Back to School Arts Education Checklist

Posted by Stephanie Milling On July - 30 - 2014
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

With the end of the summer rapidly approaching, it is time to start thinking about the new school year. Even though I have been living on an academic calendar most of my life, I never get tired of the excitement and exhilaration that accompanies new beginnings. As a college professor, the new year provides a time to develop an artistic and educational vision for the future and determine how I will guide students in their learning. As we wrap up summer looking forward into the fall, it is time to consider what should be on our back-to-school checklist. In addition to planning curriculum, it is necessary to consider the arts education advocacy agenda for the year ahead and our role in supporting its continued benefits to students around the country.

We all know that under Federal law, the arts are a considered core subject area. However, we have to continue to advocate on behalf of arts education in order to keep it viable for future generations. As you enter the year, make sure that you are approaching arts education as a NECESSARY part of every child’s (and adult’s) education. In order to approach advocating for arts education in the most effective manner, know the issues, the resources available, and how to ensure that your message is heard!

I get the impression that sometimes people feel overwhelmed by advocacy work. However, most of the information you need is already compiled. Locate it! Make it personal based upon your work and/or geographic location! And, network, network, network! See the list below for your back-to-school arts advocacy checklist.

  1. Find data that supports arts education, and use it to your advantage.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, administrator, and/or any other interested party, knowing the current landscape of Arts Education in the United States can help you advocate for arts education. Data is power, and it is easy to find. For example, the website for Americans for the Arts always contains helpful information on Arts Education Policy and Funding and other resources such as the Arts Education Navigator Series, which provides data that demonstrate the benefit of arts education and helpful tips on how to advocate. Some additional recent reports that you might find of interest are Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10 published by the National Center for Education Statistics and Arts Education in the South: Phase I by South Arts. Use what you need to make your case. People have already done the heavy lifting by supplying you with the data. All you have to do is use it!

  1. Know the stakeholders who impact arts education in your area.

See the Arts Education Navigator Series on the Americans for the Arts website to understand the various “spheres of influence” that play a part in the success of arts education in this country. Who are the stakeholders in your area? How do they influence policy and education? How can you appeal to their interests when presenting the benefits of arts education? Whose interests do they represent? Find your audience and share your story.

  1. Join and continue to Build Advocacy Networks.

What advocacy networks already exist in your area? How are your professional associations involved in advocacy networks and partnerships? Advocacy networks are a powerful way to make your message heard and garner support for your ask. Joining the advocacy networks in your area can provide you with the most current information regarding arts education in your state. In addition, you can sign up for email alerts that directly notify you when issues relating to the arts arise. The Arts Action Fund is a great network that keeps advocates informed of the latest developments relating to arts education policy and funding. No research necessary as messages come right into your inbox! Encourage your colleagues to be knowledgeable of arts education agendas as well. Remember, there is power in numbers!

  1. Collaborate!

The best way to build an arts education/advocacy network is to collaborate with others. There are different models of collaboration that provide opportunities for short and long-term partnerships. Does it make sense to share resources with another organization and/or educational institution? Are there projects that you could work on together that would be mutually beneficial? Are there grants programs that fund collaborative projects that could provide both the financial support for your work as well as continuing professional relationships?

  1. Gather your own data

What work are you doing that matters? How does it align with the current data used to advocate on behalf of arts education now? How can you use current data to shape the arts education work that you do?

Be patient. It takes time! The arts are a long term investment. The capital gains we see through the benefits of arts education outweigh the minimal amount of time it takes to advocate. Continued efforts do make a difference. Keep vigilant, and begin the school year by determining how to support arts education in your daily life.

A Shared Endeavor

Posted by Robert Lynch On January - 24 - 2014
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

It is widely accepted across the country that the arts are a significant part of a quality education. As part of the core, they provide America’s students with essential skills and knowledge needed to be productive college and career ready citizens.

In May 2013, I attended a summit with leaders from 12 other arts and education advocacy organizations to define what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourage partnerships, and call on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote the following points of intersection in our field. We came up with some basic agreements:

  • Development of policies and resources for arts education.
  • Access to arts education for all students.
  • Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
  • Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.

