Where is Our “Road Map?”

Posted by Marete Wester On March - 17 - 20113 COMMENTS
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

As I write this, the clock is ticking on the deadline for the March 18 end to the Continuing Resolution passed by the Congress that allows the government to keep on working—despite the fact that the 2011 federal budget is still being debated.

New members of Congress are working hard to fulfill campaign promises to cut the budget deficit—even if it means reneging on commitments to education and other areas where promises have been made.

Not surprisingly, the fate of 33 grants totaling $40 million to model arts education programs across the country through the U.S. Department of Education lie in this shadow, the outcome still uncertain.

And yet, despite an almost daily offering of news pieces, blogs, and op-eds placing creativity and innovation at the top of what a multitude of experts from economists to educators to engineers say will help the country out of our economic crisis, we find ourselves once again having to make the case for why the arts—the proverbial “primordial ooze” of creativity—is worthy of government investment.    Read the rest of this entry »

Money is Policy

Posted by Richard Kessler On March - 17 - 2011No comments yet

Richard Kessler

When the categorical funding line for arts education in the New York City Public Schools was eliminated, essentially to “empower the principals” and to increase the total budget available to each school, a good friend and colleague of mine who works for the local district said: “money is policy.”

Short and sweet – don’t ya think?

And let’s be clear here, we’re not talking about soft money, which tends to be relatively small and short-term.

We’re talking about good old fashioned tax levy money, real-deal school dollars. The kind that is in increasingly short supply

There are many who will take issue with this. The arguments against this statement center on money not necessarily changing anything for the long haul, and in the absence of more thoughtful structures that give context and meaning to the funding, the long-term intentions behind the change brought about by funding tend to be evanescent.    Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond the Choir

Posted by Kim Dabbs On March - 17 - 20111 COMMENT

Kim Dabbs

In my undergraduate training, I was given the opportunity to earn my degree in Studio Art History at Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan. This program gave me a comprehensive art history background with a foundation in studio art.

As someone that didn’t have the level of visual arts talent as my other art school peers, I struggled through my life drawing courses and endured harsh critiques in my three dimensional design classes.

But, at the end of the semester, I had a clearly noticeable difference in my skills in all of those foundation areas. My bodies looked like more like bodies and my sculptures became more balanced while I was finding my creative voice.

It wasn’t the self-discovery that I credit my studio foundation with but the discovery of the world around me. While I was learning about our culture and the cultures of others through the frame of visual art, I was also learning to see the entire world in a whole new way by participating in the art making process.     Read the rest of this entry »

Kathi R. Levin

Participation in and advocacy for the arts and arts education is a lifetime, persistent agenda that many of us believe is critical to living an educated, reflective, expressive, and complete life.

We are passionate people, often not afraid of sharing what matters to us. After all, the arts are about “making meaning.”

In that effort, sometimes we are so eager to share our beliefs that we fail to maximize the leverage that we might by encouraging learners – both adults and younger students – to articulate why the arts, participating in them as both artists and audience, are at the heart of what they have come to care about as an important part of their complete educational experience.

Thanks to the good work of Americans for the Arts, we actually have a great deal of the data we need about the economic impact of the arts and the 5.7 million jobs that are in place due to the arts.

Can you really make a living as an artist, or even as someone working behind the scenes in the governance and management of the arts and arts organizations?    Read the rest of this entry »

In just under four weeks, advocates from all across the nation will come together in Washington, DC, to engage in a discussion with their colleagues and elected officials about the course of arts funding at the federal, state, and local levels.

While the event takes place at roughly the same time each year, advocates will have the unique opportunity of speaking with their members of Congress while two budget debates are occurring. The government is still deadlocked on a solution that can permanently resolve the budget for Fiscal Year 2011, while simultaneously trying to approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2012.   Read the rest of this entry »

Joan Weber

Joan Weber

As part of my pledge to Testify for Arts Education, I showed up at the Carroll County (MD) Board of Education meeting on March 9.

