Niel DePonte

The Common Core State Standards document (CCSS) states:

[College and Career Ready] students are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. They work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying, but they also question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.

Being a discerning reader of the CCSS, I love the idea of being career ready, it sounds great. But I am left pondering the question, “To which careers are we referring?” I agree that the CCSS, if met, would actually allow for a graduating senior to be ready for virtually any field.

But there is a catch. I don’t see how there would be enough time across a K–12 learning curve for a student to become deeply engaged in any discipline within a school such that the student could gain a sense of mastery of a discipline, craft, artistic or athletic pursuit…with the obvious exceptions of language arts and math, the primary subjects of the standards themselves.

The focus on the use of language and numbers as important tools for expression within an educated society is understandable. But what of experiencing creative processes using other tools? What of practicing critical thinking with other tools? What about the sensory tools available to students?

For example, why not teach students to see deeply when looking at a piece of artwork? Yes, of course they would need language to discuss what they saw, but what if they chose to dance their reaction? Would this form of expression be any less valid than an essay? Not to me. It would not, however, give the student the appearance of being college and career ready according to the CCSS. What if that career choice was professional dancer?

Where is the one standard that matters in every grade: “The student will learn to enjoy school, get to choose areas of study aligned with their particular interests, have the opportunity to pursue those interests, (and I will add for the CCSS devotees in the audience), and receive training in English Language Arts and math that relate to that particular interest and via that particular field of study”? Read the rest of this entry »

Paul King

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has embraced the Common Core Standards with a fervor that demonstrates a comprehensive commitment to this work. All of our 1,700-plus schools have been engaged in this initiative.

The Common Core is one of the key levers for accomplishing NYCDOE’s goal to graduate all students college- and career-ready. In New York City, the Common Core has impacted work in all disciplines and at every level from the central offices, through our school support structure, and in every school.

Pragmatically, teachers of the arts should be at the table and part of the conversation as the Common Core is implemented at the school level. In the face of the monumental shift caused by  the Common Core, it’s important that we find clear and specific ways to articulate how arts education  can reinforce the holistic and comprehensive approach that is at the center of the Common Core.

This is not to suggest that teachers of the arts should teach literacy or math by limiting opportunities for students to create art. In New York City, we remain committed to providing students at all levels with the skills, content, and understandings of the arts, according to the local standards outlined in The Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts. There are, however, exciting and appropriate ways to align arts teaching and learning with the Common Core that will ultimately benefit our kids.

Let’s look at the Common Core’s English Language Arts non-fiction or informational text requirement. To dig into this a bit deeper, I have four sample questions that we as arts educators can ask ourselves. These questions are by no means comprehensive in tapping into the array of ways that informational text can be used in an arts instructional setting.

1)    In what ways is the deep examination of a work of visual arts for elements of composition comparable, but not identical to, the process of deconstructing informational text?
2)    Can a musical score in a rehearsal setting, with its own system of symbols and vocabulary, be seen and used as informational text?
3)    How might a dance teacher assist students in using informational text (e.g., research and performance reviews) to inform and support making original dances?
4)    How can reading, analyzing, and reflecting upon playwright and directorial statements support an actor’s understandings of the script as he brings the text to life on stage? Read the rest of this entry »

Sarah Zuckerman

“To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative. The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Re-Investing Through Arts Education:Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.

The nation has deemed that learning in and through the arts is critical for the success of all students. This positions arts educators to take a leadership role in implementing what the Common Core means for learning. The arts are different than other subjects; this is what fosters innovative, creative, and critical thinkers. The Common Core opens a door for leadership, an opportunity for the best arts educators to model what teaching and learning should look like across the curriculum…are we ready for the challenge?

What do the arts do, exactly? How does this align with the Common Core?

How the arts progress student learning is too complex for one blog entry. However, I would like to draw attention to a few ways that arts-based learning models the English Language Arts/Literacy instructional shifts of the new standards.

1.  Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
In arts classrooms that employ reading across the curriculum, this happens quite naturally. Whether we are reading a critique of an artist’s work or reading about the cultural context of a genre of work, art history, aesthetics, and critique all are grounded in content-rich nonfiction. Content-rich nonfiction media in the arts abound for every age from preschool to adult.

2.  Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
The way a careful observer draws on evidence to interpret an image or production parallels the processes employed when a strong reader makes meaning from a text. Arts teachers require students to find evidence for their interpretations by asking, “What in the work made you say that?”, part of the visual thinking strategy used by many teachers. This focus on evidence is the basis of learning how to view art or performance, as it is learning how to read a text.

