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.

Dr. Joelle Lien

Like in many other states, arts and education leaders in Utah are concerned that children in elementary schools are not receiving high-quality, regular instruction in the arts. As a result of these concerns, a unique and comprehensive set of arts education collaborations is taking shape in the state.

Due in large part to the visionary leadership and financial support of philanthropist Beverley Taylor Sorenson, partnerships between colleges of fine arts and colleges of education, as well as with the state office of education, school districts, and various arts organizations are thriving and growing at an amazing pace.

As a result of these collaborations, people whose paths may otherwise never have crossed are instead working closely together to ensure that Utah children receive an education that includes high-quality arts learning and art-making experiences.

Building Relationships

Faculty and administrators within and across universities throughout Utah are working together as never before, collaborating in planning, teaching, researching, community engagement, and advocacy. In March, deans of Utah’s colleges of fine arts and university arts educators met for a statewide “Arts Education Summit” to share successes at their respective institutions and to develop strategic goals for expanding and improving elementary arts education.

Out of that meeting came action items that included the development of a “wiki” for comparing arts education curricular requirements across universities, as well as a plan to expand the reach of the summit to include stakeholders in colleges of education. Then, in July, deans of colleges of fine arts and education met to discuss topics based the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools report.

Topics of discussion included how university arts and education programs can: build collaborations, expand teaching opportunities for the arts in K-12 schools, influence policymakers to reinforce the place of the arts in schools, widen our research focus to include evidence gathering on K-12 arts education, and prepare pre-service teachers to provide high-quality arts instruction in their future classrooms. Read the rest of this entry »

Have We Left Out the Fun?RSS Feed

Posted by Alex Sarian On July - 16 - 201210 COMMENTS
Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

(Suggested listening while reading this blog entry: Alice Cooper’s School’s Out...)

As I prepared to write this blog post, two things prevented me from truly being inspired:

1.) I am currently in pre-production for MCC Theater’s Summer FreshPlay Festival, a one-week event in which 10 teenage playwrights each receive a 25-hour workshop process with professional directors and actors in order to bring their plays to life.

In the past two weeks I’ve hired 10 directors, 12 production assistants, and almost 80 actors; and just as (seemingly) impossible, I’ve somehow managed to schedule a combined 250+ of rehearsals in a five-day period. Needless to say, this blog entry, while a refreshing break from pre-production, has been the last thing on my mind.

2.) I was asked to focus my blog entry on one of the following themes: research, evaluation, advocacy, arts integration, 21st century skills, partnerships, common core, assessment and/or national standards.

What’s fascinating about these two thorns is that in isolation, neither one of them would have fully stumped me from spilling my thoughts on paper. But combined…something just doesn’t feel right: the reason I put up with the stress of producing this festival (yes, it is my job) is because at the end of the day, it is arguably the most fun and rewarding of our annual education programs.

Simultaneously, not once in the past few weeks have I stopped to think about research, evaluation, advocacy, arts integration, 21st century skills, partnerships, common core, assessment and/or national standards.

So before I start feeling guilty about being a terrible Director of Education, let me ask this: why didn’t “fun” make our list of themes? Read the rest of this entry »

Michael R. Gagliardo

Michael R. Gagliardo

Every time the Etowah Youth Orchestra gives a performance, it seems, we get a standing ovation. I think that’s great—I mean, what better way to recognize the accomplishments of our young musicians, right? And it’s not that they don’t deserve the ovation—after all, they work their tails off at every rehearsal to prepare and present the best performances possible. And with young artists, we should always recognize and praise their efforts.

But on the professional level, I’ve been to a number of performances lately where the performance itself has been adequate, at best, and the audience has still recognized the performers by rising to its feet and loudly and enthusiastically heaping praise upon those on stage.

That’s fine, I guess—we’re recognizing the effort, perhaps; but, in terms of assessing the performance, is this really doing our art any favors? Don’t get me wrong—I want my young players to get standing ovations, to be recognized for their efforts, their achievements, and their accomplishments. But only when it is deserved.

