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.
With the smell of coffee brewing and waffles toasting, I peer into my girls’ art studio and see two preschoolers happily invested in the processes of drawing flowers and painting landscapes.
My two-year old dips her brush delicately into a bowl of water and then fills her brush with paint. The brush dances across the page and I hear her chatting about rainbows and a blue-green sky. My four-year-old fills her page with intricate illustrations of imaginative flowers and spirals.
We have a morning ritual of making, and it’s almost always process-driven. I do everything I can to set up an invitation to create—on this Spring morning the table was covered with paper, a jar of markers, and watercolors—and then I’ll step back to allow my children to find their creative voices. This is process-oriented art: open-ended, exploratory, individual, and one-of-a-kind. Read the rest of this entry »
Every day, in every aspect of curriculum, Opal School students are invited to work with the arts to express their interpretations and growing relationships with the world around them.
Inspired by the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, Opal School began 12 years ago with the intention to pursue the question: What are the implications of these approaches for the American Public Elementary School?
Carlina Rinaldi, has written, “We are all researchers of the meaning of life. Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty.”
We ask ourselves daily: What assumptions need to shift if we are to sustain curiosity and preserve this attitude of research? What would school look like if it intended to promote the development of the kind of healthy brain architecture our citizens need to support a healthy planet and democracy?
What happens if we withhold quick answers? What relationships become visible? What tools and strategies become of value?
In TED prize winner, Sugata Mitra’s recent talk, we hear him ask similar questions. While I agree with his equation/response to these questions: broadband + collaboration + encouragement, my experience tells me he is missing a vital part: the arts. Read the rest of this entry »
Picture it: you bring Tyler, a nine-month-old infant, to sit through a high-quality production of “James and the Giant Peach.” To expect the same deliciously wide-eyed and captivated response as his seven-year-old sister is nonsensical.
Would we say, then, that baby Tyler, in his most formative years, is not entitled to the same level of quality artistic experiences (and benefits that go along with them) as other members of his family simply because his intake mechanisms are less developed therefore more reliant on senses than words and linear thought?
It was only in the last 10 years did Theatre for the Very Young (TVY or Baby Theatre, or Theatre for Early Years) become a popular practice in the United States. Our comrades in Europe began researching and practicing this work roughly 25 years ago. And, I was surprised to learn from Manon van de Water’s book, Theatre, Youth and Culture: a Critical and Historical Exploration, that part of it was a response to a different perception of the very young as “human beings” and not “human becomings” who had the right to art and leisure as stipulated in the UNESCO Convention on the Rights of a Child.
Not only is experiencing arts a human right, but also it’s incredibly beneficial to them. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, dramatic play is important in helping young children express themselves and gain understanding of different societal roles. Read the rest of this entry »
At a Congressional Briefing about the national dissemination of Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) project—now in the third year of a U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education—Model Development and Dissemination grant—a District of Columbia Public Schools classroom teacher who had participated in an Early STEM/Arts residency approached me.
The teacher talked excitedly about one parent who came to her in tears of joy as she shared how her four-year-old explained to her that the sun does not rise and fall, but stays still while the earth orbits around the sun. The teacher also described how her children spent time in the dramatic play area of the classroom taking turns being the sun while directing their playmates and teachers to “orbit” around them.
What happened in that Wolf Trap residency that had such a strong impact on that classroom? I was able to see it myself a week earlier, when I’d visited the teacher’s classroom during an Early STEM/Arts session. This is what I witnessed:
Through the drama techniques of imaginary journey and utilizing sensory experiences, a classroom of four-year-old preschoolers prepares to embark on an outer space expedition. Before they leave, they put on their imaginary space suits, like the one that is projected on the big screen/smart board. Read the rest of this entry »
Art has traditionally been an important part of early childhood programs. The arts in early childhood education is spontaneous, creative play—drawing, painting, self-expression, singing, playing music, dancing, storytelling, and role playing.
Pre-school age children love the arts because that is what they do naturally. The arts engage all the senses and kinesthetic, auditory, and visual modalities. When parents, early educators and early childhood teachers engage and encourage children in the arts on a regular basis early in life, they help lay the foundation for successful learning and school success. The Early Years Matter!
In early childhood vernacular, the arts include children’s active participation in a variety of experiences—dance, drama, fine arts, and music. These activities allow them to express themselves through the arts and appreciate what they observe.
To be ready for school, children need to reach core milestones and master key skills and abilities in seven domains of learning including the arts.
Important questions to ask include:
- What skills in the arts do young children need?
- Why are the arts important to school success?
