Ron Jones

I used to believe that my role, and that of my teaching colleagues, was to ensure that we gave to our art majors our full measure of knowledge, skills, and understanding. I like to think that we took every opportunity to sharpen their critical eyes and guide them to more enriched sensibilities as they aspired to be artists, art teachers, and art historians.

That was what college was all about, and I thought that if they worked hard and gave it their “all,” then we’d applaud them at commencement and wish them well (while, among ourselves, we knew full well that many, perhaps most would not “make it”).

While I don’t think I ever said it straight out, I do believe that my message to graduates at every commencement was, “We’ve done our part; now it is up to you.” I now am embarrassed to say that implicit in this thinking was the notion that we in higher education need not assume any responsibility for what happens later, after our students leave. After all, we gave 100 percent to all of our students—so we thought—who were with us for those four, five, or six years. What they did after graduation was unquestionably up to them.

The national discourse about the value (or lack of value) of higher education is making it quite clear that there is a greater (or new) expectation that we in higher education now provide a bit more—perhaps a lot more—than a “discover yourself” curriculum that results in nearly half of arts graduates dropping out of the field before the second anniversary of their commencement (see Strategic National Arts Alumni Project that has been tracking the lives and careers of arts graduates in America). This, of course, is not a desirable result; therefore, we must change the way we’re doing things or we will continue to get the same result in years to come.

What has become obvious to me is that artists are entrepreneurs too. Artists have to network, have to market themselves as well as their work, they have to take risks and have to profit from failure not unlike those we recognize as the most successful entrepreneurs. Whether a designer or painter or sculptor or even art historian and art educator, there is a benefit to being additionally prepared with the tools to manage one’s career and apply one’s creativity to ensuring success. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

In presidential election years we often forget that there are really important races going on in our own communities. Here in San Diego we have a hotly contested mayoral race, the outcome of which could be as critical to locals as Obama v. Romney will be to the nation.

But we also have school board elections getting underway and the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE) has geared up for its election year Candidate Survey Project.

I’ve participated in previous years by soliciting responses to survey questions from the school board candidates which are then posted on the CAAE website. The results are promoted through press releases and pushed out through social media so that voters can find out how their candidates stack up with their support of arts education.

What I love about these surveys is that I always find out things about the candidate that I didn’t know—who played instruments in high school, who makes contributions to which arts organizations, etc.

They all seem to want to look good to the voters about the arts. Of course there are those who also talk about budget needs and core subject priorities, but I rarely see a candidate respond completely negatively when asked about their commitment to arts education.

This in itself is important because the survey response means they are on the record. It gives advocates a connection and an opportunity to turn them into allies when they become school board decision makers.

So now that I’ve told you all the great things about the surveys, let me share a resource with you that will help you create your own candidate survey. The CAAE website has all the tips, timelines, and templates to help you develop your own. Read the rest of this entry »

A Busy Summer for the Arts Action Fund

Posted by admin On September - 20 - 20121 COMMENT

The Americans for the Arts Action Fund, in partnership with NAMM: National Association of Music Merchants, The Recording Academy (GRAMMYs), and The United States Conference of Mayors partnered together to sponsor programs at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention with the help of the respective local arts agencies in Tampa and Charlotte (Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Arts & Science Council).

It all began with two events in Tampa for the Republican National Convention.

The first was ArtsSPEAK, a policy forum on the future of the arts and arts education. The second was ArtsJAM, an intimate concert performance featuring national recording artists celebrating the arts.

To kick things off, Arts Action Fund President Bob Lynch welcomed RNC delegates to ArtsSPEAK in Tampa:

Later, he was joined by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who moderated the panel of elected officials, advocates and arts leaders. Featured speakers included: Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert; Mesa (AZ) Mayor Scott Smith; Hillsborough County School Board Member Doretha Edgecomb; Tampa Bay Times Marketing Director Kerry O’Reilly; and Jazz Musician/Former New York Yankee Bernie Williams.

You can listen to the full event via SoundCloud:

Read the rest of this entry »

Will Maitland Weiss

Last Friday, a couple of Arts & Business Council of New York staff members attended a City Council hearing on how cultural organizations support New York City businesses, to help Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, his City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, and the Committee on Small Businesses in their effort to quantify the economic impact of and further connect arts and business.

Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin was there and talked about the purchasing power of cultural organizations, particularly in terms of local spending in areas such as printing, catering, and equipment rentals.

Councilmember Van Bramer said, “Any time we cut the budget for cultural institutions, we are hurting small businesses.” Here’s what we said:

We all know why 51 million tourists come to New York.

