The Space Between Stories and Numbers

Posted by Clayton Lord On March - 14 - 2011

Clayton Lord

Last week, arts advocate Arlene Goldbard spoke at the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations conference in Austin. Goldbard believes we need to start using a more empowered (and less-numbers-based) vocabulary for arguing for the value of the arts. At one point she said this:

“The best argument for arts education is that children today practice endlessly interacting with machines, developing a certain type of cognitive facility. But without the opportunity that arts education affords to face human stories in all their diversity and particularity, to experience emotional responses in a safe space and rehearse one’s reactions, to feel compassion and imagine alternative worlds, their emotional and moral development will never keep pace.”

Later, she noted:

“Students today are preparing for jobs and social roles that have not even been imagined yet. They cannot be trained in the narrow sense for jobs that do not yet exist.”

Goldbard argued that arts education, with its ability to instill social skills, empathy, intellectual development, critical thinking, etc., would allow students today more flexibility as those as-yet-unknown jobs and roles revealed themselves over time.
Read the rest of this entry »

Educating Kids in the “Race to Somewhere”

Posted by Merryl Goldberg On March - 14 - 2011

Merryl Goldberg

The film Race to Nowhere is a provocative entrance into a conversation about educational reform and, in my role as Chair and Professor of the Visual and Performing Arts as California State University San Marcos, I’ve been invited by local PTAs to comment on the film and begin a dialogue with teachers, parents, and school administrators.

I’ve created a top ten list in response to the film and to what I see as core needs in schools. In embarking on a path to student success, I suggest reinvigorating curriculum development and policy with the following:

1.    Wonder – Wonder sets the stage for learning. Children (indeed all of us) have an innate ability to imagine and create – all of which starts with wonder. Scientists, mathematicians, and artists are wonderful role models for the act of wondering and the arts cultivate wonder – engaging us, both as creators and as audience members.
Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Blog Salon

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On March - 14 - 2011

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As Chair of the Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts, I’d like to welcome you to the first Arts Education Blog Salon of 2011.

There are always so many things to learn from our colleagues as we share blog posts and commentary on a particular theme for one full week.

I hope you have time to return to the Salon several times throughout the week (and again after it ends on Friday) and post your own thoughts or questions as they arise.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a little bit about the Arts Education Council and what our agenda for 2011 looks like.

This past January, the council met to plan its annual agenda. With a renewed focus on supporting members at the local level, we developed a rather ambitious set of activities for the year around five main themes (some of which were the result of the council’s Trends Report that has been developed over the past two years).   Read the rest of this entry »

The Scientific Method Should Be Trusted

Posted by Kristy Callaway On March - 8 - 2011

Kristy Callaway

My southern heritage speaks, “I’m not one to talk, but…” then proceeds to the insult and ends with “…bless their heart.”

What I know for sure is that the scientific method should be trusted and I like micro advocacy. Our ancestors could mark on cave walls, create flutes from bones, and push their humanity forward through oral and physical traditions, mostly improving their lot along the way. We have been governed by scientific methodology since we hungrily poked sticks in anthills a million years ago.

Today, the wiggling things are us.

What is at stake?

Our legacy and future humanity!

In a recent op-ed piece to The Washington Post, Bill Gates detailed research findings for student achievement. The single most decisive factor is excellent teaching. And learning can only happen in the third space between teacher and student. Read the rest of this entry »

Riding the Arts Education Roller Coaster

Posted by Marete Wester On March - 4 - 2011
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m not morally opposed to it, or taking an anti-technology political stance—I’m merely a social media “slow adapter.” Since it’s one of those things I know it will take me a while to learn, it’s not high on my priority “to do’s”—at least for now.

Which is why I’m always amazed when a colleague emailed me that I’ve been quoted on Twitter, as I was recently speaking on a panel at the Face to Face conference hosted by the Arts in Education Roundtable in New York City (Feb 22 & 23).

The Face to Face conference had several hundred attendees, with a significant number of first-timers. While many of the panels were thoughtfully focused on building skills and improving practice in delivering solid learning in the arts, others were targeted towards advocacy and making the case.

The comment that made the tweet was something I said as a member of the Arts Education Advocacy panel moderated by Doug Israel of the Center for Arts Education, featuring NYC Councilman Robert Jackson and NYS State Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen.

In response to a question about how we would describe the current environment for arts education from our respective vantage points at the local, state, and national level, I apparently said something tweet-able. Read the rest of this entry »

Crystal Ball Time – What Will Rahm Emanuel Mean for the Arts in Chicago?

