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.

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

I’m often confused about the difference between collaboration and partnership.

We seem to use the terms interchangeably when in fact they are different. This Blog Salon is, in part, about partnerships and engagement. But are we all talking about the same thing?

I once had it explained to me that there is a continuum of engagement that includes, in order: affiliations, collaborations, partnerships, and mergers.

Moving from left to right each becomes more involved depending on the risk and resource contribution each party makes. So an affiliation requires the least amounts of risk and resources and a merger requires the most.

In a collaboration, each operates independently and has complete control over the individual resources they bring to the table. In a partnership, however, there is more of a co-mingling of resources and a separate structure is developed to oversee or manage the engagement. Sometimes what starts out as a collaboration becomes a partnership. (For more in-depth information see Collaboration: What Makes it Work by Mattessich, Murray‐Close, & Monsey, 2001.)

I think this distinction is an important one in response to Lynne’s post. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Bransom

Bringing people together to partner on a hot-button issue such as quality is tricky. And that, my friends, is an understatement, wouldn’t you agree?

When navigating these waters it’s important to chart where you’ve been and how you arrived where you are.

Over the past two years Big Thought, with the support of The Wallace Foundation, has digitally documented our community’s quality teaching and learning work at Creating Quality. We hope this site will serve as a place for community dialogue and sharing, both locally and nationally.

All of the material in the Tools and Resource Library (e.g., letters, reports, templates) that were created in Dallas can be downloaded and edited per your needs. This is because we don’t imagine that quality looks the same in any two places.

Ownership of quality is essential. And, ownership only comes when you, as a fully engaged partner, have defined quality in terms that you are prepared to support. Then, and only then, can you assess and make investments to advance quality.

This is how the Dallas arts community embraced and folded-in district and community educators from the other four disciplines: English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Read the rest of this entry »

Merryl Goldberg

In considering quality, engagement, and partnerships, I’m really thrilled to be writing about DREAM and TELL!

Developing Reading Education through Arts Methods (DREAM) is a four-year arts integration program funded through the United States Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement: Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant Program.

Theater for English Language Learners (TELL!) is a multi-year project with funding this year from the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts in Education category.

Both programs are partnership programs involving school districts, a university, and professional artists. In this post and my next one, I will describe each of these projects. This one introduces DREAM.

“Some schools don’t have what kids need to enjoy school,” said Jordan Zavala, 9. “I used to have a hard time reading, but since I’ve been in Mr. DeLeon’s class I’ve done better because we act out what we learn. It’s really been fun.” (San Diego Union Tribune 2/10/12)

The DREAM program is a partnership of the San Diego County Office of Education via the North County Professional Development Federation, and Center ARTES at California State University San Marcos.

The program’s goal is to train third and fourth grade teachers to use visual arts and theater activities to improve students’ reading and language arts skills. Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com.

100. Can anyone make music?

Ge Wang, a professor at Stanford and the creator of Smule, thinks so. The problem is that people have to get drunk in order to get over their fear enough to do karaoke.

Ge is dealing with this by making a series of apps for iPhones and other devices that make composing music not merely easy, but fearless.

He’s seen what happens when you take the pressure off and give people a fun way to create music (not play sheet music, which is a technical skill, but make music). “It’s like I tasted this great, wonderful food,” he says now, “and for some reason I’ve got this burning desire to say to other people: ‘If you tried this dish, I think you might really like it.’”

His take on music is dangerously close to the kind of dreaming I’m talking about. “It feels like we’re at a juncture where the future is maybe kind of in the past,” he says. “We can go back to a time where making music is really no big deal; it’s something everyone can do, and it’s fun.”

Who taught us that music was a big deal? That it was for a few? That it wasn’t fun? Read the rest of this entry »

Jane Remer

In my first post, I suggested we needed definitions of quality, engagement, and partnership. I offered my thoughts on these three issues and left a “tentative conclusion” saying we probably ought to decide whether we as a group want to deal with the three “topics” together, or separately.

The posts from the other bloggers do both and so I have decided it’s best to follow my own train and offer a short list of where I see the field still stuck for answers.

I have no idea whether or how this will clarify or motivate collaborative thinking among us (a disparate group with very different agendas), but here goes…

In random order, here are some of the issues that have stymied us for decades:

1. Without committed classroom teachers and specialist arts educators as well as principals and their assistants, we (arts organizations, artists, consultants, et al) have no solid validity as partners in the arts as education.

2. Without the district’s or state’s education office heavily engaged, represented and fiscally invested, we have no chance, whatsoever, to build a growing and sustained constituency for the arts as education.

3. Without strong leadership and some attempt at unity and dialogue among the schools and the arts and cultural organization, we will continue to face the rather vast chasm between them as “them” and “us. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

Arts education organizations and professionals (otherwise known as teaching artists and consultants) are no strangers to the repercussions of budget cuts, financial meltdowns, and the continued sluggish economic climate.