We know that 6.3 million of them come to the Met Museum—so many, the Met is looking at opening seven days a week for the first time since 1971. There’s only one museum on earth that more people go to (the Mona Lisa is there), and no place on earth has the breadth and diversity of museums, and the breadth, depth, and impact of enrichment programs for public school children.

We know that Broadway always has been, is, always will be New York—more than 12 million attendees in 2011, more than $1 billion in ticket sales. How many other, smaller businesses are supported in and around the Great White Way?

We know that almost 200 movies and 140 TV shows were filmed in New York last year. It’s not just Woody Allen and Smash. This is where the top artists want to work, which creates 100,000 jobs for others behind the scenes, every one of whom shops, eats, spends (and pays taxes) in New York. Look at Buttercup and Kaufman Studios. Look at the expansion plans for Steiner Studios.

We know the economic impact figures for New York State are $25 billion a year, and 200,000+ jobs…or maybe it’s twice that by now (those are the Alliance for the Arts figures from 2005)? The most recent Municipal Art Society/Cultural Data Project figures from just 1,325 of the nonprofit culturals show 120,000+ people employed and over $5 billion in direct expenditures—just from the nonprofits. Read the rest of this entry »

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? It seems like a strange time of the year to promote emergency preparedness, especially for Atlantic Coast dwellers such as myself. This is one of the most active periods of the year for hurricanes, and I would like to think that any individual or organization would already have a plan in place should they encounter such a natural disaster.

Well, I don’t. I haven’t figured out if the structure in which I live in is sturdy enough to withstand a heavy storm, I haven’t mapped out an evacuation route, I haven’t found a location in my neighborhood where I can seek shelter (I’m assuming it’s a local school, but I don’t even know where that is nearby where I live). I don’t have any of my files stored up in a cloud where I could retrieve them should I lose my hard drive. I’m not prepared.

You think I would have learned better. In September 2005, I was living in Houston when Hurricane Rita hit, and that was right after Katrina devastated New Orleans. Luckily, back then I did have a plan. The fourth largest city in the United States was trying to evacuate and jammed all major thoroughfares to the point where folks ran out of gas trying to get out of the area. My roommate and I mapped out a network of side streets that took us all the way out of the city to his father’s place north of the beltway and out of harm’s way.

So, having escaped that hardship unscathed, you would think I always have a preparedness plan in place, no matter where I live. The truth is, always being prepared for a seemingly rare disaster is a hard thing to keep up with. I’m willing to bet that many of us don’t afford the time to back our work up on a second hard drive, or store extra cans of food and water in case of a power outage, or know where our evacuation location is.

I think it is ingenious that South Arts developed an emergency preparedness tool called ArtsReady for arts organizations. The ArtsReady toolkit tells you what you need in place to have a solid emergency plan. They have the ability to store your files in their cloud for you, they give you all of the information of emergency contacts for you and have even developed a network of participating organizations that you can go to for help should you encounter an unfortunate situation. Read the rest of this entry »

David Coleman

David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core State Standards and incoming president of The College Board, sent the following to Kristen Engebretsen in reaction to last week’s arts education blog salon on the common core:

I am so glad that the arts community has gotten the message that the arts have a central and essential role in achieving the finest aspects of the common core. So many of the blog posts are so thoughtful and imaginative about the possibilities. They were a delight to read.

Let me review a few critical points that many have already grasped:

1. Knowledge. Building knowledge through reading, writing, listening, and speaking is essential to literacy. As has been noted, the standards say explicitly that knowledge includes coherent knowledge about science, history, and the arts. So I hope the arts community is investing in finding remarkable high quality source material to learn about the arts. Remember that source texts should meet the text complexity requirements of the standards at each grade level and the selection of texts should be designed to build coherent knowledge within grades and across grades. There should be an influx of wonderful source materials to explore the arts. And now they can be shared across states and classrooms.

2. Observation. The arts have a great advantage in that they place a priority on the careful observation that reading requires. No one looks at a great work of art once; likewise, any great piece of writing deserves careful consideration and reconsideration. The arts can train students to look and look again; to listen and listen until one really hears. CS Lewis, himself a gifted author and reader of literature, writes this about looking at a painting or reading a book carefully: “We must look, and go on looking, until we have seen exactly what is there…the first demand any work of art makes on us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.” Henry James says the finest writer and reader is one “on whom nothing is lost.”

