Susan Riley

When was the last time that you listened to or watched The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? The tale of the inquisitive, bold, and dare I say “sneaky” apprentice who tempts fate by trying his own hand at magic is one that all of us can appreciate on some level.

After all, as educators and arts advocates, creating magic is inherent to our craft. Yet, as the apprentice discovers to his dismay, trying to replicate magic from a common book of spells without the understanding of the processes that weave the spells together only ends in disaster.

In terms of our current educational movement, I’m going to make a bold statement: it is time to transform knowledge into intentional practices. This is at the heart of the Common Core State Standards. Each of the skills that are identified are built upon embedded practices that have been woven in and through the Standards at all levels. How better to address those practices than through the arts? After all, the arts are built upon a foundation of processes that transform into innovative works and products. You cannot perform a choral piece or premiere a piece of work at an exhibition without both mastery of the skills of that art form and an understanding of the processes that provide structure to the art itself.

The Common Core Standards place value in the “and” of the teaching and learning process: students must master the skills and demonstrate understanding of the processes that support those skills. This is the magical place where knowledge is transformed into practice. Yet, it is difficult for teachers, administrators and even artists to translate that into their everyday teaching. How does this happen? Where is the link between the spells in the book and the actual magic that is produced?

The key here is the practices themselves. The Common Core Math Standards, for instance, are based upon the 16 Habits of Mind and have a group of 8 Mathematical Practices that are woven into each grade level. While the skills standards change for every grade, the eight practices are the glue that holds the skills together. This is difficult for many teachers to interpret and weave into their instruction. They have become so used to “teaching to the test” that they have forgotten the craft of teaching itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Integration + Common Core = Students Prepared for the 21st Century

Posted by Maria Barbosa On September - 11 - 2012

Maria Barbosa

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have arrived! At this very moment, educators in 48 states plus the District of Columbia are adjusting their activities to the new standards. But how do those new standards prepare students to cope with or to generate the innovations of the 21st century?

The CCSS attention to English Language Arts and Mathematics suggests that, to be career and college ready, today’s students must demonstrate a strong grasp of those subjects. The CCSS will be periodically reviewed and updated to fit future needs, and so it is important that we keep track of developments. Furthermore, alongside whatever CCSS iteration, we need to prepare students to be creative, flexible, and adaptable to the unforeseen contexts of a fast moving 21st Century.

Recently, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) published the P21 Common Core Toolkit in an effort to align the CCSS to the increasing necessity for helping our students develop complex thinking skills. P21 calls on educators to incorporate skills such as creativity, flexibility, adaptability, global, and cultural awareness in curricula and assessments. Since the CCSS do not prescribe ways to teach, the toolkit also proposes that educators engage students in inquiry and exploration of real world problems and interdisciplinary performance tasks.

Arts integration is a teaching approach that addresses the concerns raised in the P21 Common Core Toolkit. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Changing Education through the Arts (CETA) Program define arts integration as “…an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process that connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.”

In the arts integrated classroom, students make use of background knowledge, investigation, and experimentation to perform tasks that involve both standards in the arts form and in another core subject. Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, flexibility and adaptability, some of the skills described as central to success in the 21st century, are integral to the arts initegration pedagogy. Read the rest of this entry »

How the Arts Can Lead in Implementing the Common Core

Posted by Sarah Zuckerman On September - 10 - 2012

Sarah Zuckerman

“To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative. The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Re-Investing Through Arts Education:Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.

The nation has deemed that learning in and through the arts is critical for the success of all students. This positions arts educators to take a leadership role in implementing what the Common Core means for learning. The arts are different than other subjects; this is what fosters innovative, creative, and critical thinkers. The Common Core opens a door for leadership, an opportunity for the best arts educators to model what teaching and learning should look like across the curriculum…are we ready for the challenge?

What do the arts do, exactly? How does this align with the Common Core?

How the arts progress student learning is too complex for one blog entry. However, I would like to draw attention to a few ways that arts-based learning models the English Language Arts/Literacy instructional shifts of the new standards.

1.  Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
In arts classrooms that employ reading across the curriculum, this happens quite naturally. Whether we are reading a critique of an artist’s work or reading about the cultural context of a genre of work, art history, aesthetics, and critique all are grounded in content-rich nonfiction. Content-rich nonfiction media in the arts abound for every age from preschool to adult.

2.  Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
The way a careful observer draws on evidence to interpret an image or production parallels the processes employed when a strong reader makes meaning from a text. Arts teachers require students to find evidence for their interpretations by asking, “What in the work made you say that?”, part of the visual thinking strategy used by many teachers. This focus on evidence is the basis of learning how to view art or performance, as it is learning how to read a text.

3.  Regular practice with complex text and its academic language
In an art museum there is no “Third Grade Gallery” or “High School Wing,” nor do we only show children theatre performances limited by reading level. To quote Steve Seidel, head of the Arts in Education Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, “The very notion of theatre, of rehearsal, is the close examination of a text.” In the arts, students routinely confront images, lines in a script, etc., that need much more than a glance (or quick read) to understand. The arts train students to make meaning of complex works, the same ability that higher levels of text complexity demand. With the right scaffolding and time allotment, such work becomes accessible to all learners. Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

The old saying goes, “The only thing constant in life is change.” And with the current pace of change in the workplace, there is a demand for businesses to be ready for anything and everything. In order for business leaders to thrive in today’s market, they must be receptive, responsive, and adaptive. But how can business leaders prepare themselves for the unexpected?

Frank J. Barrett, professor of management and global public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, suggests that business leaders take a cue from jazz musicians and practice improvisation.

In his article featured in Fast Company, Barrett explains how the skills jazz musicians develop while improvising can also be helpful working in the office. Through improvisation, one nurtures spontaneity, cultivates creativity, encourages experimentation, and facilitates dynamic synchronization—all traits that are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. By harnessing these qualities, businesses will be better equipped to tackle challenges that come their way.