However, in true “arts ed” fashion, the field is slowly boasting several small success stories that offer a model for sustainability. Many administratively-savvy folks around the country are proving that smaller cultural organizations can still compete with the best of the larger, more visible organizations. In part two of our blog discussion (I’m working with fellow Arts Education Council Member Jessica Wilt) we’ll highlight several.

These success stories can however be few and far between. When will the old ways of doing business be a means to an end?

Some teaching artists and organizations haven’t quite made the effort to learn from others’ successes on how to adapt to the “new reality” or more importantly—learn from failures.

How can we prevent playing a continuous game of arts education Russian roulette? Read the rest of this entry »

Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley

On the surface everyone loves partnerships.

“I want to partner with this organization; I want to partner with that organization; I just love partnerships.”

But do we? Partnerships come in all shapes and sizes, some fit; some don’t. Just because two or more organizations seem to have similar interests does not mean a partnership is the right match.

At the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE), the opportunity to partner comes quite often though we’ve become more and more discerning over the years.

We have some solid state partners. The Illinois Theatre Association (ITA), for example has partnered with AATE for the past five years in hosting the Theatre In Our Schools mini-conference in Illinois.

We have some sound national partners. We continually partner with the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) and Theatre for Young Audiences USA (TYA/USA) on national issues facing theatre education such as the upcoming revision of the National Arts Standards and Dramatic Change: an anti-bullying initiative, respectively. These partnerships just “fit”.

We’ve also had partnerships that were mismatched. Last year we attempted to partner with a school video content producer along the lines of YouTube. It seemed all the pieces were in place and a partnership was born. Then, something happened. It was unclear to me why it fell apart and the mutual interest seemed to dissipate. It made me wonder, what was the missing piece? Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

There is growing evidence that the brains of newborns are highly networked and only mildly specialized.

L. Robert (“Bob”) Slevc, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Maryland, likens the developing brain to a growing corporation. As a start-up, the company is run by a handful of people who do all of the tasks: apply for grants, conduct research, and keep the books.

Gradually, as the company takes off, those tasks become more intensive and dedicated staff are required to carry them out: Soon there is a lab with researchers, an accounting office, a development wing, etc. At that point, the workers are no longer interchangeable: Corporate functioning has become highly modular and specialized.

Brains have no central processing unit, no central nexus where every thought has to pass through; instead, every neuron is its own CPU. This gives us the capacity for massive parallel processing. In a highly modular adult brain, biological “walls” reduce the crosstalk between neural networks, thereby enabling them to function more efficiently.

What’s interesting about this is that the American education system mirrors our neurological development: generally, students have one classroom teacher in elementary school; gain different teachers for each subject in middle and high school; and study in different buildings in college. The geographic layout of the university thus reflects a highly modular view of the adult, “well-educated” mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Victoria’s post asks what it would mean for arts educators to “share an agenda.” As she points out, arts education is typically not “at the table” for broader discussions of education reform. Why is this the case?

Two common explanations spring to my mind. The first is that the other people sitting around the table—those in the broader “edusphere”—don’t “get it.” They don’t understand or value what we do.

An undercurrent of this explanation is that we are enlightened (we alone understand what children need to learn and experience to function as healthy, happy members of society) and they are not.

The second explanation is that we are so busy feeling slighted by the first explanation (which a regional study in LA County did not show to be true) that we approach those other people at the table with mindset of defensiveness rather than of support.

We try to convince them of the value of the arts rather than listening to what they are trying to accomplish—acknowledging that they too care about students—and demonstrating how we can be of service.

I clung to the first explanation for a long time but admit the second explanation now resonates more with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Bransom

Confession time, I’m writing this second blog in advance of the first blog being published (this is how publication works). So, I am hoping we’ve had a widely successful conversation already about quality teaching and learning.

If we haven’t, then close your eyes, call forth the best dream conversation you can, attribute it to this blog, open your eyes, and let’s proceed.

In all seriousness, creating an open and rich conversation about quality is akin to facilitating a quality teaching and learning experience for and with students.

You need to set a climate where all feel comfortable sharing. This includes keeping the conversation focused and productive, while ensuring mutual respect among all parties.

You also need to generate engagement and investment by outlining clear expectations and offering multiple entry points for participants to stretch and extend their thinking.

Shared dialogue is another critical element. Not just talking, but listening, responding, and collaboratively using evidence and examples to construct new meaning, raises the quality of the work.

Skills, technique, and/or knowledge form the backbone of the work. They are the “what” we are teaching and learning. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Two)RSS Feed

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 13 - 20121 COMMENT

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

33. Who will teach bravery?

The essence of the connection revolution is that it rewards those who connect, stand out, and take what feels like a chance.