3. Evidence and Choices. A key idea of the standards is to base analysis of works of art and of writing in evidence. The standards require that analysis includes the ability to cite that evidence as the basis of understanding. Of course, we draw on sources of evidence outside of a text and a work of art, but the standards insist that students come to grips with evidence from the specific work of art or text they encounter.Part of what this kind of close attention includes is noticing and analyzing the choices artists make—choices such as what is the object of a painting, to how it is treated, to color, to light to all the choices that accumulate to make  a work of art. Good readers examine the choices writers make—their choice of specific words and broader choices—of how to order events and develop characters—of what to say—all these choices are examined by a careful reader. Read the rest of this entry »

As we wrap up our Blog Salon for this week, I wanted to provide three types of summaries:

First, here are two resources where you can find out more information about the Common Core:

  1. A list of Common Core resources from our website
  2. A list of Common Core resources on the Arts Education Partnership website

Second, here is a Wordle of the most commonly used in our Blog Salon posts:

The largest words are used the most common, but I love some of the smaller words, such as collaborate, opportunities, processes, and creativity. With this image, the finer details make all of the difference. (If you click on the image, you’ll be able to zoom in on the version that opens in a new window.)

As Common Core begins implementation, I’m sure that similarly, the devil will be in the details, in terms of how successful each district and school are in utilizing this opportunity to its full potential.

And third, I hope that you watch the following seven minute video in its entirety, because I think this quote from David Coleman, one of the authors of the Common Core, summarizes how I feel about the possibility of Common Core to “return elementary teachers to their rightful role as guides to the world.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jeanne Hoel

Though I’m typically standards-adverse (yet dutiful), I’m looking forward to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), specifically to their potential to de-isolate subject areas, including art.

I feel the CCSS reflect the work progressive educators have been doing for years and frame that work elegantly. I believe art educators can be important change agents and looked to as experts in this time of transition to CCSS, but it will require specialized pedagogical and leadership training. In a time of constricting budgets, especially for professional development, I am doubtful if this can happen.

Arts and Standards

In my tenure as a program manager at MOCA, I’ve witnessed several phases of what I’ll call Standards Service. About ten years ago, the pendulum swung hard for museums to make their programs more standards-based or at the very least standards-conversant.

It was important to do so in order to help teachers advocate for art education by showing how their work met Visual and Performing Art Standards (VAPA), as well as those of English, Social Studies, and Science. But often I felt I was paying lip service to a bureaucratic requirement rather than furthering valid educational objectives. Because we were working with wonderfully transgressive contemporary art at MOCA, we were inherently doing big, thinking-based, cross-disciplinary work—something the current standards don’t easily accommodate.

I feel differently about the CCSS. At their core lie thinking skills and habits of mind that transcend subject area boundaries and ideally equip students to negotiate growing waves of data and complex decision-making requirements they will face as citizens of global cultures and economies.

Possibilities for Arts and Common Core

Looking specifically at the English Language Arts (ELA) of CCSS, there are elegant and immediate connections to be made. As a means of navigating the new ELA standards, I’ve found it useful to focus first on the Anchor Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language, which are consistent across all grade levels. Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Kessler

1. For those looking for the obligatory introductory substantiations for the arts in education, search Google and insert your own here: ___________. At the same time, you might want to search on research by Ellen Winner.

2. For those who need to read that the arts are a core subject, you just did.

3. For those frustrated about the state of the arts in K–12, persevere.

Here are my five ramblings. Don’t be confused by the three above. Congratulations, you’ve just passed your first math test for today!

1. Don’t bet too much on the promise of Common Core-aligned new arts standards.

A lot of people I know are amped up about the prospect of new arts standards inspired by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts (ELA) and math. The idea is that the new arts standards, if positioned to reinforce CCSS, will benefit from the monumental machine behind CCSS. Unfortunately, the volume on this amp does not go to eleven.

Yes, we do need new arts standards desperately, particularly considering how stale most of the state arts standards have become. New standards done right will go a long way to align standards with current practice, recognizing the changed world of the arts, rather than establishing standards based upon a wish, like certified arts teachers in every classroom (or school). The arts have changed in so very many ways since the bulk of the arts standards were last written, so let’s make sure the new standards reflect the 21st century. (Hint: think hybrids.)

That being said, the Common Core State Standards are in ELA and math, while veering into some other domains (history/social studies) like shoots from a tree. The CCSS in ELA and math have been cemented into a newly poured foundation of the educational industrial complex and are wired through the White House, state departments of education, the philanthropic sector, school districts, higher education, corporations, and teacher and administrator unions, while being on the tip of the tongues of millions of educators around the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Dockery

At her 1985 retirement, after 20 years as founding director of the Arts & Business Council (ABC), Sybil Simon chose as her legacy a program which helped diversify the nonprofit arts sector. This program took the form of The Multicultural Arts Management Internship Program. It became an overwhelming annual success, attracting hundreds of applicants from across the United States, thanks to ABC’s partnership with Con Edison.

