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 »

Careers in the Arts – A Plug for Enlightenment

Posted by Rob Schultz On September - 12 - 2011

Rob Schultz

I have this sneaking suspicion that if you ask a typical high school student to tell you what career choices exist in the arts, they would give “artist,” and “art teacher” as their two, and possibly only two, examples. Unfortunately, I think that too many young people are unaware of the myriad career options that center on the arts.

So, here’s a plug for enlightenment.

In my own experience, I’d never considered such a career until my bachelor’s degree days. A full-time student in need of multiple part-time jobs, I found a “student assistant” position in the office of my university’s art department helping professors and the dean, answering phones, handling routine administrative tasks, and doing word processing on a primitive, mid-1980s computer platform.

This initial foray led to a lengthy and satisfying career in arts administration.

This career has benefitted me in many ways, not the least of which comes from wonderful opportunities to work and interact with a wide variety of arts professionals. Many of these jobs I never dreamed existed back in my school days.

Take government work, for starters. Read the rest of this entry »

What Arts Graduates Tell Us About Their Lives and Careers

Posted by Sally Gaskill On September - 12 - 2011

Sally Gaskill

At the end of September, over 300,000 arts graduates across the U.S. and Canada will be eligible to complete the 2011 SNAAP survey.

SNAAP is the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project – an annual survey and data collection project that investigates both the educational experiences and career paths of arts graduates. The project–the biggest of its kind ever attempted–is based at Indiana University in collaboration with the Curb Center at Vanderbilt, and I serve as project manager.

The arts graduates who will be surveyed this fall come from 67 varied institutions, including specialized art schools, liberal arts colleges, large research universities, and even arts high schools.

Earlier this year, SNAAP released its first annual report, based on the responses of 13,500 arts alumni from all over the country who responded to the 2010 survey. You can see some nifty graphics that summarize some of our more interesting findings – we call it the SnaapShot.

So, what do we know about arts alumni?  Here are some nuggets gleaned from SNAAP 2010:

•    Arts graduates aren’t starving and bitter. They are in fact largely employed, satisfied with their careers, and would go to arts school again if they had it to do over. Read the rest of this entry »

I.Q. Scores Rising, Creativity Scores Falling

Posted by Sarah Murr On September - 12 - 2011

Sarah Murr

While research studies show that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) continues to increase with each new generation, creativity scores are decreasing. This fact should alarm everyone.

In fact, it has already gotten the attention of American business that desperately wants to – needs to – hire the brightest and the best to generate the next innovative ideas for products or services that will keep our businesses competitive in a global marketplace.

You may ask, “why are creativity scores decreasing?”

One possible answer comes from Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership, a national coalition of arts, business, education, philanthropic, and government organizations who said, “We have a whole generation of teachers and parents who have not had the advantage of arts in their own education.”

So what does being creative have to do with an innovative workforce?

IBM’s 2010 survey of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the number one leadership competency for the workforce of the 21st century. However, tight state budgets and a lack of appreciation for what an arts education provides a young mind, and subsequently an adult mind, have resulted in the abandonment or near abandonment of arts programs across the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy National Arts in Education Week!

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On September - 12 - 2011

Kristen Engebretsen

To celebrate our second annual National Arts in Education Week, Americans for the Arts is hosting its biannual arts education blog salon.

We’ve chosen the topic: “Career Development for Students and the Role of Arts Education.”

I asked our contributing authors to interpret this broadly: careers in the arts, post-high school options, 21st century skills, workforce development, investment in an innovative workforce, etc.

Throughout the week, you’ll hear from many staff members from Americans for the Arts, several of our Arts Education Council members, and other key players in our field including: a former assistant superintendent, a corporate arts education funder, the Deputy Executive Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, and more. Read the rest of this entry »

How Creatively Pragmatic Do You Want to Be?

Posted by Mary-Helen Rossi On September - 8 - 2011

Mary-Helen Rossi

There’s no doubt about it: when budgets are cut the arts are the first to go. Those of us who’ve been at this for a while have always found ways to adapt, and this time my company’s gotten pragmatic…creatively pragmatic.

Creative pragmatism is a timely take on an old topic–using the arts to enhance seemingly disparate fields. Some of us, myself included, have been resistant: why should the arts play maidservant to fields in which most professionals view them as a distraction from the ‘real work’?