I look at it this way—if I gave a performance that was just lukewarm, I wouldn’t want this type of accolade. It almost feels like pity, in a way—like the audience is saying, “Well, it wasn’t that good of a performance, but we should recognize the effort anyway—I’m sure he worked very hard to put that performance together.”

When we assess the arts, we have to be fair. I know, I know—we struggle every day, for funding, for acceptance, for a place in education, for a place in our communities. And it’s so easy to justify everything we do, to laud and praise every effort, in our desire to win the fight and solidify our place in society. But at what price? Read the rest of this entry »

2011 Contest Entry: "Finding Solace in Birmingham," Kelly Moore, Sequoyah High School, Grade 12, 16" x 18" charcoal/pastels

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for America “where people would be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin, where little black boys and black girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Fifty years later, America is no doubt a very different nation than it was in 1963, especially concerning the rights of African-Americans and racial integration. Yet the widening disparity of wealth and deepening social tensions that precipitated the March on Washington are as topical today as they were in the sixties. The underlying conflicts and tensions that erupted in the sixties—conflicts and tensions that had been festering since the founding of our country—remain unresolved.

Inspired by the Declaration of Independence and forged by the Black experience in America, the modern civil rights movement was a philosophy of life designed to address these inconsistencies in American democracy. It was a philosophy of humility and hope, of pragmatism and idealism, and of individualism and the “Beloved Community,” indeed a second American revolution, that aspired to integrate the divided soul of the nation and inaugurate a new era of progress and possibility.

Fifty years later, as the nation and the world face daunting social, political, and environmental challenges that demand a “new” paradigm, a new vision, for how we can relate to each other as human beings, the timing could not be better to revisit “The Dream Speech” and the wisdom of the civil rights movement.

THE DREAM@50 is a tribute series in 2012–13 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Including a student art contest (K–12), a world music/dance festival, and video PSAs, THE DREAM@50 is a celebration of creative collaboration in both the civil rights movement and the arts as the foundation for a new paradigm in how we can live together. The goal of THE DREAM@50 Art Contest is to embrace the arts as a vehicle for bringing this history alive for students today in order to clarify the lessons of the past and to empower our students with the tools to make a difference and make the dream a reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Sally Gaskill

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Since 2008, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) has surveyed graduates of arts training programs—people who received undergraduate and/or graduate arts degrees from colleges and universities as well as diplomas from arts high schools…people who majored in architecture, arts education, creative writing, dance, design, film, fine arts, media arts, music, theater, and more.

To date, SNAAP has collected data from over 50,000 arts graduates of all ages and nationalities. These respondents, as we call them in the survey world, graduated from nearly 250 different educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

In a few short years, SNAAP has become what is believed to be the largest database ever assembled about the arts and arts education, as well as the most comprehensive alumni survey conducted in any field.

Recently, we published our latest findings: A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers. The report provides findings from over 33,000 arts graduates who responded to the online survey last fall.

Our report has attracted media coverage from the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Inside Higher Ed and—we were gawked on gawker.com! My favorite may be Forbes, which compares getting an arts degree with getting a law degree—and recommends that prospective law students consider an arts career instead.

Here are some of the big questions that SNAAP data begin to answer.

1.      Where do arts graduates go?

  • First, they are largely employed. Only 4% of SNAAP respondents are unemployed and looking for work, as opposed to the national average of 8.9%.

The four national winners of this year's The Art Institutes/Americans for the Arts Poster Contest.

I had the distinct opportunity to witness how the youth of today interpret the theme, “You Can Create Tomorrow.”

Held in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., The 9th Annual Art Institutes and Americans for the Arts Poster Design Competition National Awards ceremony was a chance to see a showcase of high school creative talent, and how the arts leaders of tomorrow envision the future of the creative process.