In a time when education reform is at the helm of change and current practices are being revised, we felt that it was important to articulate the purpose and value of arts education in the balanced curriculum of all students. We assert its place as a core academic subject area and detail how sequential arts learning can be supported by rigorous national standards and assessments. Read the rest of this entry »

Congressional Appropriators Consider Cutting NEA in Half

Posted by Narric Rome On August - 1 - 2013
Full Cmte 4

Full Appropriations Committee Yesterday, July 31

In mid-July, the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) met to approve a funding bill for fiscal year 2014, which begins on October 1st. Their bill calls for the NEA to receive a 49% cut totaling $71 million, which would bring the agency’s budget down to $75 million, a level not seen since 1974!

Yesterday, the full appropriations committee began their consideration of the bill, expected to take a few hours. However, they faced numerous amendments and rising tempers, and everyone has had an eye on adjourning for August – so they suspended the committee markup until September.

Before they stopped, they did consider an amendment offered by senior appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) to fund the NEA (and the National Endowment for the Humanities) to the president’s request of $154 million. The amendment was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27.

The 49% budget cut that remains in place is shocking, but not necessarily surprising. Leading up to the committee’s action, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution which included the sequester cuts of about 5% to agency budgets, and an overall funding plan that reduced the entire bill by 19%. So, arts advocates and those who were closely watching from the environmental and natural resource communities were not surprised to see significant cuts proposed. However, a 49% reduction to an independent federal agency is misguided, counterproductive, and entirely disproportionate.

Final FY 2013
(includes 5% sequester cut)

FY 2014 President’s
Request

FY 2014 House Subcommittee
Proposal

National Endowment for the Arts

$138.4
million

$154.466 million

$75
million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$138.4
million

$154.466 million

$75
million

The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources. In fact, funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $29 million over the past three years. These disproportionate cuts recall the dramatic decline of federal funding for the arts in the early 90s, from which the agency has still not recovered. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto On April - 15 - 2013
Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Harnessing the Spirit of a Cockroach

Posted by Chris Audain On April - 15 - 2013
Chris Audain

Chris Audain

The Chicago nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $2.2 billion industry. You’d be hard-pressed to go more than a couple of blocks without seeing a theater, dance company, museum, art gallery, or some other nonprofit arts organization, small or large.

And yet I still hear about new ones popping up quite frequently. Given that, the community of artists and arts administrators is extensive, and diverse—it’s a bona fide place of convergence for the creative types and transplants from across the country.

So why then, with such a vibrant arts community, is Illinois the 29th ranked state in per capita spending on the arts?

The answer is a problem that plagues not just Illinois, but permeates through the entire creative sector on a national level.

When I first moved to Chicago after graduating from college, I wanted to pursue an acting career. Even equipped with my political science degree, I had very little understanding about the relationship of public funding for the arts, and the importance of advocacy.

It took a graduate course at Goucher College, Principles of Arts Administration, for me to fully comprehend the power and necessity of arts advocacy. Therein lies the problem: an information gap for artists on the importance of advocacy. A possible solution? Giving artists a more easily accessible entry point to advocacy. Read the rest of this entry »

Yo-Yo Ma Spins an Emotional Tale of “Art for Life’s Sake”

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 9 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As I have been sitting back at my desk at Americans for the Arts this afternoon, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a way to describe what I experienced last night at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

It could be the lack of sleep, the lack of coffee, or the abundance of Twizzlers and Clif Bars I’ve eaten during and before Arts Advocacy Day 2013; but, I’m not convinced of that.

Watching Yo-Yo Ma’s combined lecture and performance of a speech called “Art for Life’s Sake: A Roadmap from One Citizen Musician” as our 26th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy last night was priceless.

Not only did it feature eloquent points about the power of arts education and being a citizen musician, but it also featured memorable performances by jooker Lil’ Buck, bagpiper Cristina Pato, MusiCorps, and teaching artist Greg Loman and founder Arthur Bloom—two of which brought tears to the eyes of those around me in the Concert Hall.