The room was full, as the board had recently released its preliminary budget. There were many people in the room who were there to protest cuts to school staffs, including nurse’s aids, teaching assistants and paraprofessionals.

They all wore printed labels saying “Together We Can Make a Difference.” They also all wore band-aids because, as they said, “Our hearts are broken.”

I was worried. I hadn’t brought anyone with me. (Note to self: Next time, bring people with me.)

I was sure that all these people would use the “Citizen Participation” time and my message of arts education would be lost. But, the agenda of the board was clearly divided between citizen participation and employee groups.

There were only two names on the Citizen Participation speakers’ list: mine and the chair of a parents’ group. (Note to self: Next time, bring lots of people with me.)

When my name was called, I went to the podium and delivered my prepared remarks. I spoke about an expanded definition of arts education, one in which the school system recognized the importance of arts specialists, teaching artists, and arts institutions.     Read the rest of this entry »

Kathi R. Levin

In today’s struggling economy, there is renewed emphasis on the importance of creativity and innovation. Most of us in the arts automatically think of creativity and innovation as essential to our “brand” and they are.

But, “ownership” of creativity and innovation in today’s evolving worlds of social media communication, a shifting economy, and the global marketplace also feels like “code” for successful entrepreneurism.

In the education sector, where there is a clear federal emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) creativity and innovation relate to these fields, with examples of American ingenuity drawn from NASA, the automotive industry, and other technological developments of the 20th century. We cannot be sure that when people speak about creativity and innovation that they have even considered, let alone are thinking about, the arts.

According to a 2008 report from the Conference Board, there is overwhelming consensus from superintendents (98 percent) and corporate leaders (96 percent) that “creativity is of increasing importance to the U.S. workforce.” Of those corporate respondents looking for creative people, 85 percent said they were having difficulty finding qualified applicants with the creative characteristics they desired.
Read the rest of this entry »

How Do We Make People Care?

Posted by Clayton Lord On March - 16 - 20113 COMMENTS

Clayton Lord

There are a lot of posts coming in about advocacy and arts education, and many of them are both hopeful and cautious about what’s happening now in the world.

It’s good to see such optimism, especially given that we face mighty opposition to the very basic value of what we do and make, but it seems to fly against what I see as a burgeoning reality in America.

Starting in the mid 1980s, on the tail of the passage of Prop 13 in California, the public at large started to make a demonstrable shift away from valuing the arts.

The number of eighteen-year-olds claiming to have received any arts education has declined, and precipitously, every year since 1985.

This isn’t new info, and it probably has been rehashed better than I could in many other blogs across the ether, but while we sit here taking pride in our new data on our value, we are up against a mightily fractured world being run by a series of generations who have, by and large, had little or no sustained education in (or using) the arts, and who consequently are acting like people that don’t care about a looming loss simply because that loss has never been personally felt.

It’s a hard place to find ourselves in, a shrinking minority in a country with very little love for something that has been framed (by both them and us) as a luxury, a “want” instead of a “need.”     Read the rest of this entry »

Field trip.  Those two words were music to my ears when I was in school, as they probably still are to most kids who are lucky enough to hear them these days.  For me it meant not only getting away from the monotony of the school day, but more often than not getting to experience something new and different: a museum, a musical performance, a zoo, etc.  But as most people are all too familiar with these days, budgets for education are being slashed across the country.  I have a feeling those two magical words are being heard less and less as each year passes.

With teachers in the arts facing layoffs across the country (check out these examples in New York and Chicago), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ensure students are getting their fair share of the arts, and undoubtedly that means field trips centered around the arts are going out the window.  While we are advocating for school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and the federal government to not only keep arts education funding, but increase it, teachers are forced to get creative (luckily they had an arts education, right?) with exposing their students to the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Dabbs

I have to be honest. I used to be one of those people in my car when driving by a runner, would always grumble, “that person sure is crazy.”

I used to wonder why someone would torture themselves in the Michigan cold, or the humidity that creeps up in August every year.

I used to wonder why someone would willingly subject their body to the miles of pounding on the pavement step after step.