Posted by Scarlett Swerdlow On March - 1 - 2011

Less than a week ago, something happened in Chicago that hadn’t happened in more than 20 years — we had a race for mayor … without Richard M. Daley on the ballot!

I know many cities and towns elect a new mayor — or at least seriously consider it — every four years. But the last time we voted for a mayor who wasn’t “Da Mare” was in the 1980s.

Whether the election was actually “competitive,” well, that’s debatable. With Rahm Emanuel, one of six candidates, capturing 55 percent of the vote, the Chicago Sun-Times called the election a “rahmp!” (Get it?!) Emanuel needed “50 percent plus one” to avoid a run-off with the next highest vote-getter.

What will the election of Rahm Emanuel mean for the arts and arts education in Chicago? Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time to Testify on Behalf of Arts Education

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 25 - 2011
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

It’s hard to believe, but six months has passed since we celebrated the first National Arts in Education Week (as declared by Congress). As we all know, legislative bodies don’t often operate on a timeline that is convenient for the rest of us (i.e. the fact that our federal government runs out of money in just a few days).

Because of that, a group of us on Twitter that gets together for arts education chats on Thursdays (search #artsed) came up with the idea of using that week to start projects that could be celebrated later in the year, or more specifically, a half a year later during what is known as Arts Education/Youth Arts/Music in Our Schools Month – March.

During that time, we have also been collecting signatures of advocates who promised to testify on behalf of arts education at their local school board meetings throughout the month of March. We just asked for regular people who support arts education in their local schools to show up to the meeting and say something positive about the arts during the public comment section, or even better, get on the agenda ahead of time. Read the rest of this entry »

Tearing Down Higher Education Towers

Posted by Ron Jones On February - 22 - 2011

Ron Jones

The phrase, “Town and Gown,” is a shorthand way to saying there is a tension or disconnect between institutions of higher learning and the communities in which they reside. Some of us know this to be extreme; others only experience this disconnect in minor ways. It is real.

We all know that and it’s real for good reason since the purposes and aspirations of community and institution are rarely compatible and aligned. For those of us in the arts, this disconnect has and continues to be even more amplified with communities sometimes, perhaps often, seeing university arts programs, arts conservatories, and art schools as isolated towers that stand aloof to and indifferent to the needs and sensibilities of the very community in which they reside.

Those days, in my opinion, must come to an end if the arts are to survive and realize a healthier existence in the tomorrows to come!
Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Be the Dance Band on the Titanic

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On February - 15 - 2011

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

I recently sat in a room with Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch and more than a dozen San Diego arts advocates. We were talking about how to collaborate better on behalf of arts and arts education funding in San Diego.

By the end of the meeting we had a lot of good ideas to work with in the coming months. But the phrase Bob used that I can’t get out of my head as I work on arts education advocacy is, “Don’t be the dance band on the Titanic.”

What does that mean? Well, if you’ve seen the movie you know that eight British musicians went down with the ship because they insisted on playing music for the mostly doomed passengers trying to get on lifeboats. Our image of the dance band is that they kept playing as if it could fend off the inevitable, even though they were doing nothing to get people to safety. Read the rest of this entry »

Demonstrating the Power of the Arts

Posted by Mara Walker On February - 14 - 2011
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

Last week I had the opportunity to see the arts at work in a few interesting ways.

I was invited by Frank Hodsoll to experience The Great Game: Afghanistan (a play that explores the history of the country and it’s culture right up to present day) for an audience filled with military personnel at all levels, and representatives from the Department of Defense and Department of State. I heard from those federal leaders and Martin Davidson, head of the British Council, about how powerful the arts are as a mechanism for causing these key leaders to think about our involvement in Afghanistan in a new way.

On Friday, I heard Anna Deavere Smith talk at The Aspen Institute on “The Artist’s Voice for Social Change” and her commitment to using characters and the arts to get people to engage in their communities. She combines her interviews with thousands of union leaders, political officials, members of the public, and so many others into powerful theater that begs us to think for ourselves and get involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Super Bowl: A Showcase for the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 10 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

One of the largest arts audience activities of the year happened earlier this week. Thousands of artists from around the United States and throughout the world prepared for months for this single event on one night in February. It’s called the Super Bowl. Yes there was football, too and some pretty exciting football at that. But this is a televised sports event where no one leaves their seat during the commercials because they might miss some really cool, fun art. Graphic design, computer generated imagery, audio engineering, musical composition, actors, lyricists, script writers, musicians, lighting designers, dancers, fabricators of all kinds produce these tiny bits of theater we call advertising.