Before I get too involved in describing it, I guess I should provide you with a chance to watch the entire event below or you can continue reading and click on the links to see the specific parts I point out as I attempt to capture the night to the best of my ability.

I’ll wait here while you watch…

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Discount the Back-Up Singers

Posted by Charles Jensen On April - 9 - 2013
Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen

This week, hundreds of advocates are gathering in and around Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to communicate to our national elected officials the value and impact of the arts on local communities, on families, on individual lives.

This is an important day, not just for the arts community, not just for our Senators and Representatives, but for the people served by us, those who cannot be in Washington having these conversations.

I’ve worked within and outside of advocacy over the course of my career in the arts, so I understand why arts administrators are willing to make the commitment to travel to Washington, or even to their own state legislature, to promote the value of the arts. I know there is confusion about what roles arts nonprofit staff can take in the name of “advocacy” without jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

And I know our arts leadership, those most likely to speak with legislators, are also our busiest, most called-upon experts, and often feel that devoting several days to the work of advocacy is the best they can do under their current circumstances.

But, friends, it’s not all. The work happening in Washington this week is the chorus of the song we sing all year long: the arts build communities. The arts turn around lives. The arts stimulate the economy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Advocacy: It’s Worth More Than Dollars & Cents

Posted by Julie Hawkins On April - 8 - 2013
Julie Hawkins

Julie Hawkins

Why advocate for public funding of the arts?

It’s a question I’ve never really asked myself, because it’s always been valuable to me.

I grew up in North Carolina during the height of the “Culture Wars.” The summer after my junior year of college I interned in the budget office of the National Endowment for the Arts. One of the highlights of the internship program was a meeting with your U.S. Senators.

Thus it was that in 1993, at the ripe old age of 21 and full of piss* and vinegar, I got to meet the Hon. Jesse Helms and his staff to make my case for government support of the arts. I learned a lot about government and the arts that summer, and some of that piss and vinegar still fuels my passion for arts advocacy today.

I know that answering the question of why we should advocate for public funding is not easy, though, because if it were we’d see many more people engaging in it every hour of every day.

And to be perfectly honest, though arts advocacy and public funding are deeply held values of mine, I’ve still encountered moments where I wonder if it’s working and if it’s worth it, particularly in a period of time when we’ve experienced some substantial reductions to public funding for the arts.   Read the rest of this entry »

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 8 - 2013
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity.   The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance.  Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Arts Advocacy Day from Your Desk (or Couch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 8 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As Congress returns to work in Washington, DC, this week they will face more than just angry tourists who came to see the not-quite-in-bloom cherry blossoms.

Today, advocates are receiving training from experts and tomorrow 500 arts advocates from across the country (and even Japan!) will take to the Hill on behalf of their local arts and arts education programs.

The good news is that you don’t have to be here to participate (although we’d love you to come next year!). In fact, you can pick and choose your ways to support the arts over the next two days.

1. Send a letter to your member of Congress! Head over to our Action Center and send an email stating your case for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and encouraging their participation in the House Arts and STEAM Caucuses.

2. Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy live online! At 6:30 p.m. EDT join us live as we stream Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture and performance tonight via our YouTube channel. You won’t want to miss his inspiring story!   Read the rest of this entry »

Play to Make Art

Posted by Lesley Romanoff On March - 21 - 2013
Lesley Romanoff

Lesley Romanoff

The single most important thing I learned about building an appreciation for art in children, I learned from watching my children grow and learn and working with preschoolers and their parents.

Here it is…you have to walk away from paint and paper to have grand adventures before walking back towards paint and paper (and all the other options for creating art).

To fully embrace art as both an observer and a creator, I believe the process should begin with the great outdoors…city, town, neighborhood, or park. Wherever your outside is, begin there.

Experiencing the geography of the place a child lives begins an important conversation that is tangible. It is one of place, of body and mind. Distance holds meaning. Foreground is something that can be reached and touched.

