and accountability. How does art education function in such an environment? Not so well.
Because models for assessing arts learning are underdeveloped, the arts come to represent for many students a safe haven from relentless testing. At the same time, the arts are broadly discounted by policy makers as not being serious enough disciplines worthy of time, attention, or funding, because they are untested.
How might we find our way through the labyrinth of this double-bind? One approach is to look at the metaphors that undergird approaches to assessment at the policy level.
Bush Era “No Child Left Behind”: Known colloquially as “NCLB”, and sometimes as “Nickleby” (I’m thinking of the cruel Uncle Ralph Nickleby, not the sweet and brave hero in Dickens’ novel Nicholas Nickleby). NCLB in a nutshell is schools and individual teachers that do not demonstrate Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) on standardized test scores risk losing their funding or their jobs. The problem that I have always had with NCLB is implicit in the name itself. The policy is not named something like EPIC (Enhancing the Powers in Children). The policy is named “No Child Left Behind” – conjuring up an image of abandoned loser children and of winner children schlepped along to the goalposts of achievement. This is not a metaphor representing child agency, child capacity, child initiative, or child power. Learning in this model is not something that children do, but rather is something done to them. The core metaphor here is a “potato race”–a game in which competitors (teachers) carry inert potatoes (lumpy and lumpen children) precariously balanced on spoons as they rush back and forth across a finish line, dropping some potatoes and depositing others in a heap to win.
Obama Era “Race to the Top”, or R2T: A contest between states and local districts for big bucks, with points given for evidence of such things as intervening in low achieving schools, demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and in closing gaps, developing charter schools, privatization of public services, and computerization. The metaphor for R2T is as the name says, a race, but while NCLB was a horizontal race, Race to the Top is a vertical race; a climbing wall. Again, we have a metaphor built around winners and losers, but this time among states and districts rather than schools and teachers. A level up in the policy food supply chain and a quantum leap away from children, parents, and teachers.
Rhizomes: There is another metaphor, developed by Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, which is emerging as a useful tool for rethinking social systems like school districts. This is the “rhizome” – networks of biological roots that expand out, grow up, and draw sustenance from and in many directions. This metaphor opposes linear, dualist thinking (dubbed “arborescent” by Guattari and Deleuze based on the image of a tree with a siloed root system and one trunk.) Read the rest of this entry »
It is widely accepted across the country that the arts are a significant part of a quality education. As part of the core, they provide America’s students with essential skills and knowledge needed to be productive college and career ready citizens.
In May 2013, I attended a summit with leaders from 12 other arts and education advocacy organizations to define what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourage partnerships, and call on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote the following points of intersection in our field. We came up with some basic agreements:
- Development of policies and resources for arts education.
- Access to arts education for all students.
- Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
- Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.
In a time when education reform is at the helm of change and current practices are being revised, we felt that it was important to articulate the purpose and value of arts education in the balanced curriculum of all students. We assert its place as a core academic subject area and detail how sequential arts learning can be supported by rigorous national standards and assessments. Read the rest of this entry »
Each day we witness the power of the arts to transform lives – whether it’s a child learning to draw, a teenager taking a class on glassblowing or an adult returning to a favorite hobby like photography.
The arts heal, the arts transform, the arts engage, the arts serve as an economic catalyst. And yet the arts, especially arts education, are consistently underfunded. As CEO of one of the 50 largest arts council’s in the United States, I spend the majority of my time raising money for and raising awareness of the importance of the arts, and arts education in particular. And that’s the job of a CEO. I’m not complaining.
What frustrates all of us in this line of work is that no matter how much we share research and data that demonstrates the value of arts education to keep kids, especially those at-risk and underserved, in school, performing better on standardized tests, demonstrating fewer aberrant behaviors, doing more volunteering in the community, reading for pleasure, and attending college, there are those who dismiss all this as mere conjecture – and therefore not in real need of funding. I’m focusing here on public funding for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »