Candidates Weighing in on Arts Education

Posted by Doug Israel On June - 21 - 2013

Doug Israel

Doug Israel

After years of school budget cuts due to the economic downturn, and a decade of No Child Left Behind-inspired education policies, there is a movement afoot in districts across the country to reinvigorate the school day with a rich and engaging curriculum.

Parents, students, and educators have been beating the drum about the narrowed curriculum and are making the case to expand access to arts, music, foreign languages, science, and other core subjects that have been marginalized in schools in recent years. Now candidates to be mayor in the country’s largest school district are weighing in on what arts education would look like under their leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

Squeezed

Posted by Ron Jones On June - 6 - 2013
Ron Jones

Ron Jones

In the late Eighteen Hundreds Harvard decided to add an “art appreciation” course to its offerings and thus began a recognition by higher education that knowing about and, later to come, engaging in the arts was a good thing for students in American colleges and universities. Centuries before, the University of Paris had established music as one of the major subjects of study but that effort, of course, was driven by the University’s interest in mathematics, not aesthetic sensibilities.

By the 1940’s and 1950’s American higher education was steeped in both required arts courses as well as the blossoming of full-fledged programs of study in the arts. By the end of the Twentieth Century music, theatre(er), visual arts, and dance were acknowledged members of the academy. In most places, respected; in some, only tolerated.

From this admittedly brief and over-generalized history it is clear that the arts were increasingly enjoying a place of acceptance, even respect, within the academy. Those good days seem to be passing as the nation tightens its fiscal belt and increasingly questions the value of higher education, gravitating now toward a valuing system that focuses on careers and income potential (e.g., check out this naïve post to Yahoo! Education, Don’t Let your Kids Study These Majors. Business practices are dictating the course of higher education and the arts are being forced into a box lined with expectations that tend to minimize the “real” values of the arts and ignoring the “real” contribution the arts have and continue to make to our system of higher education. Squeezed into submission, American colleges and universities are scrambling to parasitically survive by attaching themselves to STEM or giving lip service to career development or just giving up and eliminating arts programs. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Public Funding for the Arts Matters

Posted by Ken Busby On June - 4 - 2013
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

We’ve just completed our legislative session in Oklahoma. Two efforts to provide state funding for an Oklahoma popular culture museum and an Oklahoma Native American cultural center were deferred for consideration because of the recent devastating tornados and their aftermath. An effort to move the Oklahoma Arts Council under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism was fortunately averted.

However, these initiatives point to a much larger issue – a general misunderstanding of the power of the arts as an agent of economic development and a disregard for the importance of the arts in education.

And Oklahoma is not alone. Most states have seen budgets for state arts agencies reduced significantly or in some cases eliminated. And I’m not really blaming legislators for this apparent lack of understanding about the importance of the arts and public funding for them. Many of our state legislators didn’t grow up with arts experiences and field trips to museums and visits to the symphony. We’ve lost almost two generations of adults who received regular arts experiences from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Read the rest of this entry »

The Theory and the Reality of Teaching Arts in Schools

Posted by Rob Schultz On May - 7 - 2013
Rob Schultz

Rob Schultz

For those of us who’ve been involved with arts education for any length of time, we’ve seen many theories and practices arrive on the scene. All are well grounded, express a philosophy of teaching, and hopefully build upon the education foundations already laid since the late 19th Century and the rise of the Picture Study Movement. Today, over one hundred years later, Common Core’s focus on national standards is receiving much attention from educators, commentators, think tanks, and politicians.

What seems overlooked in this evolution is the tectonic change that’s occurred inside the classroom. Specifically, inside the arts classroom–or on the mobile cart that carries the arts into the “regular” classroom.

Much time, it seems, is spent studying arts education practices at the macro level. We in the field read, listen, talk, debate, and write consistently on how theory and practice impacts students. In my household, alternatively, we generally eschew theory and instead talk a lot about reality. Why is that? Because my wife is a visual arts teacher in a K-8th grade public school.

In her 27 years in the classroom, things have changed. Kids haven’t really changed all that much, but the atmosphere surrounding public education certainly has.

The challenges she faces in her job on the front lines of education have evolved significantly. At one time, she felt supported by her principals and school administrators, especially in areas like discipline. Today, the kids rule. Principals now consider the child’s side of a dispute more than the teacher who brought it to their attention. School board members bend sideways with any angry parental breeze. Imagine an eight-year-old lying through their teeth after being caught doing something wrong, in spite of plain evidence to the contrary, and having the principal castigate the teacher for not “truly understanding” the child’s behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of the Arts in Education & Life

Posted by Stephanie Milling On May - 2 - 2013
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

As a university administrator and associate professor, I frequently interact with parents who visit our campus with respective students. The one question that is always interesting to field is, “What will my child be able to do with a degree in (fill in your respective arts area here)?”