Can risk-taking be taught? Of course it can. It gets taught by mentors, by parents, by great music teachers, and by life.

Why isn’t it being taught every day at that place we send our kids to?

Bravery in school is punished, not rewarded. The entire institution is organized around avoiding individual brave acts, and again and again we hear from those who have made a difference, telling us that they became brave despite school, not because of it.

Harvard Business School turns out management consultants in far greater numbers than it develops successful bootstrapping entrepreneurs. Ralph Lauren, David Geffen, and Ted Turner all dropped out of college because they felt the real challenges lay elsewhere.

70. Grammr and the decline of our civilization Read the rest of this entry »

Students take part in Mesa Arts Center's Culture Connect program.

I spent the past 10 years touring the state of Arizona working for the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Along the way, I saw quality arts education partnerships in action from county attorney’s offices collaborating with urban elementary schools to create murals with an anti-drug message, to rural school districts working in tandem with presenting organizations to provide live theatre to students.

I met partners who brought a unique contribution to the table and partners vested in ensuring their programs were of quality.

However, I also encountered estranged, forced, and tired partnerships that were no longer contributing quality experiences to students.

I’ve also made a career change. In my new role as the education director of outreach for the Mesa Arts Center, I’m charged with providing authentic arts experiences and finding unique, quality partners to deepen the impact of arts education in our community.

While I had numerous examples in the field to draw from, like many colleagues, I found there was never one program I could model from or one solution to “how do we make this work?” Each community, art center, school, teacher, and artist had their own unique contribution and impact to make. Read the rest of this entry »

Joyce Bonomini

Arts education is my passion and I believe a solution to most problems in the world.

I could stop there, but I won’t.

I am fortunate to lead a team of arts educators and administrators that are committed to a vision and definition of arts education that insists on quality, engagement, and partnerships to sustain.

We believe:

  1. Arts and arts education are essential to human development.
  2. Arts are vital to the life of the community.
  3. The measure of our culture lives in the art we value and pass on to our children.
  4. Art is personal; art changes lives.

Through professional leadership, adherence to standards of excellence, responsiveness to our constituents, and uncompromising dedication to principals of inclusion, The Hoffman Institute provides a dynamic resource to all segments of the community for life-long experience, exploration, discovery, and mastery of the performing arts.

Our educational philosophy follows that vision as we believe that the performing arts are integral to human development and essential to the quality of life of a community. Furthermore, quality programming engages the community as a whole in an ongoing dialogue that strengthens the individual, our organization, and the community at large. Read the rest of this entry »

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Depending on where you sit, a host of different words may have popped into your head to fill the blank in the title of this post—ranging from “exciting” to “difficult” to plain “weird.”

Based on my experience working with school district leaders in Los Angeles County, I fill in the blank with a simple “engaging.” If allowed to break my own rule and add a few more words, I would say, “necessary if we are serious about engaging new partners.”

During the 2009–10 school year, I worked on Arts for All’s Leadership Fellows Program, a professional development series meant to help school district leaders (namely superintendents, assistant superintendents, and district-level visual and performing arts leads) better advance arts education across their school districts.

Over the course of a school year, leadership teams from five districts in Los Angeles County met monthly to explore topics related to arts education. At the end, when asked to reflect on the elements of the series they found particularly useful, they kept bringing up a particular topic: quality.

Specifically, they enjoyed the session that focused on the four lenses of quality arts education as defined in Harvard Project Zero’s The Qualities of Quality. That session also delved into using the lenses as a tool to observe, assess, and discuss what was happening within their classrooms. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

Over the last several months I’ve been hearing a lot about “collective impact.” This is the idea that social change can be more deeply rooted and successful if there is a coordinated effort to bring together dozens of organizations through a broad cross-sector approach around a shared agenda. Simply stated, by working collectively we can make a greater impact.

The Winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, written by Mark Kramer and John Kania, is aptly titled Collective Impact and it provides the best overview of how this movement is helping communities create meaningful reform around education, health, and welfare issues.

The assumption is that large-scale efforts require multiple stakeholders. What sets collective impact apart from other collaboratives is that the collective impact effort builds a central infrastructure, has a dedicated staff, and holds a shared agenda as well as a system of measuring outcomes. The “collective” is about many and diverse entities working together with a common goal.

A quick Google search brings up dozens of references to articles and websites that describe how collective impact efforts have supported social change.

Locally we’ve talked in some arts education circles about how we might use a collective impact approach to create a better system for educating our children. I’m always interested in arts education being at the table when discussions about education reform take place but so often, it’s not on anyone’s radar except the arts organizations that are dancing as fast as they can to provide programs in schools to fill in gaps or enhance district efforts. 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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