- How can parents support the arts? Read the rest of this entry »
It is a familiar trope that early childhood teachers claim that they get as much out of teaching young ones as students get out of their lessons. They do it for the love of children, the excitement of youthful discovery, and the joy of nurturing rather than a hefty paycheck. My own mom, a longtime preschool teacher, often says she gets “paid in hugs.” But for some women in Erie, PA, early childhood instruction is a gateway to a new life.
The Old Songs, New Opportunities (OSNO) program at the Erie Museum of Art creates opportunities for refugee women to use traditional skills and cultural assets from their home countries to begin to build a career as early childhood educators. This program—one part job training, one part cultural education, and one part early education—has been transformative for the both the women who go through the museum’s training, and for the students they care for.
Through OSNO, women who were expert caregivers in their home countries and are interested in learning the ins-and-outs of the American early education process are provided with over 50 hours of accredited instruction in basic child development theory, discipline and alternatives, the role of the childcare work, and how art, music, and movement aid physical and mental development.
At the same time, these women provide exposure to and instruction of their cultural traditions to fellow OSNO trainees, and create a tapestry of song and tradition that bonds teachers with students, and teachers with one another. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a lot of science behind the benefits of universal preschool education. The idea was first introduced in France in the 1800s; many developed countries have a strong history of educating all children early on. We don’t, and so a debate began, and science set about to study whether or not there’s any benefit to investing energy in developing young minds in a structured way.
Short answer: yes. The sevenfold savings Obama described in his state of the union speech highlights a study that shows a marked difference in lifelong achievement between high risk children who receive quality preschool education and those that do not.
In turn, one would argue to those who would be against universal preschool for financial reasons, the savings to society are seven times what they would be if these children were caught in a cycle of poverty that requires government aid or, frankly, prison costs. We have far more prisoners than preschoolers, more prisoners than anyone else in the world, and that plays a part in our national conversation about early education.
The hitch is that these children received, as the Perry study pointed out, “a high quality preschool program.”
If we were to enact universal preschool in America, what would such a system look like? Probably kindergarten, which became universal in the United States in the 1960s and 70s. I am very fond of kindergarten, but anecdotally, here are some goals I’ve heard in working with kindergarten teachers: Read the rest of this entry »
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
As the mother of a four year old daughter (Sofia), I have seen firsthand how natural it is for young children to communicate and express themselves through singing, drawing, and dancing.
These mediums allow youngsters a chance to express thoughts, ideas, and emotions that they might not have the words for. They also help them explore the world around them through their five senses—one of the primary ways that young children learn.
As my daughter’s first teacher, I have tried to provide her with materials and experiences that will nurture her innate curiosity and foster a lifelong love of self expression through the arts.
Sofia and I love to do what we call “projects.” The projects usually involve art, music, or nature, but more importantly, they involve discovery, exploration, and a focus on process over product. You’ll see through the pictures below some of the projects that Sofia and I do together.
For example, one project might involve multiple days’ worth of activities: Read the rest of this entry »
One of our great American leaders, Congressman John Lewis, has been celebrated in the news quite a bit recently. It is the 48th anniversary of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL. The march was led by a young John Lewis—his skull was fractured, and for that sacrifice an enormous gain for civil rights and for voting rights was realized.
Congressman John Lewis is also a great arts leader. For years he has personally led the fight for fair tax treatment of artists. Many times over the last several decades, he has brought his powerful story of how the arts and the Civil Rights Movement were invaluable allies to Americans for the Arts gatherings.
He has pointed out that the arts—from folk or gospel or classical music performed in jails or the streets or in concert halls, to the visual arts in portrayals of the struggle through posters and placards—were a key to motivation and hope as the Civil Rights Movement progressed. We all honored him last week as he, Vice President Joe Biden, and others reenacted that famous bridge crossing.
During the State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the civil rights of the broad face of America when he honored the battles and sacrifice at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. And during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama honored the transformative power of the arts and arts education for everyone when she said, “[The arts] are especially important for young people. Every day they engage in the arts, they learn to open their imaginations and dream just a little bigger and to strive everyday to reach those dreams.” Read the rest of this entry »
When I was a sophomore in high school, my band director arranged for me to audition for the Alton Municipal Band. I had no idea what a big deal this was. It was my first professional gig. I was going to get paid to play the trumpet. I was nervous, and excited, and more than a little intimidated.
I showed up for my first rehearsal and was seated in the section playing third trumpet. I was disappointed at the seating results, but hey, it was a start.
My stand partner was a man named John Mitchell. He was at least 70. I was 16. He came in and unpacked an old, worn cornet.
