Turnaround Arts and Why It Works

Posted by Malissa Feruzzi Shriver On May - 27 - 2014
Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Here is a recipe for success. Take a failing elementary school, invest time and treasure in professional development, help them develop a strategic plan; assist them in maximizing their budget with expert technical assistance. Bring in the non-profit arts providers, credentialed specialists, teaching artists, universities, the local community, and parents. To top it all off, add in a famous artist – as a mentor, as an advocate, and to bring in the media. With a potent combination of discrete arts education in all four disciplines and arts integration, this program proves that the so-called achievement gap is indeed an opportunity gap: an opportunity gap for the principals, teachers, students, and their parents – but also for their communities and for our society. As John Dewey said, what the best and wisest person wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and unchecked, destroys our democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a future for arts education?

Posted by Ken Busby On May - 21 - 2014
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

“The arts are under attack!”  We hear this cry on a consistent basis as state and local governments wrestle with priorities to balance budgets.  The arts always seem to be the first on the chopping block.  Detroit continues to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and one of the suggestions for how to raise capital to satisfy creditors is to sell off the outstanding art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Selling the DIA’s collection is only a short-term fix, that doesn’t actually alleviate the problem at all.  It’s more for showmanship.  It’s a statement that we can live without the arts.  They are only important if they can be sold to raise money. Read the rest of this entry »

Toolbox as Documentation

Posted by Liz Lerman On May - 15 - 2014
Liz Lerman

Liz Lerman

The topic for this salon is big. I am going to write about one small part of it. I am interested in how we observe our processes, discern them as repeatable actions, develop them to become tools for others to borrow and make their own. I believe that we can harvest our histories, make sense of what we did and describe it in terms that help us understand the context, the decisions, and perhaps the wisdom and meaning surrounding the work.  At the same time we can delineate the data, information, formats, processes that may aid others in their work.

In my case, the idea for such a toolbox made from thousands of hours of teaching and choreographing and dancing came in an instant.  It was a visitation born out of utter confusion and despair.  As I was preparing to lead a workshop for K-12 teachers I was pondering why the organizing arts and educational institution with whom I was working wanted an outline from me that would describe what was to transpire.  They wanted to hand it out at the beginning even though we all knew that the activities would change once I was in the room with the very particular people and needs that would coalesce that afternoon.  It was true I had a plan, but it was equally true that the plan would shift as soon as we began our work. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Perhaps the most compelling support for learning at all ages comes from participants:

Road Scholar participants chat with Maestro Perlman after an attending an exclusive rehearsal by the BSO. Photo by BSO.

Road Scholar participants chat with Maestro Perlman after an attending an exclusive rehearsal by the BSO. Photo by BSO.

“Many of us have been going to hear the BSO for DECADES! The classes of “Behind the Scenes at the BSO” fulfilled many of our dreams. Thank you so very much for creating such a splendid series of classes.”  – Student at Johns Hopkins University’s Osher program; May, 2014

Children and parents listen and interact with musicians during the Music Box concert “Bugs” on April 5th, 2014. Photo by Jim Saah.

Children and parents listen and interact with musicians during the Music Box concert “Bugs” on April 5th, 2014. Photo by Jim Saah.

 

 

 

“The program for the tiniest audience members was truly inspired. My grand-daughter (age 3) said the music was ‘beautiful’ and ‘magical.’ I appreciated that the mix of music for Bugs included a range from ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ to Bach and Fauré. The children were remarkably well behaved which speaks for their attention to the program being offered. Please accept this check as evidence of my support for this kind of programming. Cheers!” – Grandmother attending the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Music Box Concert, April 2014, at the Music Center at Strathmore

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Jeff Poulin

Jeff Poulin

Americans for the Arts has long been a national leader in the arts in America. For decades, the organization, too, has been involved in the advocacy of the inclusion of the arts as part of a quality education for all students in the United States.  Today, we work to ensure that all Americans have access to quality arts education in school, out of school, and throughout adulthood.

