Arts Education Matters, Darn It!

Posted by Ken Busby On January - 22 - 2014
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Each day we witness the power of the arts to transform lives – whether it’s a child learning to draw, a teenager taking a class on glassblowing or an adult returning to a favorite hobby like photography.

The arts heal, the arts transform, the arts engage, the arts serve as an economic catalyst.  And yet the arts, especially arts education, are consistently underfunded.  As CEO of one of the 50 largest arts council’s in the United States, I spend the majority of my time raising money for and raising awareness of the importance of the arts, and arts education in particular.   And that’s the job of a CEO.  I’m not complaining.

What frustrates all of us in this line of work is that no matter how much we share research and data that demonstrates the value of arts education to keep kids, especially those at-risk and underserved, in school, performing better on standardized tests, demonstrating fewer aberrant behaviors, doing more volunteering in the community, reading for pleasure, and attending college, there are those who dismiss all this as mere conjecture – and therefore not in real need of funding.  I’m focusing here on public funding for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Everything Arts + Education + Technology in 2014

Posted by Jessica Wilt On January - 8 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

It’s the start of a New Year and technology will continue to be a hot arts education topic in 2014.  Since launching my own ArtsEdTechNYC venture last spring, I’ve immersed myself in many conversations exploring ways in which technology – I admit, a super generalized term – is being utilized within the scope of arts education. In meaningful, effective ways including K-12, higher education, distance learning and special needs populations, I remain continuously inspired by so many people doing amazing work.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered where technology will continue to change the way we teach, educate and inform our arts education field this year and beyond.

RESEARCH

The Wallace Foundation released two critical pieces of research late last year. As access to technology for learning, communication and art making grow among our youth, self-directed, connected, and digital learning opportunities are expanding as well.New-Opportunities-for-Interest-Driven-Arts-Learning-in-a-Digital-Age_COVER

These reports are a must-read:

ONLINE LEARNING & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The EdTech movement is the driving force behind development of so many new online learning platforms, apps, and software being created at lighting speed.  Here are a few arts, creativity, and innovation sites that I think are great:

  • Susan Riley’s STEM to STEAM focused Education Closet provides a wonderful platform for art integration ideas and professional development, while also offering a unique annual virtual conference. The STEM to STEAM conversation will continue to be an extensive one. Read the rest of this entry »

Raymond Tymas Jones

Raymond Tymas Jones

When University of Utah College of Fine Arts students asked for tools and resources to prepare them for the transition into the workforce, Dr. Liz Leckie, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, listened.

The students’ request resonated with Dr. Leckie given that it reflected what the collective voice of more than 100,000 arts graduates from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project  (SNAAP) was saying, which is that in addition to mastering their craft, art students want more time spent on career and post-graduate advising.

And, earlier this month, the students got exactly that. By hiring and empowering student staffers, Dr. Leckie created a team that envisioned and executed the highly-anticipated first annual ArtsForce conference, a two-day, student-driven event including an array of workshops, panels, networking opportunities and a keynote presentation by the esteemed associate director of Vanderbilt University’s The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, Steven J. Tepper, PhD. Read the rest of this entry »

Theories to Prevent Chaos

Posted by Erin Gough On November - 20 - 2013
Erin Gough

Erin Gough

Even those of us who have chosen to spend our lives in the arts rather than mathematics and the sciences have probably heard the preeminent example used to describe Chaos Theory. There is no shortage of cultural references to the so-called “Butterfly Effect,” including Jurassic Park’s claim that “a butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”

So what does that mean for those of us who are working in the arts education field? Too often our efforts feel like lots of wing-flapping and not enough knowing where to look to measure rainfall. We flap our wings and maybe one student will become a professional artist.  We flap our wings and perhaps a performance will inspire a student. We flap our wings harder and harder and yet the next Mozart will not come out of this year’s class of students. Unfortunately, some who control the purse-strings see funding of arts education in this way.  Few people are eager to invest their resources in what they see as chaotic or unpredictable.

A funder, whether it is a private foundation, philanthropically-minded community members, state legislators, or school board members, expect their investment to spur a lot of wing-flapping, but they also want to know exactly when and where they can expect to see results.