I’ve often heard–and even said–that the arts are America’s secret weapon in developing our communities and cities. But lately it’s clear that the secret is out because more and more mayors, community leaders and government officials are using the arts to transform communities. This theme played out in several of the ads on Sunday night. One wonderful piece showed the benefits that public art, performance halls, design, choral music, architecture, and cultural life in general can have in the animation of a downtown and for the image of an American city. This ad without the soundtrack could have been a video poster for our nation’s five thousand city arts commissions. The city turned out to be Detroit, and the spot featured Eminem, one of Motor City’s most renowned musicians. And the ad was for Chrysler. Read the rest of this entry »

Wolf Trap Early Childhood LogoWolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts recently launched an innovative Early Childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Learning Through the Arts initiative that builds upon its 30-year history developing and delivering early childhood arts education programs.

In this podcast, Arts Education Program Manager Tim Mikulski interviews Wolf Trap Foundation Senior Director of Education Mimi Flaherty Willis about the program. Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with: |

Tim MikulskiI was planning to write a post about how President Obama made sure to put creativity and innovation at the forefront of his State of the Union last week, but somehow missed any references to the arts. There I was on a treadmill at my local Washington Sports Club, waiting for him to say it. And waiting. And running. And running. And waiting. It never came.

Before I could write a post about it, I came across another one making many of the exact same points. So, rather than state the same thing twice, I invite you to check out Lee Rosenbaum’s Huffington Post piece, State of the Arts: Why Culture Matters for Obamanomics.

In her post, Rosenbaum mentions that Capitol Hill may not be ready for a pro-arts argument following the National Portrait Gallery incident and an influx of new members of Congress who have no interest in funding the arts, humanities, railroads, or Americorps programs. I understand that, but even a passing line about turning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) into STEAM (adding Arts), would have been easy to insert.

What if instead of…

“And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math.”

…The President said (using some of the language of Education Secretary Duncan): Read the rest of this entry »

Pam Korza

The current environment has created a context for Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) and State Arts Agencies (SAAs) to reconsider support for arts and culture activity that addresses social and civic concerns.  Many will argue, and rightfully so, that, local and state arts agencies have long responded to disadvantaged populations and encouraged community engagement in their grantmaking.  It’s in their DNA as funders working for the public good.

The 2010 report, Trend or Tipping Point: Arts & Social Change Grantmaking, recently released by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program, gives public sector arts funders some food for thought about their roles. The report assembles a first-time portrait of arts funders, social change funders, and others in both private and public sectors that are funding civic engagement and social change through arts and cultural strategies. Local and state arts agencies comprised an impressive 48 percent of the 157 survey respondents that say they currently fund or plan to fund arts for change work; and they were in the top four categories of types of funders supporting this work (others included private foundations and nonprofits that make grants). In this still very much evolving arena of arts for social change philanthropy, the study finds local and state arts agencies are playing a role even though there are challenges and perceived risks. Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with: |

Americans for the Arts released its second annual National Arts Index scores this week and the findings won’t surprise you: the 2009 Index score of 97.7 is the lowest Index score in the twelve years it measures.

  • The 2009 score represents a drop of 3.6 percentage points from 101.3 in 2008.
  • There were 3,000 new nonprofit arts organizations created during the 2007-09 recession years but attendance at mainstream arts organizations and events continues a long-term decline.
  • In 2008, 41% of nonprofit arts groups reported a deficit to the IRS, up from 36% in 2007.

While our country’s flagging economy has surely presented a number of challenges for the arts, the Index does hit some resonating high notes:

  1. Americans are seeking more personal engagement in the arts. Personal arts creation and volunteerism is growing. The number of Americans who personally participated in an artistic activity increased 5% between 2005 and 2009, while volunteering also jumped 11.6 percent.
  2. The number of artists in the workforce has increased 17% from 1996 to 2009 (1.9 to 2.2 million).
  3. Demand for Arts Education is up. There are more college-bound seniors with 4 years of arts or music and in the past decade college arts degrees conferred annually have risen from 75,000 to 127,000.

What does this mean for your community? Comment below about how you see personal arts creation and volunteerism growing in your community or tell us about arts programs that are innovative in building audience demand. And be sure to visit the National Arts Index page.

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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


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.