Understanding the Professions to Which Our Students Aspire

Posted by Ron Jones On September - 15 - 2011

Ron Jones

We who educate aspiring artists, whether we’re public or private, liberal arts or research university, or a professional school, tend not to give sufficient attention to what ensures proficiency in our students, or what prepares our graduates to act upon an indifferent world.

We tend to give little attention to preparing students as entrepreneurs who have a sense of business or an understanding of how to make the world work for them.

We are inclined to give minimal, if any, attention to basic skills (writing, presenting, managing, arguing, collaborating, etc.) necessary for transforming an excellent education in art into a successful life-long profession in that art.

Yes, we do an excellent job of giving students the skills, knowledge, and understandings that relate to art-making, but that’s it!

Put more self-accusingly, we have generally opened the door at commencement, bid the graduates goodbye, closed the door, locked it, dusted off our hands and said with a sigh, “We’ve done our part; now it’s up to you.”

I am here to say we can do better; we must! 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 »

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from a Chopin Nocturne

Posted by Brad Hull On September - 14 - 2011
Brad Hull

Brad Hull

I grew up in a small conservative town in Pennsylvania. As a budding piano player, my entire focus was on the great hymns of the faith, playing in church every Sunday.

The first time I had ever memorized a piece of classical music was in preparation for my college entrance auditions.

With this small bit of information about me, you can well imagine the sight of me as a very green, frightened, and shy freshman, entering the halls of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as a piano major, walking around the three floors of practice rooms hearing incredible music emanating from almost every one. On top of that, due to a lack of attention to technique, I had developed tendonitis the summer before.

My piano teacher was phenomenal and we studied the Chopin Nocturne in D-Flat, op. 27 no. 2 for the entire year. Little did I know that these were lessons not only about Chopin, but also about living and working. Here are a few things that I learned:

1. The best things in life require attention, presence, and care. Don’t take anything for granted. Chopin ended the phrase on the half beat for a reason. Turning this descending melody line upwards creates a very specific effect. Modulating to the subdominant here prepares the listener for the return of the A section. Honor these elements with your attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultivating the Next Generation of Teaching Artists

Posted by Mark Slavkin On September - 14 - 2011

Mark Slavkin

When we consider careers in the arts, I would like to see more attention paid and resources assigned to cultivate the next generation of teaching artists.

At the Los Angeles Music Center, teaching artists are central to our work helping schools gain capacity to provide quality arts education. Our teaching artists provide inspiration and support for teachers to develop the courage, confidence, and skills to engage their students in meaningful learning in and through the arts. As “real artists” the teaching artists bring a different sensibility than students may experience in a typical school.

In spite of the central role teaching artists play in our work and that of many other organizations around the country, it seems these opportunities are not showcased as part of the core curriculum in most college level arts programs.

How can young artists aspire to a career they do not know even exists? Even in those cases when students are introduced to the idea of becoming a teaching artist, it is often in the context of “service learning” as opposed to an integral part of the life of a professional artist. Read the rest of this entry »

Answering the Charge of “Fluffheadery”

Posted by Eric Booth On September - 14 - 2011
Eric Booth

Eric Booth

In response to Mark Slavkin’s post…in the great gamble of arts learning, I see the issues your blog post raises, and raise you one.

Along with Mark, I not only challenge us to make sure we can walk our talk, and actually deliver the results we claim, but I think even our talk is problematic.

As Mark points out, we make a number of claims about the learning benefits we deliver to kids and to those who leave schooling and enter the workforce–benefits like “creativity.” I observe that we don’t even know what we really mean with keywords we use. I have encountered very few arts educators who can give a good answer to this question: Tell me which specific skills of creativity you develop in young people, and how you are sure of your claim?

Few can even name the few key skills they prioritize, or present clear evidence of skill development, apart from some excellent individual cases they tend to cite. Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Business Investment in Arts Education Look Like?

Posted by Stan Rosenberg On September - 13 - 2011

MA Senate President Pro Tem Stan Rosenberg

This blog continues my conversation with Harvey White that took place during the “Heating Up STEM to STEAM” session at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention earlier this summer. Read Mr. White’s initial comments here.

