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.
Working in K-12 arts education is like trying to choreograph a dance during a slow, rolling earthquake. You’re determined to take your next step, but spend a lot of time and energy fighting to stay upright. As the ground shifts beneath your feet, you never know when something unwieldy – a new set of standards, a reduced funding stream – may tumble in your direction.
Working in this environment requires you have a resource in your community to keep an eye on changing policies and boil them down to what you need to know. The better your understanding of the “big picture” of education and how it affects the arts, the easier it is to keep enough balance to dance amidst the chaos.
Recent changes to California’s education funding, and the arts education community’s response, provides a case study of how this works. Last June, Governor Jerry Brown signed a state budget that included a sweeping overhaul of school funding. The new formula, called Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), replaced California’s prior categorical line items for education. These line items included the Art and Music Block grant that for years had been the state’s dedicated source of arts education funding. Read the rest of this entry »
In thinking about this week’s blog post, I am inspired by the act of advocacy. At National Arts Advocacy Day last month, arts advocates from all over the nation poured onto Capitol Hill to describe how the arts benefits the economy, culture, education, and healthcare. In an effort to procure support for the upcoming fiscal year, our carefully crafted message communicated how the arts not only enrich but exist as a necessity within the lives of Americans.
While arming ourselves with facts and figures provided by Americans for the Arts to state our case, a colleague of mine who works for the City of Mauldin Cultural Center proposed that we describe a day without the arts to adequately articulate the essential role of the arts in our lives. While he was not seriously considering this approach in our appointments on Capitol Hill, he was serious about how the gravity of the message could help illustrate—well not illustrate because the arts would not exist—how the arts are present all around us. Read the rest of this entry »
As a university advisory to about 50 student performing and visual arts groups, I see firsthand the impact extra-curricular programs and elective coursework in the arts make on student’s professional and personal development. The majority of the hundreds of students served through Platt Student Performing Arts House at The University of Pennsylvania will not pursue careers in the arts sector. However, it is this population of arts appreciators who will support local theater, participate in book clubs, donate to after school arts programs, and so forth after graduation. As a sector, we need to creatively engage the extra-curricular art lovers while they are young so as to ensure strong audiences in the future.
Institutions of higher education, arts and culture organizations, and all levels of government share the responsibility of engaging extra-curricular art lovers. Within the last year alone, Philadelphia has seen strong development in the quantity of organizations taking this responsibility seriously with quality programming. This recent uptick in engaging programming is a sign that organizations recognize the long-lasting value of building relationships between arts and culture communities and college students (regardless of whether or not their academic pursuits are arts-related). Read the rest of this entry »
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vans Custom Culture Brand Marketing Manager Scott Byrer on a cold day in New York City to enthusiastically talk about the exciting ways Vans Custom Culture supports arts education in addition to the company’s thriving partnership with Americans for the Arts. I loved the excitement in which Scott spoke about his passion for arts education. Here is an excerpt of our conversation.
JW: I’d like to know more about the history of Vans and how the founders were inspired to launch a sneaker company.
SB: Vans was founded in 1966 by Paul and James Van Doren, Serge Delia and Gordon Lee. The company started small, with one store originally selling shoes directly to the public. In those days, customers were able to walk into a store and select their own custom shoe colors! This originality and creativity has remained an integral part of the Vans brand DNA to this day. The company grew quickly, being the first shoe brand to create a product specifically for skateboarding and as such, we’re known today as the original action sports footwear and apparel company, with collections including authentic footwear, apparel, accessories and snowboard boots that are sold globally in more than 170 countries. If you’re curious to see a visual story about the history of Vans, you can check out a video our production team created on our Off the Wall TV site.
JW: Can you tell me a little about how Van Custom Culture decided to start supporting high school arts education programs throughout the U.S.?
