Eugene O’Neill’s Grant Writer Walks Into A Bar….

Posted by Bill O'Brien On December - 7 - 2012

Bill O’Brien

…and spots the dramatist hunched over in a corner booth, scribbling in his notebook. He walks over to the playwright, drops the first draft of Long Day’s Journey Into Night on the table and says, “That’s great, Eugene—but how am I supposed to prove economic growth or improved health and well-being with this?”

Obviously, this never happened. But if it did, it would be a great example of the conundrum we sometimes find ourselves in when we try to “scale up” societal benefits via the power of the arts. Identifying positive outcomes we’d like to pursue on policy levels at 20,000 feet can sometimes feel far removed from the missions being pursued by artists on the ground.

Trying to harness the power of the arts to provide broad public benefit in a strategized way is a good idea. The idea that our greatest American playwright should bend his art-making towards these aims is not. So if we’re trying to organize a way to share specific impacts of the arts so more people can benefit, how should we proceed?

In an art-science post called “The Imagine Engine!” on the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Art Works blog this spring, I stated that it may be possible for artists and scientists to “borrow freely from each other’s methods and practices and share insights with each other that they might be unable to find on their own.” This fall, through a program we’ve established via a partnership with the Department of Defense, we’re beginning to see evidence suggesting this hypothesis may be true. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Agency Fills in the Arts Education Gap for School District

Posted by Rob Schultz On August - 21 - 2012

Rob Schultz

One of the more disturbing trends in our local public schools is the reduction of classroom time devoted to non-tested subjects. Despite the arts being labeled as “core,” tested areas of the curriculum are among the few things receiving adequate time and resources from strapped school districts.

Going the way of the horse-drawn carriage are things like music, chorus, theater, and visual arts, as well as formerly routine components of a well-rounded education such as recess, and field trips.

For those of us who work outside of public school systems but are determined to provide children with quality arts opportunities, one answer lies in building effective partnerships with our schools.

For many years (decades, actually) the Mesa Arts Center has worked with our local public school system as a partner in delivering accessible programs. For several years, grant funding allowed us to bring fifth graders from a 100 percent at-risk school to our arts center for targeted, afterschool activities in both visual and performing arts, taught by our full-time arts instructors. While the school didn’t have resources for transportation, our grant provided it—from school to the arts center, and we took them home.

More recently, for the last six years the arts center has used funding from our own Foundation to present our “Basic Arts” program at another elementary school. This program focuses on literature, with the school hosting our teaching artists and kids learning about a literary story. As a finale, the students are brought to the arts center to see the story performed live on the stage of one of our theaters, followed by talk-back and Q&A with the actors and director.

As we saw the results of these two programs and the benefits they bring to underserved children, we committed to hiring a full-time Arts Education Outreach Coordinator to really move things into high gear and create other partnerships.

Under her direction, we began a Creative Aging Program that brings a visual artist and a dance artist to assisted living facilities to work with ambulatory seniors, as well as a group of seniors afflicted with dementia; the Culture Connect Program, which provides free theater tickets to area schools so their students can attend performances, participatory activities, workshops, literature, and live artist demonstrations; and a comprehensive Jazz A to Z Program that uses the National Endowment for the Arts’s Jazz Curriculum as a guide to provide students opportunities to improvise, analyze, synthesize, engage in group collaborations, develop an individual voice, and broaden cultural perspectives—all through the uniquely American medium of jazz. Read the rest of this entry »

Enrichment, Recollection, Fulfillment—What Else is Necessary in Life?

Posted by Melissa Lineburg On March - 5 - 2012

Seniors benefit from ballroom dance. (Photo from The Payson Roundup)

I recently received my alma mater’s College of Visual and Performing Arts newsletter and was blown away by the enriching work of a former classmate.

It is becoming common knowledge, thank goodness, that the arts are vital to the proper mental and physical development of our youth as well as the maintenance of a high quality of life for our aging population.

My classmate Emily McKinney, a junior at Radford University, took advantage of the university’s class and degree offerings to combine two of her loves: dance and teaching children with disabilities.

Specifically, she teaches private and/or small group dance classes to autistic children in the community around Radford. Her work has given children who have difficulties communicating and expressing themselves an instrument to “be their true selves.”

Despite the challenges she faces working with them, Emily knows patience and careful guidance help her dance students discover immense amounts of joy that would seem otherwise impossible.

In addition to these findings and personal accounts, I found it interesting that the same is applied for the elderly, namely patients being treated for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Of Karaoke, Older People, and Possibilities (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon On May - 25 - 2011

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

It was karaoke night when I visited my Dad at the Soldier’s Home last week.

During the thirty minutes it took for staff and volunteers to round up and assist about 35 elderly and infirm veterans into the canteen, the excitement was building.

“Where’s Joe? He usually does a song.”

Finally, with everyone assembled, Helen was invited to lead off the program. It was her birthday and 87-year-old Helen offered a pretty sweet rendition of “Harbour Lights,” originally sung by The Platters. Tom, 90, followed with a raucous interpretation of Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs’ “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” – complete with the best howl I have ever heard.  Read the rest of this entry »

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.