3.  Regular practice with complex text and its academic language
In an art museum there is no “Third Grade Gallery” or “High School Wing,” nor do we only show children theatre performances limited by reading level. To quote Steve Seidel, head of the Arts in Education Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, “The very notion of theatre, of rehearsal, is the close examination of a text.” In the arts, students routinely confront images, lines in a script, etc., that need much more than a glance (or quick read) to understand. The arts train students to make meaning of complex works, the same ability that higher levels of text complexity demand. With the right scaffolding and time allotment, such work becomes accessible to all learners. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Core is Here—Don’t Panic!

Posted by Lynn Tuttle On September - 10 - 20126 COMMENTS

The Common Core standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics are driving factors in the educational reforms facing public education today. As an arts educator in the schools, as a teaching artist who provides supplemental instruction with students in and out of school, as a cultural organization working to partner with a school, and/or as an arts education advocate, how can you approach the Common Core standards?

As information swirls around this topic, I am reminded of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I begin by recommending the first rule of galaxy hitchhiking, or in this case, connecting to the Common Core: DON’T PANIC! Here are the reasons why I believe panic is misguided:

1. The Common Core standards, while they expressly contain literacy references across the curriculum, do not replace content standards in other subject areas. Teaching the arts still means teaching to arts standards. Arts standards are set by your state—visit the State Arts Education Policy Database to find your state’s standards.

a. You can also remain up to date on the revision of the National Arts Education Standards—the basis for most state standards—at the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards wiki.

2. The Common Core ELA/Literacy standards are ripe with places of deep connection to the arts. These standards ask for very strong instructional shifts in the teaching of literacy. I encourage you to research these instructional shifts—my favorite way to dig into them is watching the NY State videos done by David Coleman, soon to be head of The College Board

3. Instructional shifts of interest (and relative ease?) to arts educators:

a. Focus on the text in order to answer questions raised in class. Reading and comprehending text is the end goal of these ELA standards. While theatre certainly includes text reading as part of its discipline, all arts areas include texts within the critique and evaluation parts of our disciplines.

b. IF you use a very broad definition of text to include any primary source material, then you can practice the tools of the ELA Common Core standards by closely “reading” or analyzing a painting, a dance, a musical performance. The work we do in the arts—to engage students in critically approaching artistic works—is an almost natural fit with the Common Core ELA standards. Read the rest of this entry »

Kristen Engebretsen

Back in February, during the winter meeting for the arts education council, we discussed the results of a survey we had completed asking members of Americans for the Arts what type of programming they were interested in for arts education.

Forty-six percent of respondents said that they would be interested in programming related to broader education reform issues, such Common Core State Standards, No Child Left Behind, the achievement gap, student engagement, and state or federal policy.

As the council discussed how we could weave some of this into our programming, we began an interesting conversation about the intersection between the arts and the Common Core.

First off, several council members asked, what is the Common Core State Standards Initiative (or “Common Core” for short)?

Simply put, the Common Core State Standards are the new English Language Arts and Math standards for student learning.

This initiative started as a collaboration between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. They wanted teachers to have common standards for what was being taught so that a third grade student in California would have the same standards as a third grade student in Massachusetts. Makes sense, right?

In a day and age where we can’t get our elected officials to agree on much with regards to education reform, it seems impressive that 46 and DC have adopted them so far. These new standards are not “federally” mandated, but rather adopted by individual states. However, there was motivation for states to adopt these standards—they had to adopt them in order to be eligible for Race to the Top funds, which offered states millions of dollars in grant money.

The standards are focused on college and career prep, with an emphasis on higher order thinking skills. They dictate what is to be taught, but not how or when. There are two assessment consortia who are designing digital-based and performance-based assessments for students to accompany the new standards. Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Lynch at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The Convention Halls are creative chaos. The streets are jammed with animated participants holding placards, engaged in heated dialogue and performing all kinds of issue-based street theater. The scent of policy is in the air. And it’s just the way I like it.

Here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the role of the arts is alive and well. What you see on TV is only part of what happens. Inside, actual policy is being discussed—not just broad themes, not just ideas, but approaches that will actually have an impact on lives and on communities.

I am here talking to these very political leaders about the value of the arts and arts education in American society, and I simply have to ask them to look out the window for them to get the point. My US Airways Magazine told the story clearly on my way in, ticking off dozens of cultural destinations awaiting convention delegates.