Read the rest of this entry »

Inspiring Creativity, Supporting Art Education

Posted by Masha Raj On November - 5 - 2013
Vans Custom Culture Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Vans Custom Culture 2013 Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Americans for the Arts is excited to be partnering again with VANS in 2014 for the Vans Custom Culture competition, a national shoe customization contest where high schools from all over the United States compete for a chance to win money for their art programs.

Since 2010, youth-targeted brand Vans has been encouraging high school students across the United States to embrace their creativity.  The Vans Custom Culture competition offers students a fresh perspective on art and offers an outlet for self expression through art, fashion, and design through this unique contest and multimedia exhibit.  During this contest, high school students from participating schools design shoes that fit within a particular theme representing Vans lifestyle.  The $50,000 award is granted to the winning school to support its art program.

The 2013 Vans Customs Culture winner of the $50,000 grand prize was Lakeridge High School of Lake Oswego, Oregon.  This winning school was chosen on June 11, 2013 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The top 5 finalist school’s shoe designs were on display at the museum for the panel of judges, which included actress Emma Roberts, designer Timo Weiland, reality star-turned-designer Whitney Port, artist Christian Jacobs and skateboarder Steve Caballero.  In addition to the grand prize, $20,000 was donated by Vans and Americans for the Arts to ten more schools across country to advance their art education programs. Read the rest of this entry »

A Degree in the Arts: Perspectives from Postgraduates

Posted by Alexandra Milak On October - 30 - 2013
Alexandra Malik

Alexandra Malik

I remember when I applied to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). My high school experience was not ideal, and I had always dreamed of pursuing something in the arts. Sophmore year of high school I tried out for the fall drama production, and there was no going back from there. I worked hard to keep my grades up and fill my resume with impressive extracurriculars; I applied to nine different schools, really only wanting to attend NYU. The day I was accepted was probably the most memorable day of my life. It signified a turning point: I was about to embark on the journey of my dreams.

Looking back, I don’t doubt that it was the most worthwhile choice I’ve ever made (which is lucky, because I, as most high schoolers are, was pressured to make that decision when I was only seventeen years old). I learned so much about myself as a performer and a human being, and became an instrument through which characters could live, breathe, and have their stories told. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and an experience which I will never forget. That being said, during my time at NYU, I wasn’t completely honest with myself about the realities that lay ahead of me once I graduated. It was hard to keep questions about the future clear in my head because things were so uncertain post-graduation. Still I wondered, was pursuing a degree in the arts worth it? Read the rest of this entry »

Halley Shefler

Halley Shefler

The school year is still new, so it’s a great time to look ahead and plan ahead. Remember that your academic and performing or visual arts choices in high school should serve your longer-term goals as you prepare for college and beyond. Keep in mind that no matter what decisions you’ve made, or are about to make, you may want to refine your selections as you develop and grow. Stay focused, and at the same time, stay open to exploring new areas at all times!

Senior Arts Students — Get guidance, plan auditions, prep portfolios. Stay on track with admissions requirements by working with your guidance counselor. Let your counselor know where you want transcripts, score reports, and letters sent, and provide any necessary forms much earlier than the actual deadlines so your counselor will have time to send in the forms. Now you can finalize your audition material or portfolio pieces to best reflect your skills.

Senior Parents — Decide on early decision. Review options for early decision and early action to determine if this is the path you and your student want to pursue. Help your child complete the college list by adding application and financial aid due dates. Take a road trip. Identify the top colleges on the final list, and visit those schools. Schedule any interviews that can be completed on campus or with college alumni. Also remember to attend college fairs, and gather as much information as possible.

Junior Arts Students — Build your list of potential colleges. Start by identifying the criteria that is most important to you about college such as academic majors, size, location, cost, and/or special programs. Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you. Then list the schools that fit your criteria, and develop a preliminary ranking of those schools. You should attend college fairs and college nights and speak with college representatives who visit your high school. Search your top college options online, and based on your findings, either expand or narrow your list. Also, if you’re in the performing arts, it’s a good time to assemble your resume with a headshot. See how the college consultants at ArtsBridge approach arts specialization.

Junior Parents — Stay on schedule. If your child is taking the PSAT, make sure the date is marked on your student’s calendar as well as yours. Remind him/her to prepare for the test and to try some practice questions. At the same time, you can help keep this from being a high-pressure situation by planning for a fun treat after the test. Step on campus. Schedule a day trip to visit nearby colleges even if it’s not where your child will apply. The idea is to explore different types of schools. Start a discussion by asking about which characteristics your student either likes or dislikes about those schools.