SB: Vans Custom Culture began as a much smaller project lead by a high school art teacher in Colorado, Franky Scaglione, and his best friend, Shawn Gruenhagen, who is a sales rep for Vans. The competition was originally held between classmates at Wheat Ridge High School in Denver who customized blank Vans shoes that Shawn brought them. It morphed into a larger, national high school art competition once Shawn brought the idea back to the Vans marketing team at our headquarters in Southern California. Using Franky and Shawn’s original concept of a competition around custom shoes, we launched the first national edition of Custom Culture in 2010. The goals of the program were the same then as they are now. First, give high school students a chance to express themselves creatively. Second, put some much needed funds back into the hands of high school art programs. Third, create a platform to raise awareness for the importance of art education in our schools.
JW: And to think the inspiration came from an art teacher – I love that story! How does the competition work today?
SB: The competition structure is fairly simple. The first 2,000 U.S. based public or private high schools to register for Custom Culture receive four pairs of Vans shoes (106, Sk8-Hi, Slip On and Authentic) to customize completely free of charge. Each pair is then customized by students to represent one of four themes: Action Sports, Music, Art, and Local Flavor. Photo submissions are made online via the Vans Custom Culture website (Due April 7, 2014) after which an internal selection and external public vote whittles the entries down to a group of five finalists who travel to New York City for the Final Event. At this event, a panel of judges selects a grand prize winning school, which receives a $50,000 prize donation to its art program. Each of the four runners up also receive donations, along with two additional $10,000 donations awarded on behalf of our program partners, Journeys and truth, to two other finalist schools.
JW: How has your partnership with Americans for the Arts enhanced this Vans Custom Culture arts education funding program?
SB: Americans for the Arts established itself long ago as a leader in the effort to drive awareness for the importance of the arts and particularly art education in our schools. Since we began Custom Culture with the goal of raising awareness for the importance of art education, we knew that guidance from experts was necessary, leading us to partner with AFTA nearly two years ago. Their guidance has a allowed us to make an even greater impact via a $50,000 donation that AFTA then distributes amongst high schools via grants. Additionally, AFTA uses part of this donation to create educational materials distributed to various schools and community organizations.
JW: How does technology play a role in the work you do as well as how your colleagues at Vans collaborate?
SB: Technology is vital to nearly everything we do at Vans, from design to production to distribution and marketing. For Custom Culture in particular, members of a large cross functional team from various departments devote their time and energy to plan and execute this huge competition yearly, each of them relying on tech in one capacity or another. For instance, our in-house video production team uses state of the art technology to shoot, edit and produce video content that tells the story of Custom Culture. These videos are uploaded and shared to multiple interactive platforms online which are created and maintained by a team of web developers and interactive/digital managers that literally build our sites and social presences from scratch. Another great example is our visual team, who’s tasked with creating an incredible experience for students at our final event in June. This experience is planned via sophisticated 3D models which allow our team to visually transform the interior of our venue and throw an amazing party that the students remember forever. Lastly, our footwear design team works directly with the winning school’s students to take their shoe design and turn it into an actual production model that is then sold in Vans retail stores and online. Our entire employee base, regardless of whether or not they work on Custom Culture, is tasked with thinking creatively and many of us have an art education background or were inspired by an art teacher or class at some point. Custom Culture is meant to be a way for us to give that experience to students who may not be able to experience quality art education themselves.
JW: How does this work environment translate into inspiring young people to explore creative careers?
SB: Our work environment is incredibly creative. The mantra we live by daily at Vans is “Off The Wall” which directly translates to thinking and living creatively. Through programs like Custom Culture, we try to expose young people to the fact that creative careers exist and one need only look as far as the halls of Vans HQ to prove that.
JW: What’s your favorite pair of Vans shoes that you own?
SB: I’ve been wearing Authentics and Old Skools for years. There’s no substitute for a pair of original canvas Authentics!
We have spoken a lot in recent years about increasing access to the arts—both in the schools and in the greater community. The definition of and measurement of success in access is varied, often depending upon the school system, the community, its existing resources, socio-demographics, and other characteristics. Differing communities necessitate differing metrics. Metrics that should sometimes be flexible.