During our ArtsSpeak panel discussion in Charlotte on the future of arts and arts education in America, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke about cultural diplomacy, a critical foreign policy tool. She also noted how the arts helped shape international political dialogue both formally through U.S.-sponsored jazz and dance and other art forms, and informally by every day actions.

On a personal level, Secretary Albright—famous for her collection of handcrafted brooches—told the story of how she would wear them as subtle symbols of mood or maybe a hint at national policy intent. For example, she wore a serpent pin when meeting with Saddam Hussein. It also turns out that she is a pretty good drummer—and goes by the nickname “Sticks.”

The discussion also showcased how the arts have proven to be so far-reaching. Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley discussed the need for continued focus on national education policies that would steer local and state decision-makers to enhance and support expanded art and music education in the local curriculum. The only state-level cabinet member in the country dedicated to arts and culture, Secretary Linda Carlisle of North Carolina, highlighted how cultural tourism is a huge job creator. Read the rest of this entry »

Janet Langsam

Does art on the wall help lease up a building? “Absolutely, it does,” according to Mark Alexander one of the principals in The Horizon at Fleetwood, a luxury residential building in Mt. Vernon, NY.

The art that a business chooses for their establishment reflects what the business wants to say about itself. Art speaks to the culture, self-expression, and creativity of a place. Following a successful art exhibition at the property, Mark Alexander explains further: “Highly visible art can create a mood, promote pride in place, and raise the level of energy in the space where it is located.  In short, great public art can be great for business.”

Alexander continues, “when we launched our collaboration with ArtsWestchester with the installation of “Contemporary Rhythms,” The Horizon was 50% occupied. And now, as we close the exhibition we are fully leased. Did the art exhibition contribute to the overall positive energy in the building and our marketability? Absolutely.”

Art and real estate merged in the innovative partnership ArtsWestchester recently launched with The Horizon at Fleetwood. The joint initiative establishes a promising business model aimed at highlighting local artists in a fresh way and introduces vibrancy to a new residential community.

“The Contemporary Rhythms” exhibition, curated by ArtsWestchester, launched the relationship between building management and ArtsWestchester and presented more than 30 abstract works by seven Westchester artists in a professional exhibition for a four-month term. ArtsWestchester will curate two additional exhibitions at the property throughout the coming year, providing an ongoing cultural amenity for residents.

The concept of blending the arts with real estate ventures has proven successful in the past. Real estate development company Kessler Enterprise, Inc. is known for integrating art projects into luxury hotels and resorts by hosting monthly art exhibitions and receptions. Manhattan’s Flatiron Hotel created a performance space with a stage in their uniquely designed lobby area, allowing visitors to connect with the city’s theatrical presence. In turn, the hotel is becoming an integral part of its nearby artistic community. Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

Fighting for corporate funding is always an uphill battle and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s recent report, charitable giving by America’s biggest businesses rose slowly last year (approximately four percent) and corporate leaders anticipate their philanthropy budgets to remain the same for 2012.

In addition to being monetarily conservative, many of these companies are also winnowing the causes they support in favor of bigger, high-profile gifts to fewer organizations. This is in part due to a continuing trend of companies focusing on social issues that threaten bottom lines.

So what does this mean for the arts?

For some companies, this means the arts support has decreased. The Chronicle provides UnitedHealth Group as an example of a company who has reduced its support of the arts in favor of programs that improve Americans’ health. Over the past three years, UnitedHealth Group has given nearly $2 million to help the American Heart Association establish safe and accessible walking paths around the country.

While endeavors such as this are undoubtedly necessary and beneficial, many seem to forget that the arts are important and provide value. The arts bring communities together, provide economic prosperity, and have been proven to increase health and wellness (just to name a few).

Despite these trends, several companies are getting creative and staying true to their commitments to support the arts.

Aetna, a healthcare company based out of Hartford Connecticut, has incorporated the arts into its healthcare initiatives. As part of its efforts to reduce obesity rates, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have awarded grants to the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York, The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, and the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford to offer dance-oriented health and fitness programs for children and families who live in underserved areas.

These types of programs demonstrate that even though charitable giving shows little sign of growth in 2012, the arts don’t have to throw in the towel. Read the rest of this entry »

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

On my first day of my Ed.M program in arts education I was asked to reflect on a simple series of questions:

Do you consider yourself an educator? Why or why not?

Do you consider yourself an artist? Why or why not?

I’ve gone through a few ‘Nervous Nelly’ phases in my life, one of which coincided with my starting graduate school. These questions threw my ‘Nervous Nelly’ into an existential panic. It seemed crucial that I find a satisfying “yes” to both questions. If I couldn’t, well, clearly I was some sort of fraud.