Sophomore Arts Students — Practice with the PSAT. Taking the PSAT as a sophomore will help prepare you for the real thing next year. It also allows you to release your name to colleges so you can start receiving information from them. Also review your courses with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in the classes you need to prepare you for college.

Sophomore Parents — Take your kid to the fair. It’s a good time to start checking out college fairs and possibly meeting with school representatives that come to your area. Encourage your child to get a feel for the college search by attending one fair, and if ready, a session or two with representatives at school. It may also be a good time to start a preliminary list of potential colleges.

Freshman Arts Students — Plan for the next 4 years. Prepare to lay the foundation for your high school career. This is the time to establish your academic and extracurricular credentials and begin to explore options for further education and a career. Your guidance counselor is there to help you make sense of your college and career options. As soon as you can, set up a meeting to talk about your plans for high school and the future. Your counselor can help to make sure you’re enrolled in the appropriate college-prep classes.

Freshman Parents — Plant the seeds now. Encourage your child to start exploring career goals so that courses can be chosen to complement those goals and serve as good prerequisites for college. Sit down with your teen and the course listings to agree on an academic plan for the classes your child should take in high school. Lay out preliminary plans for extracurricular activities as well, allowing flexibility for new interests to develop. Naturally, you’ll want to consult with the school guidance counselor to help with all of the planning.

Students of the arts get a head start on college consulting. Learn all about ArtsBridge college counseling and see how former college deans of admissions are able to offer specialized guidance to bring out the best in every high school student of the arts.

The monthly planning guide for visual & performing arts students and can be viewed at http://artsbridge.com/artblog/

 

Make Room: Expanding the School Day for Deeper Arts Engagement

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On October - 16 - 2013
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Aside from the “not enough money for the arts” conundrum, “not enough time for the arts” is the second biggest barrier that most educators face in providing more arts instruction, or even arts integration, for students.  But at more than 1,000 schools across the country, this barrier is being erased thorough re-structuring the school day to gain precious minutes, hours, and even days of instructional time for students.

The National Center on Time & Learning publication Advancing Arts through an Expanded School Day offers case studies for five schools that have reorganized their schedules to provide students with more contact hours during the day and larger blocks of time to delve deeply into project-based learning.  The publication includes three key traits of extended-day schools:

  1. Educators consider arts classes to be a core feature of their comprehensive educational program.
  2. Educators organize their school day and staffing to reflect the central role of the arts and dedicate ample time to their practice.
  3. Educators value how the arts can leverage engagement and achievement in school.

In Oregon, one outstanding example of these principals is the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield.  This arts magnet charter school utilizes a core faculty complimented by professional artists to provide students with a robust experience of real-world inquiry.  A3 boasts an 87% graduation rate for their four year cohort (compared to a 68% graduation rate state-wide) and 83% of their graduates plan to attend college the following year.  You can see their sample schedule online. Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Education Contest 2013: Update!

Posted by Masha Raj On October - 15 - 2013
Masha Raj

Masha Raj

We are half way through the “Art of Education” contest, and right now two schools from Washington State are neck and neck for the lead position: Cascade K-8 Community School (Shoreline, WA) and Kenmore Elementary (Kenmore, WA) each have over 2,800 votes so far!

It’s not too late for your favorite school to jump into the top 16 schools by using these following tips…

  1. Set a daily reminder. Remind yourself to vote – and encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can set an alarm on your phone, calendar, or clock – just be sure to set it for a time of day you won’t distract others – and when you’ll be near a computer to vote!
  2. Break out in song! Last year’s winner, Brunswick Acres, used a combination of video, dance, and music to urge the public to “Vote B.A. Daily.” Collaborate with your students, teachers, parents, and administration in your community – and let your musical talents shine!
  3. Go digital. If your artistic talents lie in the visual arts or in creative writing, consider working with your peers to create a blog or website about the contest. Be sure to include reasons why you need their vote!
  4. Get the press involved.  Write a persuasive letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or invite a journalist to your school to showcase the financial need, meet the principal and art teachers, and see first-hand the energy of the students.
  5. Share, share, share! Be sure to send an invitation to all your Facebook friends to “like” the KRIS Wine Facebook page. Remind them often to vote – and do so creatively! If your son is in the school orchestra, snap a photo of him practicing, and email it to your out-of-state family members.  Please always be sure to thank your friends and family for their help!

