Parents As Arts Advocates

Posted by Doug Israel On September - 16 - 2011

In my previous post, I wrote about the value of arts education in keeping students on track to graduation—regardless of their career aspirations—and the role of parents in ensuring that principals are aware of the value of arts learning to students and the school community.

For those students who are interested in a career in the arts, one would think there is no greater place to be than in New York City. Arts-related businesses in the city generate $21 billion annually, providing over 200,000 jobs in everything from set production and theater management to video game design and advertising.

Unfortunately though, far too many of our city high schools are not providing a quality arts education, even though arts instruction is mandated by state law and we are surrounded by an incredible wealth of cultural institutions and amenities.

As part of our advocacy and public awareness efforts we work with parents in new and exciting ways to build support for the arts in schools.

Parents are helping lead advocacy workshops for other parents and school leaders, they are working with principals to encourage local elected officials to support their school arts programs, and they are helping create resources that can move others to action. Read the rest of this entry »

Uniting the Arts & Career and Technical Education

Posted by Narric Rome On September - 16 - 2011

Narric Rome

I recently attended a meeting of national arts education advocates and leaders from the career and technical education (CTE) community. It was a meeting designed to explore the policy efforts of both communities and to see if there was mutual interest in launching an initiative together.

It was clear from the 90 minutes we met that, from a national perspective, there is significant and deep parallels to our work and a joint approach has great potential.

Here’s what we discovered:

1)    Same Federal Challenges – At the federal level, both the arts and CTE have undergone similar treatment at the hands of the federal government. Like the Arts in Education program at the U.S. Department of Education, the federal CTE program was zeroed out annually in the Bush Administration budget, but funded by Congress each year. CTE programs are consistently targeted for reduction or termination, as they were in the recent H.R.1 legislation earlier this spring.

The similarities extend into our approaches to reauthorizing the Elementary & Secondary Education Act – CTE advocates would like to see greater use of multiple measures in assessments (addressing the narrowing of the curriculum which impacts us both), the promotion of our curriculum as a way to reduce the dropout rate, and a expansion of state data systems to provide greater insight into gaps of service and access issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping Students on Track to Graduation

Posted by Doug Israel On September - 15 - 2011

Doug Israel

Most people these days would not disagree with the notion that the first step to a promising career, in any field, is attaining a high school diploma.

Sure, there are some well-known exceptions (see: Johnny Depp, Chris Rock, Peter Jennings, Britney Spears, and “Wendy’s” Dave Thomas), but good paying jobs are few and far between for those that don’t graduate from high school.

In fact, earning a diploma increases the likelihood of steady employment by 30 percent and cuts the chances of experiencing poverty in half. Despite this, today, in the United States, more than one million students across the United States drop out of high school each year.

The good news is that there is evidence from the field that shows that the arts can play a role in reversing this trend.

In several national studies over the past decade, students at risk of dropping out cite participation in the arts as their reason for staying in school. Research has also shown that arts education has had a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Creation vs. Creativity vs. The Creative Habit (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On September - 14 - 2011

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I want to add to Mark and Eric’s sentiments that we need to be careful about the claims of arts education teaching the 4 Cs (critical thinking & problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity & innovation).

When claiming this monopoly on creativity, I think we need to refine our message.

So, here I offer a distinction about creation vs. creativity vs. the creative habit, and some research you can use to back up this advocacy message.

The Arts Standards
First, if you want some specific examples of how the arts teach creativity, look to your state standards. The California standards have an entire strand dedicated to creative expression, but you’ll notice that the word “creativity” does not appear. Rather it is words like “problem solving,” “motivation,” and “originality.” Being more specific in our message will help others understand what it is that we do.

Here are some more nuances to this message:

Creativity Correlation
In Robert Root-Bernstein’s work, “Arts Foster Scientific Success,” he shows that engaging in arts was a good predictor of future innovation for Nobel laureates. He then discusses the “tools for thinking” (empathizing, pattern recognition, and synthesizing) that enable these scientists to have innovative breakthroughs. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing a Future in Your First Job

Posted by Alyx Kellington On September - 14 - 2011
Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

Orlando is sixteen and gets bored easily. He receives mediocre to low grades, lives in the lower socioeconomic range, is being raised by a single mother and has a tendency to get in trouble.

How many of you work with students like Orlando?

Although Orlando does not care much for school, he enjoys going to an afterschool program where he hangs with his friends and gets to be creative. Twice a week, a visual art teaching artist comes in and the students study the history of their south Florida town, including the architecture, the cultural activities, the cars and clothing, and compare it to today.

On 12×12 plywood, the students create background, glue down fabric and copies of photographs, paint details, and add text, creating a collage of their community, past and present. Orlando worked on three of the boards, learning technique, an art vocabulary, and an appreciation for history that was relevant to his world.