At the time, that exercise seemed like a really big deal. Today, I can’t even remember how I answered the questions. My ultimate takeaway came later, when I compared my classmates’ reflections to my own.

I was one of a diverse group—classroom teachers, musicians, museum educators, arts administrators, etc. We had different skills, backgrounds, and inclinations that would lead us to go on to play different roles in the arts education ecosystem when our program was over. Whether we agreed on a definition of “artist” didn’t matter. What mattered was that we honor the broad and deep skill sets in the room and support and complement their differences.

My personal “artist-and-or-educator” identity crisis was an experience with healthy discomfort. I hope the broader arts education community can find the same in the recent white paper put out by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SAEDAE).

Roles of Certified Arts Educators, Certified Non-Arts Educators, and Providers of Supplemental Arts Instruction attempts to unpack the “shared delivery” model of arts instruction that many arts education initiatives, including Arts for All, state as their ultimate goal.

It describes strengths and limitations of the three key partners involved in teaching the arts in public schools—named as certified arts educators, certified non-arts educators, and providers of supplemental arts instruction. Read the rest of this entry »

ICYMI: ARTSblog in August

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 31 - 2012No comments yet

I’ve been trying to take the time at the end of each month to review some posts that you might have missed, and since August is a particularly vacation-filled month, I figured why not start now?

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are some highlights from ARTSblog in August:

  • Arts Education Council member Jessica Wilt honored the memory of fellow council member Alyx Kellington who passed away in late July.
  • I found a video providing a tour of the public art and transportation project taking place in St. Paul, MN.
  • Arts for All’s Laura Zucker shared lessons learned as her Los Angeles-based organization celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Don’t forget to check ARTSblog often for new content, as we try to publish at least one new post each day, and keep an eye out for our second Arts Education Blog Salon the week of September 10!

Laura Bruney

When the board and volunteers of over 1,000 non-profit arts groups in Miami-Dade donned clipboards to conduct surveys with their audience and patrons, they wanted to showcase that the arts are an essential part of the economy. Their hard work paid off in a big way.

The surveys that were collected from hundreds of groups and their participants were compiled and studied. The resulting report, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV developed by Americans for the Arts for cities and states throughout the country shows that even in a declining and difficult economy the arts are relevant and can be considered an essential tool for economic stimulus solutions. The Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs partnered with Americans for the Arts for the local component.

Here are the drum roll worthy results: the arts in Miami-Dade have an impressive annual economic impact of more than 1.1 billion dollars. From Aventura to Homestead, from Coral Gables to Miami Beach, from downtown to the seashore the arts are everywhere. There are more than 1,200 non-profit arts groups in our community and they employ more than 22,000 full-time professionals and workers.

“The arts are an integral part of Miami-Dade County’s economy and our creative design industry is one of the top reasons why companies choose to establish their businesses in our community,” says Pamela Fuertes, Vice President of the Beacon Council. “Under our One Community One Goal (OCOG) study, the creative design industries were identified as a key industry that is vitally important to our present and future growth, and the arts are a big part of that success.”

Every day, arts and cultural organizations act as economic drivers—creating an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of our tourism industry, playing a leading role in Miami-Dade’s success.

According to George Neary, Vice President of Cultural Tourism for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, cultural tourism increases visitors and attracts people that spend more time and money in our destination…

Read the rest of this post at as it was originally published on that site on August 11…

This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!

Kristen Engebretsen

In my previous post, I described an arts education trend called “coordinated delivery,” in which I discuss the roles of some of the key stakeholders in arts education. Over the past year, Americans for the Arts has been refining our thinking about the theme, “It takes a village to educate a child.”

While the term “coordinated delivery” includes all of the major players that make arts education happen in a single community, it falls a bit short in defining all of the stakeholders, including those at the state and national levels, such as funders or legislators.

The field of arts education is a complex network of partners, players, and policymakers—each with a unique role. After the work we did last year in investigating coordinated delivery, Americans for the Arts wanted to create something that demonstrated how all of these players interact, and to help arts education practitioners understand their relationship with other stakeholders in arts education.

So…we created The Arts Education Field Guide.

The Field Guide is a 48-page reference guide that captures information in a one-page format for each arts education stakeholder, from national down to local partners. Each page defines a constituency and highlights its relationship to arts education in several key areas: support, barriers, successes, collaborations, funding, and national connections. The Field Guide is divided into sections based on federal/state/local tiers, and each page provides information that will help readers understand a stakeholder’s motivations and connections in arts education.