What makes this possible, you ask?

My answer: when people who care about arts education speak up and are heard.

The Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts has crafted an event to help people like you from across the country build the skills necessary to speak up (advocate) and be heard (by elected officials, decision makers, the media or whoever you like!) Read the rest of this entry »

Evolution of a Program

Posted by Rob Schultz On May - 7 - 2014
Rob Schultz

Rob Schultz

For many years, the Mesa Arts Center (AZ) conducted a successful program with Lowell Elementary, a Title I public school located in one of Mesa’s most challenged neighborhoods. The basic premise was to send a teaching artist to work with two grade levels, and introduce the students to a particular literary work. Those same students would be brought to the Center to view a live theater performance of that literary work created and presented by the Center’s in-house theater for young audiences program, at no cost to the students. Reinforcement of classroom teaching would occur through the integration of theater and language arts. The kids would enjoy Q&A with the actors, and classroom teachers would be provided with additional resource materials for future use. It was a valuable, simple, easily-replicated formula for arts integration. Read the rest of this entry »

A Day Without Art

Posted by Stephanie Milling On April - 25 - 2014
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

In thinking about this week’s blog post, I am inspired by the act of advocacy. At National Arts Advocacy Day  last month, arts advocates from all over the nation poured onto Capitol Hill to describe how the arts benefits the economy, culture, education, and healthcare. In an effort to procure support for the upcoming fiscal year, our carefully crafted message communicated how the arts not only enrich but exist as a necessity within the lives of Americans.

While arming ourselves with facts and figures provided by Americans for the Arts to state our case, a colleague of mine who works for the City of Mauldin Cultural Center  proposed that we describe a day without the arts to adequately articulate the essential role of the arts in our lives. While he was not seriously considering this approach in our appointments on Capitol Hill, he was serious about how the gravity of the message could help illustrate—well not illustrate because the arts would not exist—how the arts are present all around us. Read the rest of this entry »

Inspiring College Student Engagement in the Arts

Posted by Maria Fumai Dietrich On April - 17 - 2014
Maria Fumai Dietrich

Maria Fumai Dietrich

As a university advisory to about 50 student performing and visual arts groups, I see firsthand the impact extra-curricular programs and elective coursework in the arts make on student’s professional and personal development.  The majority of the hundreds of students served through Platt Student Performing Arts House at The University of Pennsylvania will not pursue careers in the arts sector.  However, it is this population of arts appreciators who will support local theater, participate in book clubs, donate to after school arts programs, and so forth after graduation.  As a sector, we need to creatively engage the extra-curricular art lovers while they are young so as to ensure strong audiences in the future.

Institutions of higher education, arts and culture organizations, and all levels of government share the responsibility of engaging extra-curricular art lovers.  Within the last year alone, Philadelphia has seen strong development in the quantity of organizations taking this responsibility seriously with quality programming. This recent uptick in engaging programming is a sign that organizations recognize the long-lasting value of building relationships between arts and culture communities and college students (regardless of whether or not their academic pursuits are arts-related). Read the rest of this entry »

Whole Educators: A New Model for Teacher Professional Development

Posted by Molly Uline-Olmstead On April - 16 - 2014
Molly Uline-Olmstread

Molly Uline-Olmstread

Museums go with schools like peanut butter goes with jelly. It is a beautiful symbiotic relationship built on a variety of interactions including field trips, distance learning, traveling artifact programs, and teacher professional development. While I have worked with all of these programs in the past, I have been living in the teacher professional development neighborhood of the museum world since 2009. I work with K-16 teachers and other museum educators on projects meant to support and enhance teaching in the humanities through my job with the Creative Learning Factory at the Ohio Historical Society (the Factory).