Sen. Stan Rosenberg:
“No, it’s not dumb, but I also want to do a little counterpoint here to see where you might go with this…OK, so I think the key role for the business leaders is to provide the leadership to push the government in the direction to make the investment and make the investment in a wiser way.

We spend $5 billion on education K-12 in Massachusetts. I don’t think it’s fair to go to the business community and tell them to give us another $1-2 billion to run that system. But I would sure love to use the leadership and capacity that they have to push the governor and other people to use some of that money more wisely.

Harvey White:
But you have no qualms at all in saying to the business that you ought to spend another billion on factories? Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Arts Education to Ensure a Strong Future Workforce

Posted by Harvey White On September - 13 - 2011

Harvey White

During the “Heating Up STEM to STEAM” session at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this past summer, I engaged Massachusetts Senate President Pro Tem Stan Rosenberg in a tête-à-tête about workforce development. Below is the first half of a conversation we had on the panel (You can access the full session via Convention On-Demand):

“This [educational] system that we have today was created by industry to create the workforce they needed. We’re going to need to get business leaders [involved], as it happened in Massachusetts. If you [arts education advocates] want to talk to somebody other than your arts friends or your educator, talk to your business man—that if you’re going to have the workforce that you want, you need to have the kind of education system that will give you that workforce.

This [expanded arts education] will not, in my opinion, happen if it does not get embraced by business. And I could go on for a long time about what I think that may mean. But talk about wanting to expand this—the next person you want to talk to besides your neighbor and your arts advocate [is the business man]…

Why do business people not embrace this? And [not] give money to it? What I saw was that individual business people give a lot of money. From a philanthropic standpoint, most every community prospers from the rich people from the business world that give money. But businesses don’t. Why is that? I think it’s really very simple…it’s called quarterly earnings. Read the rest of this entry »

PENCIL is Mightier Than the Sword

Posted by Sahar Javedani On September - 13 - 2011

Flipping through an issue of Crain’s Business Journal earlier this summer, I was excited to read of President and CEO of JetBlue Airways Dave Barger’s appointment as the new Chair of the Board of Directors for PENCIL, one of New York City’s leading nonprofits focused on improving public education through partnerships with local businesses.

After doing some preliminary research and discovering this brief but impactful YouTube clip of a PENCIL campaign, I was hooked!

“I can do anything! I can be anything! I am a success!” Hearing these words come from an auditorium of young African-American students participating in the simple ritual of tying on a tie inspired me.

Look at our future empowered leaders! How can we help them achieve their personal and professional goals? What does PENCIL do exactly? 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 »

Arts Education Provides ‘Survival Skills’ Businesses Need

Posted by Sarah Murr On September - 13 - 2011

Sarah Murr

In Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap, he writes that “the Global Achievement Gap is the gap between what our best schools are teaching and testing versus the skills that all students will need for careers, college, and citizenship in the 21st century.”

Wagner based this book on extensive interviews not with educators, but with corporations.

Those interviews led Wagner to develop the “Seven Survival Skills…people need in order to discuss, understand, and offer leadership to solve some of the most pressing issues we face as a democracy in the 21st century”:

1.    Critical thinking and problem solving
2.    Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
3.    Agility and adaptability
4.    Initiative and entrepreneurship
5.    Effective oral and written communication
6.    Accessing and analyzing information
7.    Curiosity and imagination Read the rest of this entry »

Supporting Arts Education is Good Business

Posted by Emily Peck On September - 13 - 2011
Emily Peck

Emily Peck

What is the role of business in ensuring that our educational system provides the workforce that they need?

Businesses have been addressing this concern in a number of ways including forming partnerships with arts organizations and creating signature arts education programs to prepare students from elementary school through college to be successful in careers in both the for-profit and nonprofit world.

Training the Future Workforce to be Creative and Innovative

Businesses have a vested interest in ensuring that the future workforce is prepared for jobs that might not even exist yet and one of the top skills this workforce needs is creativity. 1,500 CEOs interviewed by IBM picked creativity as the most important leadership attribute.

According to the study, “creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks. They are open-minded and inventive in expanding their management and communication styles.”

Some businesses have taken on the challenge of building the workforce that we need and created signature corporate philanthropy programs that are training the next generation of employees in creativity and innovation through the arts. Here are two examples but there are many more: 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 »

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 »