The points where sky meets building or tree line and how these change depending on the light builds an experiential vocabulary for the child that can be connected directly through paint, clay, crayon, or oil pastel. While outside and moving, children are also increasing their gross motor coordination and stamina. This is true of all children moving and growing within the lovely range of abilities represented in humans. Each child will develop strengths and coordination in movement in his or her own unique way. Their efforts to connect and experience the world around them will tumble out into inspiration and more importantly provide them with the ability to express it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Youth Arts Month

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On March - 1 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

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:

1. National Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week, March 24–30

2. March is Music In Our Schools Month

3. Youth Art Month

4. March for the Arts in Education Month: Empowering Youth through the Arts

5. Theatre in Our Schools Month

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 »

Arts Advocacy Day is Just a Beginning

Posted by Ron Jones On February - 25 - 2013
Ron Jones

Ron Jones

In a few weeks, many of us will descend upon Washington, D.C. as part of Arts Advocacy Day.

The agenda is simple and powerful; first, everyone learns the talking points, the compelling arguments, and statistics, and then practices on legislators and/or their staff. We return home knowing we’ve made a positive impression upon those who make decisions that can have significant and long-lasting impact upon the arts in America.

For some of us, that’s it! That’s our contribution to the future of the arts. We return home and pick up our work where we left off, seeing little connection to our day-to-day activities, managing our budgets, developing programs, expanding audiences, and raising money.

Realistically, I suspect most of us would say that we think of our national effort and our local effort as mutually exclusive events with the consequence of each seeing little, if any, relevance to the other.

The fact is that “advocacy” in its broadest sense, is the same as branding. Through whatever efforts and means we select, the goals are the same—to cause others to hold views and find values that are in line with our views and values.

Arts Advocacy Day is only one point along a continuum of efforts that will culminate in moving others toward our view of the world, and the strategies recommended should serve as a blueprint for what we do locally. Read the rest of this entry »

What Are “The Arts” Anyway?

Posted by Howard Sherman On February - 22 - 2013
Howard Sherman

Howard Sherman

Art. The arts. Fine arts. Performing arts. Visual arts. The lively arts. Arts & entertainment. Arts & culture. Culture. High culture. Pop culture.

The preceding phrases are all, on a very macro basis, variations on a theme. However, were you in a research study, and I showed you each of them, one at a time, I daresay they would provoke very distinct associations, very clear delineations of what each encompasses in your mind. Those responses would also likely change depending upon the order in which I showed these to you.

I could also take any two and combine them in a Venn diagram and the overlapping segment would be quite clear. But incorporate a third or fourth and you might find one of these categories the odd man out.

Why do I bring this up?

Because as the “arts community” fights its valiant, essential, and never-ending battle to convince the public at large of the value of “the arts,” I cannot help but wonder whether those on the receiving end of such messaging each hear very different things when these words are presented to them.

I’m prompted to these thoughts by a variety of “real world” examples and experiences, some quite personal. I’m hoping that perhaps someone will want to test my assumptions.

Visit the websites of a few newspapers. The New York Times “Arts” section is a big tent, where theatre, dance, and opera fit in alongside movies, TV, books, and pop music; only on Fridays in the New York edition do they distinguish between performing arts and fine arts, by dividing them into two printed sections.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kerry Washington Receives President’s Award at 44th NAACP Image Awards

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 20 - 2013

As stated in the introductory remarks, “philanthropist, activist, and style maven” Kerry Washington is the first African-American woman to serve in a leading role on a network t.v. drama in more than 35 years; however, it’s her tireless advocacy work that garnered our respect and admiration.

An Americans for the Arts Artists Committee member, Washington has been a vocal supporter of the arts and arts education. She has testified before Congress, was presented with our 2009 Leadership in the Arts Award for Artist-Citizen, served as co-chair of Arts Advocacy Day in 2011, and even helped us sell cupcakes in partnership with Sprinkles. But, that’s not all. She has also worked closely with V-Day to prevent violence against women and girls in addition to several other causes.

As she stated while accepting the award, “I consider it an honor to be an advocate for the arts and to serve on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities because just as we must ensure that ‘we the people’ includes all Americans regardless of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, we must also work to insure that the stories we tell, the movies we make, the television we produce, the theater we stage, the novels we publish…are inclusive in all those same ways.” Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.