The Field Guide utilizes the concepts from biology of a network or an ecosystem. When bringing this concept to life, we wanted a way to graphically illustrate all of the key players in the field of arts education. I used Google Images to find a representation of the word “network” and then worked with a designer to come up with the motif for our ideas. We also utilized the term “field guide” (the kind that a botanist would use when trying to identify a plant or flower), as a play on words of “the field of arts education” to come up with the title.

Let’s take a quick look at the diagrams in The Field Guide: Read the rest of this entry »

Tiffany Hsueh

I’ll speak frankly and concisely: art is not my thing. Coming from a liberal arts background, I feel as if I am straddling two worlds, one of the strictly rational and one of the creative. It is an amalgamation of two worlds that requires abstract thinking, but also real life application of solutions to problems that arise; a world deeply seeped in theory, but living in reality.

I do not think of myself as particularly artistic or creative or musically inclined, even though I’ve tried many times. But art has become, to me, a method of thought, a mindset in which to think, and a lens though which to observe.

Art has moved beyond the physical and literal motions of creation into the realm of the theoretical underpinnings that drive it forward; its genesis. I don’t always agree with a piece of art or the artist, but I respect the thought behind it, the point of view of the artist, and the eventual creation. It’s the process that interests, but also befuddles me. To gain the ability to see, feel, touch, or taste a sensation or concept is enlightening and complicated; complex. I think it’s our ability to empathize with others that allows us to interpret art. It’s the next to best thing other than being the artist his/herself. I would say that the arts are part of our human nature. It is embedded within us just as human emotions are part of our genes.

I was not immersed in theater or band or painting or writing nor did I go to an arts-focused high school. Art was an elective class I took throughout elementary school and middle school and picked up for two years in orchestra during high school. I’ve never taken an art history or photography class, which isn’t to say that I’m not interested in art; I just wanted to explore other things. However, my summer interning at Americans for the Arts has opened my eyes to something so much grander than my notions of art.

While I understand the vast scope of the arts and its importance in society, I did not understand it beyond its textbook definition—that art has been, is, and will continue to delineate culture, history, and life. Art sustains life even in the face of economic trials and political upheavals. It is the process of art that makes it invaluable to me. The arts bring many immeasurable additions to the table and should never be debased to its most tangible form because that’s not all art is. Read the rest of this entry »

Since I started my tenure at Americans for the Arts, we’ve been discussing variations on the theme of: “It takes a village to educate a child.”

During the 2011 Annual Convention, we had two arts education leaders (Ayanna Hudson and Margie Reese) discuss how this works in their respective communities. At the time, we were calling this phenomenon “coordinated delivery.”

We featured this trend in our Fall issue of ArtsLink. “Tete-a-Tete: Integrated Arts Education Approaches” defines coordinated delivery as “collaboration across communities for both shared delivery of arts instruction by arts specialists, teaching artists, and general classroom teachers AND shared leadership for arts education among arts agencies, education agencies, parents, and businesses.”

The article highlights the similarities and differences between two well-known coordinated delivery systems in the country: Arts for All in Los Angeles (Ayanna) and Big Thought in Dallas (Margie).

Here are two charts to illustrate the idea of coordinated delivery:

Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Thanks to a tweet from Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda on Friday, the world became aware of a new tool that I hope will greatly move the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education movement to STEAM (A=arts) instead.

What single tool could be that impactful?

I’ll give you two hints. He’s three-and-a-half years old and he’s red. Get it yet?

Elmo could be the next great STEM to STEAM advocate thanks to plans for a new Sesame Street segment for the show’s 43rd season this fall. According to a description of the new “Elmo the Musical” segment of the preschool learning show:

“An extension of our STEAM curriculum, each 11-minute episode is an interactive, fun-filled musical adventure created by Elmo and the child at home. Focusing on imagination and math skills, such as enumeration, relational concepts, addition/subtraction, geometric shapes and many more, Elmo takes viewers on thrilling explorations as he imagines himself in ‘Sea Captain The Musical,’ ‘Guacamole The Musical,’ ‘Prince Elmo The Musical’ and even ‘President The Musical!’ In ‘Elmo The Musical,’ kids can sing, dance, play and imagine along with Elmo on math-filled adventures!”

It sounds like a solid effort in showing parents (and their kids) the power of the arts in helping young children to learn other vital skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. Think about it. Are you still able to sing the words to songs like this from Schoolhouse Rock? Read the rest of this entry »