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.

Photo by Jesse Banks III

Photo by Jesse Banks III

Going into high school, you’re still trying to figure out who you are. It became apparent to me why people had existential crises. It’s hard to find out who you are when no one knows your name. When I started high school, I was no longer Carolina Jimenez or CJ.I became my student number (8259745).                       

Locker number (367)

My GPA (2.3)

My test scores (97 percentile in English; 35 percentile in Math; 85 percentile in Writing/Reading; I still have no clue what that means…)

I became more obsessed with how I looked on paper than what I was learning. I felt myself being remodeled from a human being into a receptacle for lectures and test scores. Learning should result from curiosity, not obligation.

~ Carolina Jimenez, May 2010 (senior year of high school) Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Rodriguez

Upon reviewing a blog entry about The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth study released by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) earlier this month, I ran across a respondent who stated, “It’s great to have all of these studies, but how does it help me and my organization? How can small or midsized arts organizations measure their impact without the resources of large institutions like the NEA?”

The following shares the story of how Changing Worlds, a midsized Chicago-based educational arts nonprofit went from basic surveys and pre- and post-residency exercises to a longitudinal study that improved our practice, reaffirmed the quality of our program, and helped build an organizational culture of inquiry.

In 2003, I became the executive director of a small start-up nonprofit that had little to no infrastructure in place to assess its programs. We had lots of informal data and some feedback from program partners. I knew immediately that if we were going to grow, thrive and succeed, we had to identify our unique niche, solidify our program model and select program inquiry questions we wanted to explore.

From 2003–2008, we went through various renditions of evaluation tools and we even contracted with three independent evaluation consultants. After five years, we learned some new things, developed the basic capacity to measure the impact of our residency programs and invested lots of time. While this helped us gain insight into our short-term impact, it didn’t address the potential long-term impact and implications of our program. Read the rest of this entry »

Raymond Tymas Jones

National Arts Advocacy Day is significant because it grants us an opportunity to gather as a community to reflect on the role of contemporary artists in the 21st century. No matter what the chosen art form, the passion to do art and to be art is born out of an insatiable yearning to make beauty, to make sense, and even to make waves.

As artists, we are summoned to bear witness of the truth of the human experience…the human condition and truth is more than simply facts. It is realness of life that is imbued with the psychological, emotional, spiritual elements of living that is not always easily accessible. It is this sense of urgency to communicate that artists find avenues to connect through music, theatre, film, dance, art, and literature.

For example, the powerful play by American playwright Stephen Adly Guigis, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, explores in a witty, provocative, and sometimes-funny manner, questions about love and redemption through the story of a man who is considered the most notorious villain in human history. The genesis of this kind of art is the visceral reality that only comes from self-understanding. It is the quest for self-understanding that gives way to constant questioning, observing, celebrating, and revering the complexity, mystery, and beauty of humanity. Self-understanding fortifies us from self-deception and easy consolations.

We, as artists, are the first beneficiaries of the power of the arts to tell our personal story that mirrors our own realities. Each of us can be an alchemist, taking our ideas and understanding of the world around us along with our imagination and creativity to transform them into precious elements of universal elixir. Read the rest of this entry »

Rachel Grossman

I developed my deep fondness for assessment over 12 years in theatre education and community programming and I bring that affinity into my work as an artistic leader for dog & pony dc, the administrative leader for Washington Improv Theater, and a “chief experience officer” focused on community building and civic discourse through arts participation.

Why am I fond of measurement?

As a box-checker, it provides a tremendous sense of accomplishment. As a lifelong learner, it allows reflection on choices I make and their effect…in order to make stronger/more interesting or daring choices in the future. As a manager, it supports the creation and execution of successful programming and initiatives.

I grew up as an arts educator early in the assessment and evaluation movement in regional theatre education.

I learned some valuable lessons:

  • be realistic (you can only accomplish so much in 45 minutes with 30 third graders);
  • plans can be adjusted (and improved) when you know the endgame;
  • assessment is linked to impact and change;
  • if you can observe it, you can measure it.

It was no surprise when I fell head-over-heels for Theatre Bay Area and Wolf Brown’s Intrinsic Impact study, which reaches beyond measuring success by ticket revenue and surveys that only ask if audience liked/not a show. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Lynch and Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin and Robert Lynch speak during the Arts Advocacy Day Congressional Arts Kick-Off.

This week I’m in Los Angeles attending a meeting of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board and hosting an Arts Action Fund event with Los Angeles arts leaders. As I flew out here, I was thinking about the incredible events of last week that impacted arts education.

It all began with the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) Spring Forum April 12-13, followed by a combined meeting of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and our Americans for the Arts State Arts Action Network on April 15. The week concluded with our 25th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy and Arts Advocacy Day on April 16-17.

For those that weren’t able to attend these events, I thought I would share some of my experiences with you.