Because of Orlando’s participation in this project, when I was looking to hire a temporary employee to help deliver educational materials over the summer, the director of the afterschool program recommended him.

“Hi Orlando.  Have you had a job before?” I asked.

He mumbled and looked down at his feet. “No ma’am. This will be my first.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Intersection of Local Businesses, School Districts, & Arts Education

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On September - 13 - 2011

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

I’m a consultant in San Diego who specializes in capacity building for nonprofit arts organizations and the people who run them. I also do a fair amount of work in the realm of arts education, including currently serving as chair of the Arts Education Council at Americans for the Arts and the co-founder and chair of the San Diego Alliance for Arts Education.

It was with my “arts education hat” on that I attended a one-day symposium in San Diego called “Powering Innovation Economies” last week. One of the sessions was about the role of arts education, innovation, and the workforce.

Sarah Murr (my fellow blogger/Boeing’s Global Corporate Citizenship community investor responsible for corporate giving to the arts in Southern California) was invited to be one of the panel members. Murr is well known in Southern California’s arts education community for the huge investment she’s made on Boeing’s behalf in supporting arts education in the Orange County area. She is also an active board member of the California Alliance for Arts Education.

Unfortunately, she was ultimately unable to participate and I got an email asking if I knew of someone in the local corporate community who could take her place.

As I sat there thinking about which local corporations support arts education as part of their community investment policy for strengthening workforce development, I came up empty handed. Read the rest of this entry »

Helping Students Find Their Own Voices in the Arts

Posted by Mark Slavkin On September - 12 - 2011

Mark Slavkin

As advocates for arts education, we try to stay flexible and timely in our rationale and arguments. We want to be current and relevant about the latest studies and trends.

If “21st century skills” are in vogue, we can show the relevance of arts learning. If the talk is about the primacy of science, technology, engineering, and math, we are quick to suggest we add the arts and make STEM become STEAM. And if the focus is on the economy and jobs, we stand ready to make the case for how learning in the arts prepares young people for a wealth of future job opportunities.

I worry that our advocacy and rhetoric may get ahead of the reality of our practice. Are we really delivering on all the benefits we promise?

While advocacy is essential, I wish we devoted as much time to sharing with each other about the nuts and bolts of classroom practice. Perhaps we could even display some humility about what we can deliver and what is not quite ready for prime time.

This brings me to the topic of careers in the arts. Our advocacy often refers to an economic imperative for arts education. Here in California we talk about the direct application of skills learned in arts education to jobs in the arts and the broader creative economy.

We also suggest that arts education cultivates a range of skills that will be valuable across all economic sectors, such as creativity, collaboration, and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Skills Vital for a Successful Economy

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 12 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

When I chose creative writing focusing on poetry as my college major, my parents slipped into a mild depression. On the other hand, they were buoyed up by the fact that I chose to stay in school rather than devote myself full-time to my rock and roll band. It all worked out, and both skills, poetry and music, have stood me in good stead.

At Americans for the Arts, we believe that these skills learned through arts education develop well-rounded children who are prepared for employment in both the creative economy AND in the 21st century workforce.

For instance, if your friend’s child wants a job in the arts, her parents may panic (like mine did) from reading current media articles about the arts sector dwindling in size. But, I have good news. Today, if someone is looking for a job in the creative economy, they have a lot of options.

No niche industry, arts are a big business in this country. Our 2011 analysis of Dun and Bradstreet data reveals that 756,007 arts businesses exist across the nation and employ 2.99 million individuals. These are businesses that we participate in for enjoyment (such as seeing a movie, attending a concert, or reading a novel); engage in for business (architecture, design, and musical instrument manufacturing companies); and invest in to enrich community livability (such as museums, public art, performing arts centers). Read the rest of this entry »

A Whole New World: Arts Education Advocacy As A Parent

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On September - 6 - 2011
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

My husband and I are now expecting our first child. With both of us being arts educators, we feel like we’re in a good position to help our child experience the arts.

In fact, the little one has already been to see shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (During the production of Pirates of Penzance I could have sworn I felt jazz hands in my belly.)

But, as much as we value the arts in our family, I know that when the time comes to send Junior off to school, we will have to be active, passionate, vocal, and unrelenting advocates. Here are some places we plan to start.

Stay Educated
Although I have plenty of stories about the importance of arts education, it is equally important for advocates to stay on top of the statistics too. Here are some recent data gems to keep handy:
72.5 percent of tenth graders from “high-arts” schools scored in the top half of standardized tests (verbal and math combined) compared to 45 percent from “low-arts” schools.
A state of Missouri survey found that districts offering more fine arts classes have a one percent higher attendance rate. Attendance effects funding, so in a district of 12,000 students, a one percent increase in attendance equals an additional $430,000 annually. Read the rest of this entry »

We All Agree, But Are We Effective?