Richmond CenterStage opened nearly five years ago, with an institutional goal of increasing access to the arts for children and the community-at-large. We are home to nine resident companies that include Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, Elegba Folklore Society, SPARC (School for the Performing Arts for the Richmond Community), Henley Street Theatre/Richmond Shakespeare, African American Repertory Theatre and Virginia Repertory Theatre. Collectively, these organizations perform at CenterStage and other venues (including their own) throughout our region. Read the rest of this entry »
“We dance, sing, and tell stories too, you know? And we are pretty good at it,” Merlene age 12 at the time, informed me as I was finishing up my theatre and dance class with the middle school boys. From that point on, the Theatre and Dance Education Program at the Hartland Partnership Center took off.
My name is Kelby McIntyre-Martinez and I am the Director of the Theatre and Dance Education Program at the University of Utah Hartland Partnership Center in Salt Lake City. Since 2008, I have had the privilege of working with an amazingly diverse population that encompasses non-native English speaking youth from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.
The Hartland Partnership Center is part of an expanded effort by the University of Utah toward civic engagement—a recognition that active collaboration between University and community groups can enhance learning, teaching, and research. In addition, University/community partnerships bring the strength of combined resources to bear on urban issues. The key to Hartland Partnership Center’s success is sustainability and reciprocity. This model works because the resources fit the reality and a culture of reciprocal sharing and learning permeates the center. The mission of the Hartland Partnership Center provides space for a broad range of campus-community partnership activities. Bringing these activities to Hartland residents helps equip them with all the tools and resources needed to more fully participate in the broader Salt Lake community, including the performing arts. Read the rest of this entry »
The arts are powerful because they provide us with, and help us to create, our identities – who we truly are. The two ultimate questions we have in life are: who am I and why am I here? If you find the answer to the first, it will help lead you to the answer to the second. Identity provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose.
It was in art that I found my own identity. I was in sixth grade and had always really struggled in school. I was lost and confused and thought I was a failure; my self-esteem and confidence were extremely low. Back then there weren’t a lot of diagnosis like ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities. I was diagnosed as being lazy and a troublemaker…and they probably had a pretty good case against me. Then my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson, said four words that changed my life. We were doing an art lesson and she came up behind me, looked at my picture and said “Wow, that’s really great”! The other students gathered around and shared her enthusiasm. All of a sudden I wasn’t a failure anymore…I was an artist. I had an identity! I’ve carried that identity and confidence with me to this very day, it’s made me who I am. Read the rest of this entry »
There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:
“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”
This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:
“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”
With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”
- Which of these would you rank as #1?
- Do you have a #11 to add?
- Tell us in the comments below!
You can download this handy 1-pager here.
1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.
2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »
Each January, The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) hosts its winter meeting in Washington, DC. This meeting is attended by around 500 of the nation’s mayors who represent cities with a population of more than 30,000. Americans for the Arts has partnered with the USCM for over 20 years and presents our Public Leadership in the Arts Awards at a breakfast plenary session. This year, we honored Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Akron, OH Mayor Don Plusquellic, and Dubuque, IA Mayor Roy Buol. Americans for the Arts also honors an artist who has promoted the arts and arts education through their body of work. This year, we honored actress Fran Drescher for her work in promoting the arts over her career. If you would like to see past awardees, please check out our public leadership in the arts pages.
The USCM meeting always hosts a variety of high level elected and appointed officials. This year, nine cabinet secretaries spoke at USCM meeting while President Obama hosted the mayors at the White House. I had the luck to end up sitting next to Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the USCM Education Committee meeting. I was able to thank him for his support of arts in education and his department’s model grant program. While Secretary Duncan is certainly familiar with Americans for the Arts, it is events like this, at the USCM where people like Secretary Duncan do not expect to see us, but when they do, our presence and words carry even more meaning and importance given the nature of the meeting and those who are attending.
So, whether you are in DC, or in your local supermarket, always be prepared with your elevator speech on why the arts and arts education must be supported as you never know when you might have the chance to educate one of your elected officials.