Mental health, education, and workforce development are good examples, and in this post I’ll explore the field of workforce development.

Workforce Development
Workforce Development is worth considering for at least two reasons: it’s still relatively well-funded and it’s precisely what’s needed to revitalize our youth and communities. 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 »

How Can Local Arts Agencies Engage Their Communities?

Posted by Maya Kumazawa On August - 29 - 2011

Maya Kumazawa

It seems that “community engagement” and “community arts” are paving the way to a new paradigm in the local arts sector.

By browsing through some local arts agency (LAA) websites, I got the sense that most organizations were somehow relating to their local communities already. But what exactly IS community engagement and how do you do it?

Of course, by sponsoring a public art installation or creating a cultural district, the community benefits. There’s no clear line between community outreach and actually engaging citizens in conversations.

An article in the New York Times describes the shift towards community engagement in MFA programs as, “[capturing] the evolving contemporary art world, one in which awareness of the social, cultural, economic and political context in which art exists has become increasingly important. “

However, even this description doesn’t clearly distinguish how the arts world is changing – the arts have always reflected an awareness of social and cultural contexts. By defining the paradigm more specifically, LAAs will be able to plan more efficiently. 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 »

The Power and Passion is Apparent

Posted by Lynne Kingsley On August - 22 - 2011
Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley

“Hi, I’m hoping you can help. My daughter has special needs and the only thing that gets her to pay any attention in school is her performing arts subject. Drama, dance and music make her come alive and help her understand people. I just found out the arts programs in her school are being cut. They just CAN’T cut the arts. How can I get the arts reinstated in her school and ensure they are a big part of the curriculum in the schools she will attend in the future?”

GOOD question.

This was the frazzled phone call I received last Thursday. This mother, clearly concerned about her child’s well being and education, was desperate; she is hungry for arts education for her daughter and was not stopping until she found it. I directed her to some well-connected folks in her region who may be able to help her situation, but it made me wonder: what about the others, the parents who didn’t call? Read the rest of this entry »

Creativity—The Irrevocable Wealth

Posted by Kirsten Kilchenstein On August - 16 - 2011

Kirsten Kichenstein

Growing up a child of divorced parents living on either coast, I spent the school year with my mother and the summer with my father. Living in a single-parent household, money was tight. Very tight.

How I looked forward to those summers…I’d leave the west coast to spend hot Alabama days visiting with my dad and grandparents. I remember farmers markets, beefsteak tomatoes, juicy peaches and bee-stung watermelon.

I was always partially wet from a recent dip in my grandparent’s swimming pool and enjoyed magical adventures in the vacant lot down the road. Mostly what I recall from my Alabama summers is feeling more creative in those two months than at any other time of the year.

My father and his parents were artists. My father a guitarist, my grandfather a pianist, my grandmother a sculptor.

My grandparents’ home was filled with original works of art—paintings, sculptures, and stacks and stacks of books. There was always beautiful music playing either from the stereo or resonating from my grandfather’s attached piano studio. If my family wasn’t creating their own artwork, they were enjoying someone else’s. It was their life. It still is. Creativity was a family value.   Read the rest of this entry »

America at a Cultural Crossroads

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 12 - 2011

On July 22, Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert Lynch spoke as part of the Chautauqua Institution’s lecture series, discussing the arts and arts education in a speech titled “America at a Cultural Crossroads.”

You can view a portion of the speech below and the full speech at

‘The Choice is Art’ Campaign Lands NBA Star Spokesman

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 11 - 2011

Arizona Commission on the Arts, a long-time member of Americans for the Arts, has secured seven-time National Basketball Association all-star Grant Hill as a spokesman for their four-year public awareness campaign, The Choice is Art.

The campaign is intended to: advance the cultural conversation in Arizona; grow public understanding about the broad-spectrum benefits of arts programs, and increase arts participation in Arizona communities; and, fortify a privately-held arts endowment whose funds can be utilized in support of statewide arts programs.

The campaign began with a focus on access to arts education with Hill spreading the message in a video airing throughout the state.

In addition to being avid visual art collectors, Grant and his Grammy-nominated wife Tamia support arts education for their children, as well as all the children of Arizona: 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 »