Posted by Stephanie Riven On September - 1 - 2011

Stephanie Riven

We, the arts community, agree that arts learning improves academic performance, increases lifelong learning skills and often helps students at risk of failure engage in school.

We can point to the children. We can point to classrooms and to certain districts. We see their success.

In our arsenal of facts and arguments, we have key messages, data, research, policy briefs, examples of districts that have made progress, and a very effective lobbying effort in Washington.

We know the public agrees, too. After all, 91 percent of voters indicate that the arts are essential to building capacities of imagination.

But our message continues to become lost in translation where math, reading, and science are seen as the only subjects worthy of significant support. Read the rest of this entry »

Think This Isn’t an Election Year? Think Again. (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Justin Knabb On August - 31 - 2011

Baltimore City Hall

Most anyone involved with an advocacy effort will tell you that it is a year-round process. This process is primarily focused on state legislatures or Congress.

When these bodies are not in session, advocates know it is crucial to remain engaged with representatives’ offices and staff; to constantly cultivate relationships which can benefit the advocacy mission.

However, there is another step in the year-round advocacy process that can be easily overlooked: mayoral elections.

2011 is not officially billed as an election year, as there are no federal elections and only six states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia) are holding some sort of election.

But many mayoral elections will take place this fall, and to the arts advocate, those should be considered just as important as the state and federal contests. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 10 Ways to Support Arts Education

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On August - 26 - 2011

Kristen Engebretsen

This week I got an email from someone concerned about the budget cuts to arts education and inquiring about what they could do to help keep the arts in schools.

In the spirit of my colleague Randy Cohen’s popular post (Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts), I am presenting my own:

The Top 10 Ways to Support Arts Education

10. Volunteer your time, resources, skills: Many schools would appreciate your time as a chaperone, your skill as a teaching artist, or your donations of money, costumes, rehearsal space, etc.

9. Know the facts: Stay on top of current arts education research, trends, and news articles. Start with Reinvesting in Arts Education, which summarizes research on the topic. Use this data in your messaging when you speak to elected officials or school leaders.

8. Get involved politically: Tell your elected officials why arts education is important. Ask your members of Congress to keep the arts listed as a core subject during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Policy: Without Clout, There Will Be No Change

Posted by Robert Lynch On August - 11 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

At Americans for the Arts, we see an opportunity to advance national arts education policy by working in a very specific way.

We focus on forging strategic alliances with key leaders in the public and private sectors and on working alongside these allies to educate the decision-makers who have leverage in the national policy arena.

We concentrate on giving those decision-makers meaningful research and specific information about the benefits of arts education in an effort to impact and inform future decisions about education policy.

This work is informed by the best practice examples surfaced by our national network of state and local advocates and the specific stories they share about the impact of arts education programs on the ground.

It is further shaped by the opportunities we create for high-level corporate, philanthropic, and thought leaders to take action personally and speak publicly about the value they see in arts education before new audiences.

All of this work builds the clout that is critical to the success of our decision-maker education effort. Without the clout, there will be no change. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trickle-Down Effect of Federal Arts Education Policy

Posted by Narric Rome On August - 9 - 2011

Narric Rome

Not long into my tenure at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration, I came to understand the limits of what the federal government can do for K-12 education.

At the time, the department boosted funding to support the hiring of 100,000 new teachers and the launch of a new national afterschool initiative that is now a $1.1 billion program.

Arts teachers were among the 100,000 new hires and many of the programs embraced the arts. Federal investment had an important impact, but many arts education advocates would not rank these two accomplishments as major successes. Why? Because a new arts teacher and a new arts afterschool program did not appear in every school in every community.

We need to remember that the federal share in total education spending is only 11 cents on the dollar. The remaining funds come from state and local sources.

Which brings me to federal policy. Read the rest of this entry »

An Interactive Arts Poem…Add Your Lines

Posted by Christina Wolfgram On August - 2 - 2011

Christina Wolfgram

A choka is a type of Japanese poem that is cousin to the haiku, using some of the same syllable restrictions.

Because of its short verses, the choka is easy to turn into a group poem. One person writes the first verse (with the syllable count of 5-7-5) and then each person after that writes two lines, the first with seven syllables, the second with five syllables. There is no limit to how long a choka can be – they can go on forever!

This summer, I’ve had an awesome experience interning with Americans for the Arts. At first, I was surprised at how dire the arts’ situation is – I felt ashamed that I had spent so many years in school growing with arts at hand and never taking the time to appreciate it.

I was inspired by the passion and dedication shown by those who spend every day working for arts advocacy.

So, I’ve decided to start a choka about the arts (who doesn’t love art about art, right?), and hope that you will take a minute out of your day to add a verse to it. 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

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

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.