This summer, 11 interns were selected to work in areas such as fundraising, marketing, programming, audience development, and finance for ten weeks. Based upon their personal interests, the interns are paired with theater and dance companies, arts service organizations, music festivals, museums, etc. Organizations chosen to participate entrust the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) to interview all intern candidates and conduct the placement.

Supervisors at the arts organizations provide support in terms of creating an interns project (examples: assigning them to spearhead a marketing initiative for a festival or research prospective donors for a new capital campaign) and providing professional guidance for the eager students. Con Edison’s generous support lavishes interns with a $2,500 stipend (a rarity in the arts sector!).

The internship is not only unique because it promotes cultural diversity while empowering interns to take a significant role in their organizations, but also because business mentors are granted to the interns. Con Edison doesn’t just bestow financial support to our organization—they are personally involved by assigning staff as mentors. The mentors collectively represent alternative involvement in the arts, should the interns choose to work in business—they are patrons, donors, and board members—all excellent examples of our sector’s desired audience.

The business mentors attend events, take interns to coffee, visit their organizations, invite interns to their office, and attend site visits (where students lead a tour of their organization and present the results of their summer project). Con Edison also hosts the entire program for an opening breakfast and closing dinner ceremony, where the host supervisors, business mentors, interns, and Arts & Business Council staff come together to celebrate the program and reflect upon the summer.

Here’s a video of some of the interns and mentors in action: Read the rest of this entry »

Lynne Munson

Henri Matisse in Kindergarten? Leonardo da Vinci in fifth grade? These names don’t often come to mind while thinking about instruction in English Language Arts (ELA). But they should.

In an age when literacy dominates public discourse on education, we must begin to think more broadly about what students read. Sure—the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) emphasize close reading of high-quality, rigorous informational and literary texts, but they also support the “reading” and scrutiny of other forms of high-quality text. Works of art can, indeed should, be “read” in a very similar way to a poem by Shakespeare or a speech by Winston Churchill.

The CCSS present an exciting opportunity for elementary school teachers (who teach all subjects), grades 6-12 ELA teachers, and arts teachers to utilize the arts to teach the literacy skills outlined by the new standards. This should be done in addition to (not instead of) teaching the arts for their own sake. David Coleman, a lead writer of the CCSS in ELA has argued:

“There is no such thing as doing the nuts and bolts of reading in Kindergarten through 5th grade without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts…it is the deep foundation in rich knowledge and vocabulary depth that allows you to access more complex text.”

Because it is not always obvious how to use a painting, film, play, or dance to meet the speaking, listening, and writing standards, Common Core has illustrated this in our Common Core Curriculum Maps in ELA.  Below are examples of how a teacher might design two arts-centered ELA activities using works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, and an unknown Chinese artist. These activities are written for second graders:

“Mulberry Tree” by Vincent van Gogh

Art, Speaking and Listening

Artists often convey a sense of season in their depictions of flowers or trees. Ask students to study the Tiffany image, van Gogh’s Mulberry Tree, and the work titled Snow-Laden Plum Branches. Note that these works were created on three different continents at around the same time period. Ask students to discuss similarities and differences in these artists’ techniques for depicting the seasons. (SL.2.2) Read the rest of this entry »

When I think of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I think of Martha Graham. I think of John Keats.

My imagination runs wild with images of fun, inspired, powerful learning experiences for kids. There is no doubt in my mind that this transition opens the door for new energy and greater opportunity to elevate the joyful practice and rigorous study of the arts in our classrooms across the nation.

It says something powerful to me that the authors of the Math and English Language Arts (ELA) standards often begin their explanations of the CCSS through art. Last month, for example, I savored several lovely minutes gazing at a sketch of a Grecian vase in a hotel ballroom packed with K–12 district academic administrators. This wasn’t a time-filler. It was the keynote speaker himself, Phil Daro, describing the major transitions in the Math Standards by invoking Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

Keats’ image and accompanying poem, the pinnacle of art meeting craft, he explained, conveys the major instructional shifts of the new Math Standards. As as he spoke, I couldn’t help but think of the ways in which Keats’ ekphrastic approach, the poetic representation of a painting or sculpture in words, mirrors the function of math in human endeavors, as the beautifully-crafted ten-line stanzas, quatrain and sestet, the lines explore the relationship between art and humanity.

Keats’ topic and craft also invoke CCSS-Math’s call for increased focus, coherence, and rigor in conceptual understanding, procedural skill, and application, academic skills. Indeed, many of these academic math skills, as arts educators well know, can also be taught and reinforced well through music, visual arts, and dance. Rhythm as fractions. Choreography as geometry. Math as art.