One would immediately assume (as did I) that I would be immersed in a sea of digital graphics; but this was far from the case. Most of the art submitted by students for this competition was hand-drawn, painted, photographed, and oftentimes students blended multiple visual mediums to convey the message that creative expression needn’t consist of just one style of expression. This is a true testament to the future of the arts; we use multitudes of resources to create that robust final product.

Andrea Knapp, a high school senior from Atwater, OH addressed the new ways we are using technology in everyday life to grab third place in the High School Senior Category. She will be utilizing her innovative thinking to work towards a B.S. in Visual Effects & Motion Graphics at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Megan Avery, the second place winner in the High School Senior Category from Clayton, NC took a very mature and considerate approach to her poster design submission—using a photograph she had taken of an Art Institute travel coffee mug with origami flora and fauna bursting from the top. Avery will take her multilayered method of creative expression to The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham with her awarded scholarship. Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Since I started my job 4 ½ years ago, I have been looking for a way to quantify arts education. There are an overwhelming number of models circulating:

Washington State did an invited, online, school principal survey, leveraging the partnership of their Arts Education Research Initiative to elicit responses.

Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming worked with the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) to develop a shared survey instrument, administered in collaboration with the four state offices of education and public instruction.

Communities involved in The Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child initiative have created extensive school-based survey instruments, drawing on the expertise of locally-formed partnerships to create the best instrument and guarantee response rates.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

With over 1,300 public schools in the state, the cost to hire a research firm to design and administer a survey instrument was prohibitive, and every existing survey instrument we looked at needed substantial adaptation to satisfy our stakeholders.

Luckily, two years ago, a graduate student in public policy at University of Oregon, Sarah K. Collins, mentioned to me that her thesis project involved pulling data from the Department of Education to examine access to arts education. The Oregon Arts Commission hired Sarah to produce a state-level summary report of her thesis, which we then published.

While the summary data was useful in tracking overall trends, it wasn’t applicable to most citizens, who wanted to know what the numbers meant for their local school. This demand evolved into what is now the Oregon Arts Commission’s newly launched online arts education databaseRead the rest of this entry »

Ryan Hurley

During our Americans for the Arts Annual Convention ARTventure to San Antonio’s culturally rich Westside neighborhood, we spent the afternoon with San Anto Cultural Arts, a local organization that builds community through the process of creating murals. Outside of their small office there is a large religious mural featuring a profile of Jesus surrounded by two angels. One of the organization’s co-founders, who was kind of hanging in the background of our tour, was encouraged by the tour guide to tell this story.

When heading back to the office one day he noticed a woman, whom he later found out was a prostitute, hanging out on the border of their property near the mural. As soon as she saw him approaching she apologized for loitering and promised to leave right away. He told her not to worry and began talking with her. She told him that the church down the street wouldn’t allow her to enter, so she would often come to this outdoor mural to pray.

The storyteller wasn’t trying to commodify this story or use it as a sales pitch. He shared this experience so we could understand the human element of their work. Those moments that we experience everyday and assume that others can summon when we talk about that abstract “power of the arts,” need to be shared, built upon, and married to supportive data.

During the Emerging Leaders Preconference, Americans for the Arts President and CEO Bob Lynch said something to the effect of “…for a group of artists, we need to become better storytellers.” I think this was said in the context of arts advocacy but I believe it is interrelated to growing as a community.

It was probably because of our own personal narratives or the persuasive narratives of others that convinced us to spend our lives in a financially (and emotionally) unstable field taking up the banner for the arts. This is not to underestimate the power of studies such as the new Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (4.1 million jobs are supported nationally by the nonprofit arts sector, nice!). These studies are invaluable to a diverse field that hosts a diverse audience, but these two quantitative and qualitative narratives could benefit from becoming more intertwined. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Ford

My name is Victoria Ford. I’m Southern, I’m black, and I’m an artist. Perhaps you’re wondering—and appropriately so—why I would begin this way.