The 2013 Art of Education contest runs until October 31, 2013. Vote now for the chance for your school to win. Remember – anything can happen in the next two weeks. Good luck!

Who’s The Best? Bias Answers the Question

Posted by Ron Jones On October - 2 - 2013
Ron Jones

Ron Jones

There’s been so much written about the value of higher education and most of it, especially when it is positive, I agree with.   Lately, however, I have begun to question my own thinking, admitting to myself that I may be so biased and gullible that I will buy into anything that is said about higher education if it positively reflects upon my domain.

For years I have agreed with the argument that a broad, liberal education combined with arts training is the right balance, i.e., the best balance for graduating someone in the arts.  I also accepted hook, line, and sinker the notion that to be fully prepared, to have the full enchilada, so to speak, would require a student to major in a more professional degree such as the BFA.  Notice how I said, the “more professional,” with emphasis upon the “more.”

Why did I, and, for that matter, most, if not all of my world of colleagues buy into this notion of how to shape a curriculum intended to prepare an artist?  For others, it may be different but for me the answer is embarrassingly clear: the argument made sense because I was always in a comprehensive university and, therefore, what made sense was justifying the value of the institution in which I worked. Read the rest of this entry »

The Importance of Learning throughout Our Lives

Posted by Carol Bogash On September - 18 - 2013
Carol Bogash

Carol Bogash

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

What is Life Long Learning?  Simply, I believe it is the consistent and deep engagement of the mind and body in the active pursuit of knowledge and experience from birth to death.  Now, science is helping to support the importance of learning in keeping brains active and healthy for a lifetime.  The Maryland State Department of Education with the Johns Hopkins University School of Education published a set of guidelines in 2010 entitled Healthy Beginnings, supporting development and learning from birth through three years of age.  The Dana Alliance for the Brain states in its paper Learning as We Age (2012) that “mental exercise, especially learning new things or pursuing activities that are intellectually stimulating, may strengthen brain-cell networks and help preserve mental functions. The brain is just as capable of learning in the second half of life as in the first half.”

Over recent years, neuroscientists continue to conduct research on how the mental and physical activities so integral to the arts are equally fundamental for brain function. Charles Limb, brain scientist and musician at Johns Hopkins University (and a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s science advisory team), says that “the brain on arts is different than the everyday brain. Art is magical, but it is not magic. It is a neurological product and we can study it. “

At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra we are committed to the importance of engagement in music from the earliest age to the oldest.  The BSO Music Box Series (™) introduces children 6 months to three years of age to music, art, and reading through interactive activities designed to stimulate awareness, listening, coordination, language, and music making.  Although the research is anecdotal based on observance, we are seeing positive recognition in children who are attending these experiences on a regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »

We Have a Perception Problem on our Hands…

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On September - 13 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

This week I invited 20 very smart people to join me on ARTSblog for a discussion about arts education. We tried to tackle issues around the trifecta of education accountability—standards, assessment, and evaluation. A tough topic for sure, but we wanted to address some questions such as:

1) How do you assess students in arts classes?

2) Are there reliable ways to evaluate arts teachers?

3) What does this era of educational accountability look like for the arts?

One of our bloggers, Aliza Sarian, wrote eloquently about why assessment and evaluation are important in her work as an arts educator:

“Evaluation and assessment are at the core of what I do as an educator and as a classroom teacher. I make that distinction because as an educator, I am constantly looking at the work I do and reflecting on how it can be improved. As a classroom teacher, the kids, parents, and administrators demand the feedback to help students become better speakers, writers, and learners. In my world of arts education, assessment and evaluation are invaluable.”

But she and other bloggers and commenters also raised valid concerns about education accountability—how does it affect the arts? How is it different for the arts than other subject areas?

For example, a couple of commenters were worried about the use of time and resources on things like standards and evaluations. To quote just one:

“Let me suggest before we jump into measuring fine arts teachers job performance, we first focus on providing every child in America with regular fine arts learning opportunities in all of the fine arts.”