The AEP forum began with an exciting announcement—the National Endowment for the Arts named Ayanna Hudson, currently with Arts for All in Los Angeles, as their new director of arts education. Ayanna has been a program partner with, and a congressional witness for, Americans for the Arts during her time at Arts for All, and I’m really pleased she’s moving into this national role.

PBS NewsHour education correspondent John Merrow was the closing keynote at the forum, reminding us to let the 80 percent (the percentage of Americans that do not have school-aged children) know the good work that we are doing and how they can support us. In his words: “Don’t plead, lead.”

The next morning, I had the pleasure of speaking to forum attendees, reminding them that their voice is important in supporting arts education and that they are not alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Jon Schwartz

Throughout my career as a teacher, I’ve been faced with many situations that required some creative ingenuity to help insure my students received the best chance at education in my classroom and beyond.

In my first grade classroom at Garrison Elementary in San Diego this year, I’ve been faced with helping non-native English speaking students learn English while assimilating in the classroom and culture at large.

In the past, I’ve successfully adopted out-of-the-box approaches to connect with my students (such as the student blogging program I started with my fourth and fifth graders last year) and this situation seemed ripe with the possibility of doing something similar.

As I watched my students tire of the old classics like “Old MacDonald” and “B-I-N-G-O” I decided to try a different tactic. I loaded my iPhone with some good, old-fashioned Blues standards and got those kids rocking! I could never have predicted what came next.

As you can see from our YouTube video below, there was something about the Blues that really seemed to reach the kids on a foundational, universal level. Read the rest of this entry »

Just outside the Arts Advocacy Day Congressional Arts Kick-Off event on April 17 in Washington, DC, Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe (executive producer/judge on So You Think You Can Dance and executive producer of American Idol) braved the wind to talk about their greatest arts experiences, arts education, and whether or not Alec could be a dancer:

Candy Nguyen Smirnow

I came to Arts Advocacy Day for the first time this year not knowing exactly what to expect.

I’ve never considered myself a political person. I rarely sign petitions and have never campaigned for any one organization or candidate. I’ve just always been very passive when it came to politics, most certainly because of my Gen X mentality.

So, when my boss asked me to join her I was hesitant, wondering does my voice really matter? But, I’ve learned a lot in the business world, and one of those things is never to pass up an opportunity to learn something new. So, I quickly reconsidered the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill.

As I walked into day one, I was amazed by the congregation of over 500 advocates. I was especially surprised by the number of young people who were participating.

When I was their age, I would’ve never even considered joining something like Arts Advocacy Day. I grew up in the public education system in Southern California, which unfortunately did not have much of an arts-infused curriculum.

In elementary school we had a “music cart,” where once a week Mr. Nelson would roll into the classroom with his keyboard and pass out the maracas and tambourines. It was everyone’s favorite day of class, but unfortunately it didn’t come quite often enough. Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us…(who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!)…here is my updated list for 2012 which now includes new stats from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating nearly $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Sahar Javedani

If you’re reading this now, chances are that you’re in a place of contemplative or active transition—and I commend you!

Many of you know that after seven years of working as a choreographer with parallel work in nonprofit arts administration and education in New York City, I recently moved to Philadelphia to start the next chapter of my life which included re-evaluating my commitment to a career in nonprofit administration.

In my last two years in New York City I had aligned myself with an organization that channeled some of my greatest strengths (dance education, career/professional development, nonprofit administration) into one role. After years working at least three simultaneous jobs, I convinced myself that I had “arrived.”

What followed was one of the greatest learning periods of my life.

Holding the reigns of running my own program within a larger organization confirmed that I was indeed entrepreneurial, self-driven, motivated, an excellent networker, etc. These talents were coupled with equal frustrations in communications, core values, and logistics within the organization.

I will refrain from going into detail, but I do feel compelled to share some valuable books that encouraged me along the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Narric Rome

On April 2, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a study glamorously entitled Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-10.

The surveys that contributed to this report were conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), mailed to about 3,400 elementary and secondary school principals and approximately 5,000 music and visual arts teachers.

National arts education leaders, through policy statements, have been calling for this study to be administered for many years, and helped to direct specific funding from Congress to make it possible.

Ten years is a long time to wait for a federal study to be published and finally it has arrived!

This report presents information on the availability and characteristics of arts education programs of those surveyed, broken down by discipline (music, visual arts, dance, and theatre).

  • It indicates that while music and visual art are widely available in some form, six percent of the nation’s public elementary schools offer no specific instruction in music, and 17 percent offer no specific instruction in the visual arts.
  • Nine percent of public secondary schools reported that they did not offer music, and 11 percent did not offer the visual arts.
  • Only three percent offer any specific dance instruction and only four percent offer any specific theatre instruction in elementary schools. In secondary schools the numbers improve somewhat as 12 percent offer dance and 45 percent offer theatre. Sadly, the study was unable to survey dance and theatre specialists because the data sample didn’t have sufficient contact information in those disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Burton

I’m no stranger to great music festivals, like Voodoo Fest in New Orleans or South by Southwest in Austin, that bring together both up-and-coming and legendary artists. And I’ve been lucky enough to score box seats to mega-star performances by the likes of Lil’ Wayne, Dave Matthews Band, and Coldplay.