From a financial standpoint the question is a valid one: parents want to know that their investment in their child’s future is going to lead to gainful employment and prevent him/her from returning home and living on their couch after graduation. However, the assumption that any college degree, regardless the area of study, will lead to a specific job is a misconception.

While a degree does set one on a career path with a specific skill set, it does not guarantee employment in any specific field. The question is also valid because in my experience, the knowledge that a majority of students and their parents have of the opportunities in the arts is limited to practical involvement in their respective art area of study: singing, painting, dancing, acting, etc.

In higher education, I have witnessed practicing an art form as the point of entry that many students take into their respective fields. However, that initial exposure leads them to a variety of careers within and outside of the arts. Therefore, I try to quell the notion that a degree in the arts leads to being a starving artist. Instead, I point them to resources that will help them expand their perspective of the possible career options for those with arts backgrounds and discuss the transferable skills that students learn within the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On May - 1 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves…We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” ~ from A Nation at Risk

Last Friday I attended an event at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looking at the impact of the report released back in 1983, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform. According to the Fordham Institute’s website:

“Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. This report became a turning point in modern U.S. education history and marked the beginning of a new focus on excellence, achievement, and results.”

The report language itself called for many sensible reforms, including more instructional time, higher standards for courses and content, stringent high school graduation requirements, and demanding college entrance requirements.

But the sound bite that came out of the report was that we have a “desperate need for increased support for the teaching of mathematics and science.” And, “We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jamie Kasper

Jamie Kasper

Imagine a fast-growing, increasingly diverse school district with approximately 2,700 students in grades K–12, located 12 miles from the downtown area of a city. The district currently consists of three buildings: an elementary school (grades K–4), a middle school (grades 6–8), and a high school (grades 9–12). Also imagine the following:

  • Because of the growing population, the district is building a new facility for grades 3-5 that will open in the 2013–2014 school year. This building will have a STEAM focus.
  • In addition to visual arts and music, students in the elementary school also participate in an Arts Alive class. Arts Alive is a performing arts class that focuses on storytelling; students employ dance, music, and theatre to tell and create stories. Students often comment that they wish Arts Alive would continue into the middle school because they learn so much in elementary school.
  • The administrative team—including the superintendent and other central office staff; building leadership; heads of transportation, food service, and grounds; and other leaders—has spent its last three summer leadership retreats at local arts and cultural facilities, engaged in creative arts-based learning with staff from those facilities.
  • The middle school visual arts teacher took it upon herself a few years ago to attend a robotics workshop at a local university. With the help of staff from a special robotics program at the university, she now engages her middle school students in designing, creating, and programming kinetic sculptures that use the elements and principles of design. Read the rest of this entry »

Studying the Arts in Higher Education Creates Artists & Alchemists

Posted by Raymond Tymas-Jones On April - 30 - 2013
Raymond Tymas-Jones

Raymond Tymas-Jones

Arts education in our society sometimes gets a bad rap. When I’m speaking with potential students and their families I’m frequently asked questions such as: What do people actually do with a degree from the College of Fine Arts? What kind of jobs do they get? How much money do they make?

These are all valid questions, but the answers are often more complicated than the inquirers desire. I often wonder whether or not these are the most important questions for people who are passionate about studying and creating art.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) is an organization designed to enhance the impact of arts-school education. To do this, SNAAP partners with degree-granting institutions to administer an annual online survey to their arts alumni. The information from the survey provides important insight as to how artists develop in this country, help identify the factors needed to better connect arts training to artistic careers and allow education institutions, researchers and arts leaders to look at the systemic factors that helped or hindered the career paths of alumni.

SNAAP defines “the arts” and “the arts alumni” broadly, to include the fields of performance, design, architecture, creative writing, film, media arts, illustration, and the fine arts. The survey population includes alumni from undergraduate programs, graduate programs, and arts-focused high schools. Read the rest of this entry »

A Heretical View of the Arts from a Science & Math Educator

Posted by Greg Coppa On April - 29 - 2013
Greg Coppa

Greg Coppa

For decades, science and math educators have been the beneficiaries of government largesse, which has often been supplemented by corporate philanthropy. As a high school science teacher for three decades, I have often benefited from this policy along with my students and I have never questioned why it was so.

Many of my post-graduate courses were funded in whole or part by grants from the National Science Foundation. A good number of the many summer programs that I have attended were federally financed by one agency or another. Texts, videotapes, and computer software which I used were developed with government, corporation, or coalition assistance. And I have been very fortunate to have received honors and grants which have been sponsored by federal agencies and an assortment of professional societies.

