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 FORA.tv:

‘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 »

Connecting Creativity, Innovation, & the Education System

Posted by Alyx Kellington On August - 9 - 2011
Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

Running short on money for long-term big picture projects?

Is “Community Outreach” a part of your mission statement or goal?

Is working with the school district a maze (um, maybe talk to so and so, oh he’s no longer there, leave a message, come on in – but not today…), a closed door (we can’t afford the arts or can’t afford to take chances), or a money pit (what else can you give me?)?

Many arts and cultural organizations want to work in a specific school or with a certain population but encounter the roadblocks mentioned above.

If several arts organizations collaborate and each contributes one staff member one full day a month to one school for a year, you’ve got the beginning of a funded program.

In that creative spirit, five science-based organizations recently approached a Southeast Florida local arts agency (LAA) with this idea and commitment. 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 »

This is What Democracy Looks Like (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On August - 3 - 2011

Kristen Engebretsen

This weekend I had the pleasure of experiencing my first authentic D.C. experience—the protest. I was drawn to the Save Our Schools March because I want to believe that America can still offer all students a quality PUBLIC education.

The Save Our Schools March (SOS) was a large umbrella event for anyone who is dissatisfied with our educational system. As a parent and an arts education advocate, my dissatisfaction has grown as our curriculum has dwindled. Cutting of subjects such as the arts, social studies, and science has been, to me, one of the worst consequences of No Child Left Behind.

So, on Friday my activism began with a screening of the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. It was great to watch this film in a room full of frustrated teachers.

There was booing when Arne Duncan said that the best thing that happened to New Orleans schools was Hurricane Katrina. There was hissing when Michelle Rhee bragged about her own private school experience. There was cheering when the teachers in the film spoke about public schools’ responsibility to educate the poorest and neediest of students. Read the rest of this entry »

The 53rd Street Community Garden

The goal of the 53rd Street Community Garden was to create a sustainable community garden with colorful artistic components and outdoor classrooms. Students would utilize this outdoor space to discover scientific exploration of plants, insects, and animals, while fostering a respect for the neighborhood.

Although this project is still pretty fresh and constantly evolving, we have seen an amazing community effort in building a space where education, cultivation, and neighborhood come together. It has been beautiful to have a place where teachers can bring their classrooms outside to plant vegetables, where community members tend to their plots and interact with the youth, and where two schools that rarely socialize now have some common ground.

We are currently working with the school on plans for developing a culinary arts program, installing a gazebo, and scheduling a community harvest event. We are excited about expanding the school/community garden model, which we’ve named Growing Great Gardens (3G), to other Milwaukee Public Schools. Read the rest of this entry »

The Relationship Between Innovation and Impact

Posted by Ryan Hurley On July - 27 - 2011

Students display a bench they created for their school/community garden.

I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Diego. One of the most engaging ideas that I took home with me was the relationship between innovation and impact.

We talked about how these two ideas are often assumed to go hand-in-hand and although many innovative ideas do have significant impact on large groups of people, sometimes innovation is for the sake of innovation.

One member of my table used the analogy of the space pen – how NASA spent tons of money and research developing a zero gravity pen that could write in space, which is a cool, I want one, but pencils always seemed to work just fine in the past. Was this innovative, probably, did it have a significant impact on a large group of people or was it a catalyst of great purpose, probably not.

I must admit I am a bit biased on what we termed ‘The Space Pen Theory’ because of my arts education background. We are trained to weigh much more heavily on the impact of a project than the novelty of the idea, not to say that we aren’t often able to bring those two elements together but for educational purposes, the process is often more closely examined than the product.

We deliberately tried to balance impact and innovation with the 53rd Street School Community Garden Project. Community gardens and school gardens are not super fresh ideas but the fusion of the two in a project that uses the arts to engage the entire community from the inception, brings new life to both. Read the rest of this entry »

Partnerships: Envisioning Our Interdependence

Posted by Sahar Javedani On July - 26 - 2011

Sahar Javedani

As Director of Educational Programming at Pentacle in New York City, I am constantly seeking opportunities to partner with organizations that share our mission of educating students on career opportunities in the performing arts through our “Behind the Scenes” program.

Last year, we welcomed a new relationship with Exploring the Arts, Tony Bennett and Susan Benedetto’s nonprofit charitable organization. We have our long-standing relationship of eight years with Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (Exploring the Arts’ original partner school) to thank for providing the foundation for this new partnership.

I believe that we’ve created a successful model of arts education where the collaboration of a school, funding partner, and arts education provider can come to the table with a common goal of better preparing students for entering the creative workforce through hands-on and experiential learning.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Susan Benedetto, co-founder and board president of Exploring the Arts to share her perspective on cultivating relationships with new partner schools and arts education providers: Read the rest of this entry »

Enhancing Arts Education with Innovative Ideas

Posted by Ryan Hurley On July - 26 - 2011

Ryan Hurley

Hello cyberpeople. My name is Ryan Hurley and I am a part-time educator and writer, and full-time Program Coordinator for an arts education organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin called Arts @ Large (A@L). I’m excited to share some of the things that we are doing in Milwaukee and read about the emerging ideas blooming around the country.

Arts @ Large works with school communities in Milwaukee, which often lack basic access to art and music education, to develop comprehensive arts programs in collaboration with students, teachers, staff, afterschool providers and parents. At each of our 20-25 school sites we develop a team with the above mentioned community members to develop and direct a multi-faceted arts program which includes arts-integration training for teachers, multidisciplinary artist residencies, access to art and music supplies, and opportunities for field trips into the community.

Our goal is to empower each site to use the arts to enhance the academic curriculum and the creative climate. The academic connection is essential not only because we feel it is important to enhance classroom learning through the arts but also because of the limited amount of time teachers are allowed for creative exploration due to some of the overwhelming mandates put onto school communities. Read the rest of this entry »