And I cannot say that I disagree. But I also agree with Aliza about the importance of accountability in terms of refining our practice and moving our field forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Standardized Testing for the Arts? Yes, Please!

Posted by Elizabeth Laskowski On September - 11 - 2013
Elizabeth Laskowski

Elizabeth Laskowski

I have been teaching instrumental music in the same small inner-city elementary school district for going on six years.  I’ve worked at several schools in the district, some of which have been supportive of the arts, and some have been less than supportive.  Even in the most supportive schools, however, my classes have always been considered not as important as the “real” subjects taught in the homerooms.  Presenting research on links between test scores and participation in instrumental music fell on deaf ears.  I frequently came to work to find that my classroom (on the stage) was being used for something, whether it was an assembly of some sort, school pictures, or a dance, and my objections were always met with a vague response detailing how next time they’d let me know in advance.  Students were often kept from going to my classes because their general education teacher needed more time with them.  This was deemed simply more important because they are tested in those other subjects and not in my class.  At one of my schools, I was even denied paper and pencils because the office manager had to “save it for the teachers.”

Enter our state’s NCLB waiver and the MCESA assessments.  Maricopa County Education Service Agency partnered with WestEd to come up with a series of brand new tests for non-tested subject areas such as Art, Music, Theater, PE and Dance.  So far, they have only created a computer-based standardized type test, so it does not yet encompass practical learning such as actually playing an instrument or singing.  Our students are tested at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year.  The results of the test will detail how effective we are as educators, and it will be wrapped into our evaluation score.

I have had three evaluations in five years of teaching.  Two of those were for my M.Ed. requirements a few years back.  Most years I simply get a filled out evaluation in my mailbox at work, which I am told I need to sign.  Some years I don’t get anything at all.  Administrators simply don’t feel the need to see if the band teacher is creating and implementing effective lessons.  With MCESA’s new evaluation and assessment process, not only will I be evaluated by my principal multiple times, I will be evaluated by a instrumental music instruction specialist from MCESA. Read the rest of this entry »

Media Arts: The (New?) Arts Education Discipline

Posted by Nelle Stokes On September - 10 - 2013
Nelle Stokes

Nelle Stokes

Film historians are still arguing about who invented the motion picture camera in the late 1890s. Depending perhaps on the birthplace of the historian, it was either Thomas Edison in America, or the Lumiere brothers in France. More recently, the digital revolution has resulted in an explosion of online media production by homegrown filmmakers of all ages, across the globe. Every sixty seconds, another 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.

It should come as no surprise to the arts education world that Media Arts has been announced as the ‘fifth arts discipline’ that will be part of the new National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). Due to be released in 2014, the standards will cover dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts for grades PK-12.

These new standards are designed ‘to affirm the place of arts education in a balanced core curriculum, support the 21st-century needs of students and teachers, and help ensure that all students are college and career ready.’ I’ve been honored to be a part of the Media Arts Writing Team—a diverse group of dedicated educators, administrators and practitioners from around the country, working in the fields of video, gaming, design, theatre, media, film, animation, and digital imagery. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s on Your Back to School List?

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 9 - 2013
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

When I pulled out of my driveway on Tuesday last week, I saw one of the most indelible signs of fall: the yellow school bus stopped on the corner picking up a gaggle of children for their first day of the school year.

Most parents, if not all, sent their children off with backpacks filled with a bevy of school supplies their child’s school suggested they need to have a successful start to the year—notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, etc. But how many of those schools suggested parents arm their children for the school year with another essential set of learning tools: musical instruments, paints, brushes and dancing shoes? Sadly, not as many as we would like.

Education policies almost universally recognize the value of arts. According to the Arts Education Partnership website, 48  states have arts education standards, 44 have instructional mandates for arts in elementary schools and 32 states list the arts as a core academic subject in their education code. Nevertheless, the availability of arts education in our nation’s schools has been on the decline for more than 30 years. Frankly, that’s unacceptable. And it’s a threat to America’s future prosperity.

We need our schools to prepare students to meet the demands of the 21st century—both for the students’ sake and for the sake of our economy and our society. These demands cannot be met without comprehensive arts education in our nation’s schools. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Evaluation

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.