It was my associate director at Michigan Youth Arts that changed all of that for me.

She is a runner and our organization decided to launch a 5k run as a fundraiser in the fall of 2009. During our first Arts in Motion event, I helped during the registration while watching all of these committed runners come out in the frost covered the grass crunching under their shoes to raise money for our organization.

This year I decided I had better step it up and actually RUN for the arts. I began a ten week training program and on October 10, 2010, I ran and completed my first 5k.     Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

Although I successfully avoided using Twitter for a while after it was first introduced to the world. I figured that I didn’t need another time suck added to my life beyond Gmail and Facebook.

While that is still probably true, I also discovered a better use of Twitter than just reading the crazy Tweets of Kanye West. It actually helps me do my job.

When I moved over to become arts education program manager at Americans for the Arts, I brought along our weekly newsletter, Arts Watch, with me to the new position.

I already had too many Google News alerts and also have a Post-It with 12 search phrases that I use each week to collect information that goes into that publication.

What I didn’t realize is that Twitter can be used in a way that I would never have thought of until a friend of a coworker mentioned it to me – it’s a news gathering system.

By “following” other arts and arts education organizations, practitioners, managers, etc., you end up having information delivered to your feed throughout the day.     Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Kessler

Tim Mikulski, who organized this blog salon, suggested topics for us to consider for the salon and it got me to thinking that since I blog a lot about issues, I would love to post a lesson of all things.

So, here’s one that I carry around with me wherever I go, although I don’t get to use it very much these days.

I hope you won’t mind if I skip the alignment with standards and some of the other traditional formats for curricula. I have formal versions of this lesson somewhere or another, but for the salon, I did a quick write-up from memory.  Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

One of the big pieces of my job as a state arts education coordinator is to, well, coordinate.

And it’s one thing to bring people together face-to-face (although there are certainly challenges: travel expenses, coordinating schedules, finding an agreeable geographic location, how much food to order from the caterer, etc.).

But it’s another thing entirely to connect people when they can’t meet face to face.

Three years ago, the Oregon Arts Commission started convening a yearly Arts Education Congress. The first gathering took place right after the 2008 general election, when the spirit of grassroots political action was high.

We invited people from all sides of the arts education Venn diagram to serve as voluntary delegates at this event, looking forward to dialogue with people who dipped their toes in the arts education pool from all different angles.
Read the rest of this entry »

Merryl Boxing

Merryl Goldberg

Yup, I’m the Chair of all the Visual and Performing Arts at California State University San Marcos, and I go to a boxing gym three to four times a week.

I say this as if it was a confession, and when I do say this out loud, I get the most curious looks. I would be last person on earth you would imagine as a boxer.

First off, I’m pretty tiny – almost 5’1” (!).

And, I’m over 50, not the profile one imagines for a boxer:  Ms. teeny tiny almost-senior-citizen, artsy administrator wearing wraps, gloves, and beating the heck out of an innocent bag.  But, I love it – both the surprise of identifying as one who boxes, and the actual act of boxing.

Alright, this is how it happened.   Read the rest of this entry »

Allen Bell

A recent study released by National Endowment for the Arts proves what many arts researchers and advocates have been suggesting for a long time – that the greatest predictor for arts participation is arts education.

The report, “Arts Education in America: What the Decline Means for Participation,” also provides a couple of twists that may or may not have been expected.

The implications are crucial to our understanding of arts participation and arts education.

First, the study shows that both children and adults who have experienced or are engaging in arts classes are much more likely to participate in the arts. Therefore, arts education is an issue that affects all arts organizations, whether those organizations provide arts education opportunities or not.

For arts participation, the cultivation of adult audiences through arts education is just as crucial as providing arts education for children. The nurturing of both populations is necessary to ensure sustained arts participation in the near and distant future.

Second, the researchers demonstrate that while arts education among whites has remained relatively flat, arts education among Hispanic Americans and African Americans has declined significantly.

Cuts in arts education are primarily affecting schools that serve low-income minority students.   Read the rest of this entry »