Lately in conversations with teachers and museum colleagues, we have been talking less about content and more about learning. We have been asking the question, “How do we make learning an inextricable part of life?” Educators in formal and informal learning environments are bombarded with resources, regulations, and tremendous responsibilities. We struggle to find balance and time for exploration and reflection amid testing, lesson planning, and classroom management. Peter D. John articulates this frustration well in his 2006 article about non-traditional lesson planning, “The model of planning and teaching represented in this minimalist conception develops as follows: aim > input > task > feedback > evaluation. It reflects an approach to teaching and learning wherein reflection and exploration are at worst luxuries, not to be afforded, and at best minor spin-offs, to be accommodated.”  As cultural organizations, we are in that unique “third space,” which allows us to facilitate those crucial habits-of-mind that lead to life-long learning. I think of this as looking at the “whole educator” in the same way the education field has championed the “whole child.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Cost of Creativity

Posted by Teresa Hichens Olson On April - 15 - 2014
Teresa Hichens Olson & students

Teresa Hichens Olson & students

My morning has been spent with 26 third graders mummifying Barbies, writing in hieroglyphics, and learning about ratios in relation to an ancient Egyptian cure for stomachaches. (The cure, by the way, is a mixture of garlic and honey, which produces enzymes in the body to reduce acid. A cool fact no matter how old you are.)

I start each class, as I always do, with four words: I am an artist. And my goal each day, no matter which classroom I’m in or age group I’m working with, is to show each student that they are artists as well–which may seem a bit idealistic or naïve, but after 22 years of teaching, I’ve found it always to be true, because the definition of art for me is wide.

My favorite type of student is the Hater. The one who says he or she hates art, followed by either a wonderful eye roll or guttural groan.  It is this child who was taught early on that art is a flat thing which doesn’t break rules, that has to behave a certain way and is only good if the person standing in the front of the room says it’s good. We’ve all been in that class. And it isn’t the kind of art that builds bridges between creative thinking, innovation, and science. Art can be dangerous. And, I would argue, it needs to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

Funding Arts Education One Vans Custom Culture Sneaker at a Time

Posted by Jessica Wilt On April - 11 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vans Custom Culture Brand Marketing Manager Scott Byrer on a cold day in New York City to enthusiastically talk about the exciting ways Vans Custom Culture supports arts education in addition to the company’s thriving partnership with Americans for the Arts.  I loved the excitement in which Scott spoke about his passion for arts education.  Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

JW: I’d like to know more about the history of Vans and how the founders were inspired to launch a sneaker company.

SB: Vans was founded in 1966 by Paul and James Van Doren, Serge Delia and Gordon Lee. The company started small, with one store originally selling shoes directly to the public. In those days, customers were able to walk into a store and select their own custom shoe colors! This originality and creativity has remained an integral part of the Vans brand DNA to this day. The company grew quickly, being the first shoe brand to create a product specifically for skateboarding and as such, we’re known today as the original action sports footwear and apparel company, with collections including authentic footwear, apparel, accessories and snowboard boots that are sold globally in more than 170 countries. If you’re curious to see a visual story about the history of Vans, you can check out a video our production team created on our Off the Wall TV site.

4th Annual VANS Custom Culture, Hosted at THE WHITNEYJW: Can you tell me a little about how Van Custom Culture decided to start supporting high school arts education programs throughout the U.S.?

SB: Vans Custom Culture began as a much smaller project lead by a high school art teacher in Colorado, Franky Scaglione, and his best friend, Shawn Gruenhagen, who is a sales rep for Vans. The competition was originally held between classmates at Wheat Ridge High School in Denver who customized blank Vans shoes that Shawn brought them. It morphed into a larger, national high school art competition once Shawn brought the idea back to the Vans marketing team at our headquarters in Southern California. Using Franky and Shawn’s original concept of a competition around custom shoes, we launched the first national edition of Custom Culture in 2010. The goals of the program were the same then as they are now.  First, give high school students a chance to express themselves creatively. Second, put some much needed funds back into the hands of high school art programs. Third, create a platform to raise awareness for the importance of art education in our schools.

JW: And to think the inspiration came from an art teacher – I love that story! How does the competition work today?