I was sitting there with a shiny new Bach trumpet, thinking “who is this guy and what am I doing sitting down here next to him?”
As the season began, we started to talk. He was a nice old guy—and if I remember correctly (and I hope I do, in honor of John’s memory) he had served in the military, and then gone on to marry, raise a family, work hard, and live a good life.
I can’t remember where he learned to play the cornet—if it was in school, or in the military. I just remember that during all that time when he was taking care of his family and building a life for them, he set his cornet aside. He probably put it in a closet where it gathered dust for years—even decades. And then one day, when his kids were grown and he had retired, he took it out again. Read the rest of this entry »
Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC is less than a month away and with the recent sequester cuts and still-looming budget battle to come, it is vitally important that members of Congress hear how important the arts are to you and your community in person.
Even the staunchest supporters of a tight fiscal policy believe in the value of arts education. In this new video, Senior Director of Federal Affairs and Arts Education Narric Rome provides a quick snapshot of the importance of federal arts education advocacy:
Arts Advocacy Day will take place April 8—9 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park and the Cannon House Office Building on Capital Hill.
In addition, the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy will be an inspiring speech and performance by Grammy Award®-winning musician Yo-Yo Ma at The Kennedy Center at 6:30 p.m. on April 8. Tickets are included for Arts Advocacy Day participants and are still available to the public.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to add your voice to the chorus of those asking Congress to support the arts and arts education!
In his retirement, President George W. Bush has been spending time learning how to become a better painter.
He recently hosted an artist from Georgia at his Florida home for about a month as she taught “43″ and his sister-in-law new techniques. The former President began by painting portraits of dogs, but artist Bonnie Flood says he graduated to landscapes and has a natural talent.
FOX 5 in Atlanta aired this report late last week:
Although we often think of arts education as a K–12 activity, lifelong learning in the arts is something we can’t forget about. Even world leaders can experience the pleasure of discovering a new art form late in life!
STEM is like the most popular kid in school these days. Everyone wants to sit at the same lunch table and share Doritos.
Fortunately for the arts community, we have a powerful resource as the national conversation transforms from STEM to STEAM: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced the formation of a Congressional STEAM Caucus last month.
The group had a successful kick-off on February 14. Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, an advisor to the Caucus, regularly speaks about the inextricable connection between art and science and Bonamici echoed the sentiment at Oregon’s 2012 Arts Summit.
While our representatives in Washington, DC, are hard at work advising on federal policy, our state is also taking steps to assure we’ve got “STEAM heat” (thank you, Bob Fosse!).
In Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013–2015 budget, which is now being considered by the legislature, there is a proposal for an initiative called “Connecting to the World of Work.”
Included in that proposal is funding to support partnerships between schools, arts organizations and businesses to increase opportunities for students in grades 6–12 to connect with creative industries. There is conversation about including internships, mentorship programs, industry residencies in schools, and student residencies at industry firms. Read the rest of this entry »
The NABE Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), and Americans for the Arts will present Paul Vancea with the the 2013 NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship Award later today in Washington, DC.
The Scholarship Award was established in 2008 to encourage the integration of the arts into the economic education process. Recipients of the scholarship must come from economically disadvantaged households and have attended public school. Successful candidates demonstrate long-term participation in the study of, creation in and/or performance in one or more art forms, including dance, music, theatre, literary, visual/media arts; excel academically; and have formally declared the intent to study economics for policy purposes, or in applications in the private and public sectors.
The scholarship recipients are selected following a competitive review process which begins with a pre-screening of applicants by Americans for the Arts, followed by a review of finalists by a sub-committee, and ratification of recipients by the NABE Foundation Board.
Vancea is receiving a scholarship in the amount of $5,000 to support the study and application of economics in his undergraduate studies and professional career. He is currently a junior at Brandeis University, majoring in Economics, Business, and Film. Read the rest of this entry »
March 1 kicks off a month-long celebration of youth participation and learning in the arts. Many states, cities, and organizations have their own way of celebrating.
Here is just a random sampling of ideas I’ve seen from around the web:
At Americans for the Arts, we’ll be hosting a Blog Salon about early childhood education later this month (March 18–22), but for today’s kickoff of Youth Arts Month, we wanted to share something special.
Today we are releasing the first part of a new Arts Education Navigator series of e-books designed to help educators, students, and advocates navigate the complex field of arts education.
Part of our partnership with Vans Custom Culture, each e-book in the series will cover a specific topic, ensuring arts education supporters like you are equipped with the knowledge, statistics, and case-making techniques needed to effectively communicate with decision-makers. Read the rest of this entry »