My introduction is inspired by exciting news. With her recent honor as the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway is the first Southern writer to hold this prestigious title since Robert Penn Warren. She is also the first African-American Poet Laureate since Rita Dove, who held the post in 1993—almost two decades ago.

That year holds a great deal of weight to me being that it was my birth year, an indication that during the course of my young life there have only been two female black poets, two artists I can closely relate to, who’ve held this title.

Shortly before finishing my first year in college and prior to beginning my internship with Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C., I’d been invested in answering a particular question: What are the ethnographic implications on my artistic context?

I frame the question this way because I’m not interested in answering the age-old question, “Who am I?”—this I’ve already answered. Rather, “Why am I and what difference does it make?” is a question that I find myself perpetually chasing.

So let’s begin here. Why am I here? Before this internship, before any shatter of a formal arts education, I was 12 and in middle school. It was there that poetry first came alive to me in the form of a friend. I thought of poetry as a sacred language we shared. Something ignited in my relationship with words and images. Writing became less a mandatory school affair and more a site of inexhaustible magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Gregory Burbidge

Last year at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, I remember two comments specifically from the town hall session. The first comment was from an emerging leader who thought that it was time for established leaders to move out of the way. It was, at best, nonsense.

Intrinsic Impact?

The second comment, the one that actually bothered me more throughout the full year, was a comment that the person was tired of hearing about the economic impact of arts and culture. They wanted a return to a focus on the intrinsic impact of arts and culture. I didn’t see that person this year, though with the focus of the conference being the release of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report, that person may have chosen to skip a year. I myself am data hungry and the report will give me much to chew on.

This year, more than most, the thing I noted was a pleasant drift from intrinsic impact. The subtle drift in a direction I am happy to paddle towards is into the territory of collaboration and a healthy mix of “arts and.” When we listen closely to the needs of our community the arts can help provide answers to many issues. It does require a willingness to be flexible that a focus on intrinsic impact does not necessarily provide.

Arts and…healthcare

Two of the most interesting sessions to me this year explore the intersections of arts and health. Both the intersection of the arts and healing (Art of Healing) and what the arts can do to ease the transition home for our veterans (Boots to Brushes: The Arts Serving Veterans’ Needs) are ways that the arts are meeting at the cross sections of arts and healthcare. Read the rest of this entry »

Mary Garay conducts the Westland Middle School Orchestra.

What a revelation!!  Every day I come to work here at Americans for the Arts and see the big picture of the arts in America and wonder are we making a difference? Are the arts really that important? And the other night, I think I  got my answer.

I went to my son’s middle school’s spring orchestra and band performance and it all came home to me. I couldn’t believe that one teacher, just one, could affect all those kids. I was reminded of just how much we ask our music teachers to do. How do they do it? All those kids learning and paying attention to one person. Ms. Garay is my new hero.

Sometimes we forget why we are doing what we do, but I was so humbled by watching this amazing woman work and affect so many young adults. The arts give these kids a sense of self, build maturity, increase attention span, teamwork, and the ability to do several things at once. Try watching a conductor while blowing on your reed, moving your fingers on your oboes keys, playing in tune and in rhythm. It’s the ultimate in multitasking.

Each day Ms. Garay has the ability to model and teach these kids so many things. How does one teacher get kids to learn to play the oboe, clarinet, saxophone, trumpets, bassoon, tuba, violin, viola, cello, bass, etc? Read the rest of this entry »

Ken Busby

When you hear the phrase, “the new normal,” do you ever stop and wonder what exactly that means? It certainly has become one of the most often-used phrases that we hear today. Everything has a “new normal.” However, there is something important in these three words. Important enough that it’s the theme for this year’s Annual Convention of Americans for the Arts.

Just this past week, the Dow took a dive or a dip (however you want to look at it) because the country isn’t creating enough jobs. Already, analysts are saying that we might be heading toward another recession—just as we are beginning to see daylight from the last one. So what is “the new normal?” Are we in a period of recovery or are things about to look bleak again?