SB: The competition structure is fairly simple. The first 2,000 U.S. based public or private high schools to register for Custom Culture receive four pairs of Vans shoes (106, Sk8-Hi, Slip On and Authentic) to customize completely free of charge. Each pair is then customized by students to represent one of four themes: Action Sports, Music, Art, and Local Flavor. Photo submissions are made online via the Vans Custom Culture website (Due April 7, 2014) after which an internal selection and external public vote whittles the entries down to a group of five finalists who travel to New York City for the Final Event. At this event, a panel of judges selects a grand prize winning school, which receives a $50,000 prize donation to its art program. Each of the four runners up also receive donations, along with two additional $10,000 donations awarded on behalf of our program partners, Journeys and truth, to two other finalist schools.

JW: How has your partnership with Americans for the Arts enhanced this Vans Custom Culture arts education funding program?

SB: Americans for the Arts established itself long ago as a leader in the effort to drive awareness for the importance of the arts and particularly art education in our schools. Since we began Custom Culture with the goal of raising awareness for the importance of art education, we knew that guidance from experts was necessary, leading us to partner with AFTA nearly two years ago. Their guidance has a allowed us to make an even greater impact via a $50,000 donation that AFTA then distributes amongst high schools via grants. Additionally, AFTA uses part of this donation to create educational materials distributed to various schools and community organizations.Vans Custom Culture Contest Final Event

JW: How does technology play a role in the work you do as well as how your colleagues at Vans collaborate?

SB: Technology is vital to nearly everything we do at Vans, from design to production to distribution and marketing. For Custom Culture in particular, members of a large cross functional team from various departments devote their time and energy to plan and execute this huge competition yearly, each of them relying on tech in one capacity or another. For instance, our in-house video production team uses state of the art technology to shoot, edit and produce video content that tells the story of Custom Culture. These videos are uploaded and shared to multiple interactive platforms online which are created and maintained by a team of web developers and interactive/digital managers that literally build our sites and social presences from scratch. Another great example is our visual team, who’s tasked with creating an incredible experience for students at our final event in June. This experience is planned via sophisticated 3D models which allow our team to visually transform the interior of our venue and throw an amazing party that the students remember forever. Lastly, our footwear design team works directly with the winning school’s students to take their shoe design and turn it into an actual production model that is then sold in Vans retail stores and online. Our entire employee base, regardless of whether or not they work on Custom Culture, is tasked with thinking creatively and many of us have an art education background or were inspired by an art teacher or class at some point. Custom Culture is meant to be a way for us to give that experience to students who may not be able to experience quality art education themselves.

JW: How does this work environment translate into inspiring young people to explore creative careers?

SB: Our work environment is incredibly creative. The mantra we live by daily at Vans is “Off The Wall” which directly translates to thinking and living creatively. Through programs like Custom Culture, we try to expose young people to the fact that creative careers exist and one need only look as far as the halls of Vans HQ to prove that.

JW: What’s your favorite pair of Vans shoes that you own?

SB: I’ve been wearing Authentics and Old Skools for years. There’s no substitute for a pair of original canvas Authentics!

Measures of Success – When You’ve Reached Your Mark

Posted by Janet Starke On April - 9 - 2014
Janet Starke

Janet Starke

We have spoken a lot in recent years about increasing access to the arts—both in the schools and in the greater community. The definition of and measurement of success in access is varied, often depending upon the school system, the community, its existing resources, socio-demographics, and other characteristics. Differing communities necessitate differing metrics. Metrics that should sometimes be flexible.