“No WAY!” is literally what I said when a participant from my Saturday professional development workshop, Rosie Mitchell, asked me if I would run a steamroller printmaking day at her elementary school in South Salt Lake City. For those of you who have never heard of “steamroller printmaking,” this is a technique for making very large woodcut prints using a steamroller as the printing press. More on that in a bit…
It is not that I am unkind; it’s just that it is so much work to move a printmaking studio off site. I know, I have done it before for the Utah Arts Festival when I was invited to demonstrate steamroller printmaker along with my two fellow Saltgrass Printmakers co-owners and founders – my husband, Erik Brunvand, and our business partner Stefanie Dykes. That’s when Rosie first participated in the steamrolling event. Later she joined us at our non-profit print studio, Saltgrass Printmakers (facebook page here) and steamrolled some more works of art. She knew how much fun it was and wanted to share it with her elementary school kids. Read the rest of this entry »
While gathering supplies for the Summer Arts and Apps Academy for students of the Lower Kuskokwim School District in bush Alaska, we came across a box filled with bags of beautifully colored sand. Although the two-week academy was centered on developing eBooks and exploring various apps on the iPad, we knew we were not leaving the supply closet without the colored sand in tow.
Working as a teaching artist is thrilling on just about every level. I have the privilege of collaborating with brilliant educators, fellow teaching artists, and students who inspire me daily. I especially relish the time I spend developing curricula and planning interesting visual art experiences for students. I like to be organized and to structure lesson plans, but I must admit that after 15 years of working as a teaching artist, I have learned the value of spontaneity.
In 2003, one woman’s 58-year collection of thrift was rediscovered by her grandson and transformed into a living museum and artist residency program called Elsewhere. Today, we invite artists from all over the world to create site-specific projects that respond to this collection, while working inside a three-story former thrift store in downtown Greensboro, NC. As the building and its contents are continually transformed into an evolving artwork, publics are invited daily to play, collaborate, and curate alongside this changing creative community.
As a teaching artist at Elsewhere, the museum and its vast collections provide a platform for learning projects, workshops, and tours that engage schools and publics across North Carolina. In 2012, we launched CoLab, a collaborative laboratory for youth-led media experiments and digital storytelling. Each CoLab session brings together a teaching artist and a group of youth to explore a theme or question, creating interactive media works that range from short films and live performances, to digital publications, websites, and sound recordings in response. Read the rest of this entry »
What does a 100+ year old pipe organ have to offer school children in today’s world?
Portland, Maine’s iconic Kotzschmar Organ, donated over a century ago by publishing mogul Cyrus Curtis and the centerpiece of Merrill Auditorium ever since, has become the inspiration for a progressive and multifaceted education program in Maine schools. Developed by the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) nonprofit, the curriculum includes a series of events, presentations, and in-school courses.
As an organist and choir director of both youth and adults, I am teaching all the time. My experience with FOKO’s education in the schools over the past ten years, presenting youth concerts on the Kotzschmar, has been eye opening to say the least. I continue to grow as a teaching artist through teaching in different school systems and working with teams of classroom teachers. Read the rest of this entry »
This was the mantra I was given during my time at the famed d.school at Stanford and it has stuck with me as we began the process of redesigning a pedagogy for an entire organization.
The West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is taking the fundamentals of design thinking outside of traditional school classrooms and piloting a best practice of infusing an after school arts and tech program with this innovative method of teaching and teen engagement. Under this model WMCAT teen students are working in cohorts to explore and tackle a pressing community issue using arts and technology as a basis for inquiry, critical thinking and practical application. We are serving 144 teens from Grand Rapids Public Schools on 12 design teams that are each connected to a local community partner. It is arts education through a 21st Century skill development lens. This is the exciting, innovative and proven world of project-based learning where students learn through exploring real-world challenges and issues. It is grounded in student experience and driven by student interest. Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s be honest, when an art project goes long, or a class is a little crazy, structured reflection is the first thing to go. This happens in spite of the fact that we KNOW reflecting makes all the difference when it comes to students retaining their discoveries and being able to apply their learning in other contexts. In the words of John Dewey, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Like most things that are of paramount importance, creating an environment in which meaningful reflection can happen is difficult, especially if you are a teaching artist who only temporarily inhabits another teacher’s classroom. I am currently in the middle of teaching an 8-week, 5th grade residency for the Rainforest Art Project. My students are a perfectionist group, bordering on unruly. Some of the students are so worried about making a mistake, it’s difficult for them to even start working. They are very critical of themselves and their artwork. Read the rest of this entry »