Similarly, I’ve enjoyed experiencing David Coleman launch into his wonderfully compelling elucidations of the new English Language Arts standards by asking educators in the room read aloud a short first-person narrative, often from some of the world’s greatest artists. I’ve heard him guide a room full of the wonkiest of wonks through Martha Graham’s “This I Believe” testimony from NPR. Read the rest of this entry »

Niel DePont

Isn’t the ultimate goal of all education developing intelligence and the capacity for creative problem solving and communication, rather than the recitation of disconnected facts that so often passes as proof of an education, or worse yet, of intelligence?

Do we learn arithmetic for the sole purpose of being able to repeat certain algorithms on command? No. We learn it to be able to use it as a tool to serve some purpose. If we are to be an intelligent society then we must accept what educator Howard Gardner once said:

“Intelligence is the flexible use of knowledge for the purpose of creating an effective response to a problem or a challenge that will benefit society.”

Therefore the question arises, should developing language and mathematical expertise be the primary focus of our public education system? And does the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lead to the type of intelligence that Gardner alludes to in the quote above?  Is it the only, or even the best, way to get there?

I believe that the point of all education is to teach for the flexible and creative use of knowledge through real world inquiry and project based education. I believe wholeheartedly in the idea of making new work (i.e. creating a product in any discipline) to train the mind.

In creative problem solving specifically, I support:

•    using strategic, disciplined thinking to perceive and analyze the elements of the task at hand;
•    exploring and forming connections between these elements;
•    experimenting with potential solutions—skillfully using the tools of your profession to transform or vary the ideas of others (learned through collaboration) or to create something completely original; and ultimately,
•    composing an outcome through one’s creative efforts that is viable, effective, useful and, hopefully, inspirational to the receiver of that outcome. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Slavkin

The latest wave of national school reform—the Common Core State Standards—provides a new set of opportunities and challenges for arts education. Having experienced several prior waves of school reform, I must admit to a certain degree of cynicism.

If history is any guide, we will over-promise on the impact of these standards and under-invest in providing teachers the tools and support they will need to be effective. Still, there are important opportunities to consider.

Advocates behind the Common Core suggest this new approach will emphasize critical thinking and analysis, and move us behind the fragmented curriculum standards where content is a mile wide and only an inch deep. This would be a positive change. Further, the Common Core initiative aspires to a new system of testing that would replace the multiple choice format with more authentic assessments using online technologies. This too could be a step forward.

It is tempting for providers of arts education programs to simply stamp the phrase “aligned with Common Core” over our existing curricular resources. This would be a mistake and a lost opportunity. Instead, I would suggest we look for ways to join the many planning processes underway in our respective states and local school districts. We should be at those tables along with other educators as we all grapple with the challenges of “implementing” the Common Core. Such collaborations can lead to a stronger place for arts and arts integration as the Common Core rolls out.

Once we join the planning tables as advocates for arts education, I would suggest a degree of humility is in order. Common Core is new for all of us. We have much to learn and consider before we claim “arts programs already support this!” Here are some questions we might ask ourselves:

How much reading do students do in my arts program? How much do I know about texts they are reading in other courses? What are the most appropriate texts I would want students to read to deepen their understanding of art history, art criticism, or aesthetic considerations? Read the rest of this entry »

Yong Zhao

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Specifically, the Common Core claims to cure the ills that have long plagued America’s education: inequality and inefficiency. “Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high-quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common standards will provide a greater opportunity to share experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.”

While the Common Core may help address some of the challenges we face in education, but must not forget that the side effects that come with it.

There is no free lunch…

All medicine has side effects. When it cures, it can harm the body as well. Put it another way, there is no free lunch. Everything comes at a cost. Education cannot escape this simple common sense law of nature for a number of reasons.

First, time is a constant. When one spends it on one thing, it cannot be spent on others. Thus when all time is spent on studying and preparing for exams, it cannot be spent on visiting museums. By the same token, when time is spent on activities not necessarily related to academic subjects, less time is available for studying the school subjects and preparing for exams.

Second, certain human qualities may be antithetical to each other. When one is taught to conform, it will be difficult for him to be creative. When one is punished for making mistakes, it will be hard for her to take risks. When one is told to be wrong or inadequate all the time, it will be difficult for her to maintain confidence. In contrast, when the students are allowed freedom to explore, they may question what they are asked to learn, and may decide not to comply.

Finally, resources are a finite as well. When a school or society devotes all resources to certain things, they don’t have them for others. For example, when all resources are devoted to teaching math and language, schools will have to cut out other programs. When more money is spent on testing students, less will be available for actually helping them grow. Read the rest of this entry »