Richmond CenterStage opened nearly five years ago, with an institutional goal of increasing access to the arts for children and the community-at-large. We are home to nine resident companies that include Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, Elegba Folklore Society, SPARC (School for the Performing Arts for the Richmond Community), Henley Street Theatre/Richmond Shakespeare, African American Repertory Theatre and Virginia Repertory Theatre. Collectively, these organizations perform at CenterStage and other venues (including their own) throughout our region. Read the rest of this entry »

Access and Community Based Arts Education – Building a Bridge

Posted by Kelby McIntyre-Martinez On April - 2 - 2014
Kelby McIntyre Martinez

Kelby McIntyre Martinez

We dance, sing, and tell stories too, you know? And we are pretty good at it,” Merlene age 12 at the time, informed me as I was finishing up my theatre and dance class with the middle school boys. From that point on, the Theatre and Dance Education Program at the Hartland Partnership Center took off.

My name is Kelby McIntyre-Martinez and I am the Director of the Theatre and Dance Education Program at the University of Utah Hartland Partnership Center in Salt Lake City.  Since 2008, I have had the privilege of working with an amazingly diverse population that encompasses non-native English speaking youth from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.

The Hartland Partnership Center is part of an expanded effort by the University of Utah toward civic engagement—a recognition that active collaboration between University and community groups can enhance learning, teaching, and research. In addition, University/community partnerships bring the strength of combined resources to bear on urban issues. The key to Hartland Partnership Center’s success is sustainability and reciprocity. This model works because the resources fit the reality and a culture of reciprocal sharing and learning permeates the center. The mission of the Hartland Partnership Center provides space for a broad range of campus-community partnership activities. Bringing these activities to Hartland residents helps equip them with all the tools and resources needed to more fully participate in the broader Salt Lake community, including the performing arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Cutting Arts Education is a Form of Identity Theft

Posted by Matt D'Arrigo On March - 21 - 2014
Matt D'Arrigo

Matt D’Arrigo

The arts are powerful because they provide us with, and help us to create, our identities – who we truly are. The two ultimate questions we have in life are: who am I and why am I here? If you find the answer to the first, it will help lead you to the answer to the second. Identity provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose.

It was in art that I found my own identity. I was in sixth grade and had always really struggled in school. I was lost and confused and thought I was a failure; my self-esteem and confidence were extremely low. Back then there weren’t a lot of diagnosis like ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities. I was diagnosed as being lazy and a troublemaker…and they probably had a pretty good case against me. Then my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson, said four words that changed my life. We were doing an art lesson and she came up behind me, looked at my picture and said “Wow, that’s really great”! The other students gathered around and shared her enthusiasm. All of a sudden I wasn’t a failure anymore…I was an artist. I had an identity! I’ve carried that identity and confidence with me to this very day, it’s made me who I am. Read the rest of this entry »

Coincidental Advocacy: When the Nation’s Mayors Come to Town

Posted by Jay Dick On March - 19 - 2014
Jay Dick and Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Jay Dick and Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Each January, The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) hosts its winter meeting in Washington, DC.  This meeting is attended by around 500 of the nation’s mayors who represent cities with a population of more than 30,000.  Americans for the Arts has partnered with the USCM for over 20 years and presents our Public Leadership in the Arts Awards at a breakfast plenary session. This year, we honored Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Akron, OH Mayor Don Plusquellic, and Dubuque, IA Mayor Roy Buol. Americans for the Arts also honors an artist who has promoted the arts and arts education through their body of work.  This year, we honored actress Fran Drescher for her work in promoting the arts over her career. If you would like to see past awardees, please check out our public leadership in the arts pages.

The USCM meeting always hosts a variety of high level elected and appointed officials.  This year, nine cabinet secretaries spoke at USCM meeting while President Obama hosted the mayors at the White House. I had the luck to end up sitting next to Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the USCM Education Committee meeting.  I was able to thank him for his support of arts in education and his department’s model grant program. While Secretary Duncan is certainly familiar with Americans for the Arts, it is events like this, at the USCM where people like Secretary Duncan do not expect to see us, but when they do, our presence and words carry even more meaning and importance given the nature of the meeting and those who are attending.

So, whether you are in DC, or in your local supermarket, always be prepared with your elevator speech on why the arts and arts education must be supported as you never know when you might have the chance to educate one of your elected officials.