But even though I went to more shows than I can count, only once did I have a front row seat to a truly life-changing concert.

No, it wasn’t a performance by Chris Martin, Lil’ Wayne or Dave Matthews. And it wasn’t a music festival, as much as I live for the three-day binges on incredible musical talent and soul swaying tunes.

It was at a mall—the Regency Square Mall in Florence, AL to be exact. And the show was put on by a high school band.

On Saturday, March 17, I drove three hours from Tuscaloosa, where I live, to the mall in Florence to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the deadly tornadoes at a ‘giving thanks’ concert put on by the Phil Campbell High School Band.

A 45-minute drive south of Florence, Phil Campbell is a town of about 1,000 residents. Nearly one year ago, the Phil Campbell community was completely devastated by deadly tornadoes.

April 27, 2011 proved to be a nightmare that has taken a year to overcome. For the Phil Campbell High School band—whose band room was reduced to rubble—that Wednesday last spring marks the day the music died…almost. Read the rest of this entry »

Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

In revisiting the Arts Education Blog Salon, I’ve found that one topic keeps popping up in conversation. Victoria Plettner-Saunders asked, “When is it a partnership and when is it something else?” That something else is often a collaboration—and although equally important, there are differences between “collaboration” and “partnership.”

To celebrate Spring Break, I thought I’d highlight a true partnership.

For the past seven years, an amazing partnership has taken place at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in Palm Beach County, FL.

Sponsored by Prime Time Palm Beach County, Inc. and the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, each year approximately fifty children attend the Spring Break Residency: a two-week intensive afterschool program for youth in grades 4–8. The kids work with professional teaching artists and learn new skills in stage production and various art forms.

Students are nominated by afterschool providers and this year, came from eight different sites within a fifteen mile radius. The students do not have to have previous experience in the arts to be involved in the residency program. Youth are encouraged to take an active part in creating their own production, work as a team, cultivate their own ideas, and use their unique talents to express themselves on stage.

The youth are very dedicated and come together for six consecutive days during spring break, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and then for the next week, for five days after school. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All About CreativityRSS Feed

Posted by John Eger On March - 27 - 20122 COMMENTS

John Eger

Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Education, convenes the first of several meetings in Coronado, CA later this month to talk about “how the arts and creative education can transform California classrooms.” He also plans to produce a new publication called A Blueprint for Creative Schools.

Just as important, the California Legislative Joint Committee on the Arts will hold hearings on SB 789, legislation that will require the Governor to develop a “creativity index,” which in turn would be used to measure creativity in public schools statewide.

SB 789, authored by Senator Curren Price (D-District 26) and introduced last February, was approved by all the appropriate Senate committees and is now moving toward passage.

This movement by California matches the legislation signed by the governor of Massachusetts last spring, and is much like a bill working its way through the state legislature in Oklahoma to also establish a creativity index.

Equally significant, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Wisconsin are beginning similar discussions and Nebraska is getting itself organized, according to CreativeChallenge, Inc., which monitors creativity discussions worldwide. The group notes that Seoul, Alberta, and Edmonton—and probably other cities and nations around the world—are following these efforts closely.

Clearly something big is happening across America. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael R. Gagliardo

Michael R. Gagliardo

In the arts world, we find ourselves constantly searching for ways to engage the community. Every day we think about how we draw in more constituents: bigger audiences, more donors, a larger base of support, etc. And often the answer seems obvious—offer more.

But is there a point of diminishing returns?

It’s the old question of quantity versus quality. Sometimes it seems like the only way to bring new audiences to the table is to offer more—more concerts, more exhibits, more performances, more, more, more. But does it work?

Are we really bringing a new crowd to the work that we hold so dear? Or are we simply “watering down” the arts in an attempt to make them “user friendly?”

This is a hard question to answer—a hard question to face, really—when arts organizations are struggling for funding and watching audiences fade away and make other choices of where to spend their money and time.

I have heard people scoff at the notion of consumers spending their “entertainment dollars” on the arts. But we have to be realistic—the arts are a form of entertainment, and we have to compete with every other entertainment industry in the market.  Read the rest of this entry »

Why Ask For More?
Just like kids need to have good nutrition on a daily basis, kids need to have their daily serving of the arts. Chances are, though, that your kids are not getting enough art—in or out of school. The arts are much more than just fun "extra" activities for kids. Studies have shown the far-reaching benefits of an arts education. Visit The Arts. Ask for More. Public Awareness Campaign Website.

 

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