I cannot warrant that every penny used to fund the variety of things just mentioned was spent wisely by the numerous government agencies and grant recipients. But overall I would have to say that from my vantage point, the taxpayers and corporate sponsors got their money’s worth.

People were trained, energized, and assisted so that they could become better teachers of science or math. Resources or teaching methods were developed which were often better than those previously utilized, or if they turned out to be worse, at least it was known for the future that that was the case. Failure was acceptable and looked at as part of the price for future success. Read the rest of this entry »

Erin Gough

Erin Gough

It has been an exciting few weeks for arts and arts education professionals and advocates in the nation’s capital.

After a week of activities hosted by the Arts Education Partnership, Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, Emerging Arts Leaders at American University and Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network, training for Arts Advocacy Day began on April 8 and we were off to the races to meet with our congressmen and women all day on April 9.

Quite honestly, by the time I headed home, I expected to be totally wiped out—overloaded with information and overwhelmed by the situation at hand. Instead, it felt like the more time I was able to spend with such passionate people, the more energized and inspired I became.

People do not work with students, schools, community organizations, or become advocates because they are passive. They do it because they see a need to ensure arts opportunities for all of America’s students, but they know that the annual Arts Advocacy Day activities are only a small part of the work that needs to be done.

Coming down to Washington to learn about and discuss federal issues is a change of pace for me, and for most of us who work at the state and local levels.

It is absolutely important to learn about, and try to influence, federal education issues that impact the arts such as the reauthorization status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Delayed. Again. Still.), Race to the Top requirements (which require teacher effectiveness evaluations for all subjects, including the arts), and No Child Left Behind waivers (which allow for more flexibility at the state level to pursue changes in graduation requirements and assessments). Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of an Afternoon with an Artist

Posted by Ronda Billerbeck On April - 17 - 2013
Ronda Billerbeck

Ronda Billerbeck

On a chilly January afternoon, I sat in a high school library, along with 40 students, listening to Suzanne Vega talk about music. Listening to any artist speak about their work is interesting at the very least and more often than not quite compelling. This was not just any artist.

Suzanne Vega is widely regarded as one of the great songwriters of her generation. She is a masterful storyteller who rewrote the book on what female singer-songwriters can say and do, paving the way for artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and the entire Lilith Fair revolution.

Suzanne performed as part of the Kent Arts Commission’s Spotlight Series. In addition to her public concert, she led a school workshop. I incorporate educational activities with professional touring artists as often as I can. Interacting with an artist in an intimate setting, hearing them discuss their vision and process, offers depth of experience that a traditional concert performance cannot. Getting that kind of glimpse into the creative process is unique and powerful—it ignites a passion for and connection with art unlike anything else.

When we have communities that are engaged with art, where art is an integral part of life and a defining characteristic of place, our communities are better for it. They are better economically, socially, and because individuals’ lives are enriched.  Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto On April - 15 - 2013
Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Yo-Yo Ma Spins an Emotional Tale of “Art for Life’s Sake”

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 9 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As I have been sitting back at my desk at Americans for the Arts this afternoon, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a way to describe what I experienced last night at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

It could be the lack of sleep, the lack of coffee, or the abundance of Twizzlers and Clif Bars I’ve eaten during and before Arts Advocacy Day 2013; but, I’m not convinced of that.

Watching Yo-Yo Ma’s combined lecture and performance of a speech called “Art for Life’s Sake: A Roadmap from One Citizen Musician” as our 26th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy last night was priceless.

Not only did it feature eloquent points about the power of arts education and being a citizen musician, but it also featured memorable performances by jooker Lil’ Buck, bagpiper Cristina Pato, MusiCorps, and teaching artist Greg Loman and founder Arthur Bloom—two of which brought tears to the eyes of those around me in the Concert Hall.

Before I get too involved in describing it, I guess I should provide you with a chance to watch the entire event below or you can continue reading and click on the links to see the specific parts I point out as I attempt to capture the night to the best of my ability.

I’ll wait here while you watch…

Read the rest of this entry »

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 8 - 2013
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity.   The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance.  Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Arts Advocacy Day from Your Desk (or Couch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 8 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As Congress returns to work in Washington, DC, this week they will face more than just angry tourists who came to see the not-quite-in-bloom cherry blossoms.

Today, advocates are receiving training from experts and tomorrow 500 arts advocates from across the country (and even Japan!) will take to the Hill on behalf of their local arts and arts education programs.

The good news is that you don’t have to be here to participate (although we’d love you to come next year!). In fact, you can pick and choose your ways to support the arts over the next two days.

1. Send a letter to your member of Congress! Head over to our Action Center and send an email stating your case for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and encouraging their participation in the House Arts and STEAM Caucuses.

2. Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy live online! At 6:30 p.m. EDT join us live as we stream Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture and performance tonight via our YouTube channel. You won’t want to miss his inspiring story!   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.