The answer, quite simply, is yes or no—to both or neither. My point being…it doesn’t really matter what the national economy is doing on a daily basis. There are good days and bad days. However, our jobs as nonprofit arts education administrators and providers go on. And we have to find ways to make it all work. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes! So we do it—we move forward for the good of our organizations and the people and communities that we serve.

To me, “the new normal” is a reminder that every day is a new day, full of possibilities. Whatever we did yesterday, it’s done. We can’t change it. We can learn from it, but then we have to look to the future. What can we bring to the table today that will make a difference in our community tomorrow?  Read the rest of this entry »

A nice welcome sign at the San Antonio airport.

Although some of our staff members were delayed due to weather on route to San Antonio, everyone made it from out our New York and D.C. offices yesterday in preparation for the beginning of our 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this morning.

Today’s lineup includes the start of our preconferences—Public Art and Emerging Leaders—as well as several meetings of our peer network leadership councils and partners from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study (which will be unveiled live in-person and via webcast on Friday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT).

Registration for the main convention officially opens this evening (5:00 p.m. CDT) at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio before we move into the full slate of peer networking, professional development, innovator, and discussion sessions tomorrow morning.

We look forward to the opportunities that our annual meetings bring for our staff and attendees and we hope you’ll join us even if you aren’t in San Antonio via our webcast on Friday and Convention On-Demand (featuring over 30 hours of recorded sessions) which will be available after we depart Texas.

If you are joining us in person, thank you for making the trip and make sure you share your experience with us via comments on new blog posts throughout the weekend (and into next week), tweets (#AFTA12 is our hashtag), Facebook posts, and photos on Flickr.

Nancy Kelly

On Friday, June 8, I’ll be presenting my award-winning documentary TRUST: Second Acts in Young Lives during the 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in a session titled, “Documenting the Importance of Arts Education.”

The film follows Marlin, an 18-year-old Hondureña, who shares a hidden history about her childhood with a theater company in her Chicago neighborhood, the renowned Albany Park Theater Project.

Marlin’s story is about resilience and empowerment. TRUST captures the amazing response from her fellow actors and the unexpected journey her story takes them on together: they transform Marlin’s story into a daring, original play and Marlin re-claims power over the narrative of her life story.

TRUST is about creativity and the unexpected resources inside teens who may be discounted because of their youth, race, or ethnicity or because they come from under-resourced neighborhoods without access to arts programs.

Woven through TRUST are three main themes: the transformative power of art, the continuing challenges facing immigrants, and the trauma of child sexual abuse. Like the legs of a three-legged stool, these themes are interdependent and not prioritized.

Here is a preview of the film:

Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As an arts education advocate who is leading an effort in San Diego to ensure that arts education is not lost in the midst of budget cuts at San Diego Unified School District, I must confess I am a little lost these days.

In the past, it’s been easy. District administration red lines the visual and performing arts department to save money, we advocate to the school board, and the school board approves funding for another year. It’s been this way for at least the last three years. But this year is different.

This year, the pink slips to more than 1,600 teachers were not rescinded in the final hour as they had been every year before. This year, the May revise shows the state budget gap is not $9 billion but almost $16 billion—definitely not what the governor anticipated. In 2009 they projected that the district budget would turn around by 2013. But that’s nowhere near what’s happening. This year it’s a very different ball game.

As a strategist, I take pride in knowing just what tools to use and what angle to take when going to bat for the arts in San Diego City Schools. But I’m at a loss this year. How do we continue to demand that the arts education budget remains intact when 1 in 5 teachers district-wide will be without a job come June unless the board can work with the teachers union and agree to contract concessions?

How do we continue to have faith that it will all work out when California voters refuse to support the taxes needed to ensure that education budgets aren’t decimated and fiscal conservatives in the state legislature think that the only answer is more cuts. And even if the governor’s tax increase proposal is approved by the voters in November, the result the district projects is a flat budget, not an increase, in school funding. 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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