Barrett proposes the following practices to help business leaders replicate the environment of a jazz band jam session:

Treat each task as an experiment

Every time a jazz musician improvises with a band, he/she tries different combinations of notes and rhythms over the chord changes of a song. As the musician performs, he or she is aware of his or her actions, listens to what works musically, and is receptive to others’ responses. Each spontaneous composition, therefore, becomes a learning process.

By adopting this experimental approach for the office, Barrett believes you will obtain a mindset focused on discovery. Because you are constantly proposing new ideas and testing new hypotheses, you are more receptive to different ways of thinking and encourage breaking the routine. By consistently approaching projects through this process of trial and error, you become more aware of yourself and your own experiences, and you consequently learn more. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Johnson

In Iowa’s Creative Corridor, we are fortunate to enjoy an excellent quality of life. That is largely due to the abundance of arts and culture in our community.

Nestled in America’s Heartland, Iowa’s Creative Corridor is the region along I-380 in east central Iowa including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and more than two dozen other municipalities. The Corridor is home to hundreds of arts organizations, multiple higher education facilities, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies, and more than a dozen international organizations.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor brings innovation to the world through a unique fusion of art, science, and technology. Examples range from artistic endeavors like the world-famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has resulted in 28 Pulitzer Prizes, to Rockwell Collins, a company that supplies the nation with aviation and information technology systems for defense and commercial avionics markets.

We live in a global economy where creativity is a key driver. The ability to attract and retain skilled employees is a central issue for businesses today. An increasing number of people choose where they want to live first and find a job in that area. Quality of life has never been so important to attracting talent, and the arts are significant to creating a quality of life that people seek out. In addition, the arts support inclusion in our communities by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for shared experiences and by celebrating what makes us each unique and different.

Representing more than 150 arts organizations, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance (ICCA) nurtures a sustainable cultural community in Iowa’s Creative Corridor through advocacy, promotion, professional development, and raising awareness of arts and culture opportunities. In a region with a spirit of creative innovation, ICCA works to foster collaboration within the arts community, as well as between arts organizations and the business community. Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

So, an artist walks into an office…

I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But many artists start their careers or support themselves by taking “day jobs.” Andy Warhol worked in advertising. Modest Mussorgsky was a civil servant. Franz Kafka investigated personal injury cases for an insurance company. But is an artist in the office one of life’s small cruelties? Not necessarily.

A recent article featured in The Globe and Mail suggests that businesses looking to become innovators might want to consider hiring artists over those with more traditional business degrees.

Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift in the business landscape. Due to the current economic climate and the rapid advancement of technology, businesses are focused on working smarter through innovation. In fact, according to IBM’s 2012 CEO Study, 61 percent of CEOs identify creativity as a key driver of employee success in operating in a more complex, interconnected environment.

Considering the importance of thinking outside the box, bringing artists into the workplace seems like a natural choice. But how well are artists able to translate their artistic skills and sensibility into a corporate environment?

The Globe and Mail article highlights two Canadian businesses:

David Dobson, the director of business development for StarFish Medical, believes that art school gave him a simple business edge: it changed the way he thinks. Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Adlers

It is no surprise to anyone working in the arts and culture sector that arts organizations all around the world are consistently challenged with the task of securing new and diverse sources of funding in order to keep their lights on while fulfilling their artistic mandates. Businesses receive hundreds of requests every week from the arts sector.

Although many decision-makers in the corporate world recognize the value of the arts in the community, they are inundated with cookie-cutter, standard template proposals which are primarily focused on the needs of the arts organization, and not on how they can partner in a creative way with the businesses they are approaching.

My own conversations with executives from the corporate sector across Canada reveal that businesses which are considering supporting the arts expect to receive innovative sponsorship proposals. They are looking for creative synergies which stand apart from the pile of requests they receive every day. They expect a well-researched, professional business approach demonstrating a solid return on investment for their company, whether this means engaging their clients and employees at an event, reaching new audiences, or raising the profile of their company by being aligned with an innovative arts organization or project.

Logo recognition and tickets to events are a given, but in terms of sponsorship benefits, they are standard practice and old news. Businesses are looking for the imaginative, clever new idea which will bring them recognition as a supporter of the arts.

In Canada, our answer to these challenges is artsVest™, a unique program of Business for the Arts which combines in-depth training in sponsorship development with a matching incentive grant and a toolkit for securing and sustaining successful new partnerships, and brings local arts and businesses together at special events. Read the rest of this entry »

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

Culture equals jobs. This was the theme of the 2012 World Cultural Economic Forum hosted by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is one of the most enlightened and empowered elected leaders that this nation has ever seen regarding strategically investing in his city’s cultural economy in order to move it forward.

As chief counsel of government and public affairs at Americans for the Arts, I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing it was to be at a two-day conference filled with elected officials and diplomats from around the world, focused exclusively on how these leaders are incorporating public policies to showcase the arts and culture for both its social and economic powers.

Mayor Landrieu did an amazing job of showcasing New Orleans’ investment in arts education to develop the next generation of culture workers; its investment in building local film and recording studios, performance centers, and clubs to attract current culture workers; its investment in tax credits for both film production and post-production editing, marketing, gaming, and software to attract culture businesses; and its investment in tourism marketing and branding initiatives, such as JazzFest, to attract out-of-town visitors, especially from abroad, in order to grower larger audiences for its cultural industries. You can catch up on more news about the forum on Twitter by searching #WCEF.

Below is an excerpt of Mayor Landrieu’s opening address at the 2012 World Cultural Economic Forum:

“Recently, the world has seen dramatic changes in political, social, and cultural landscapes. These changes have been fueled not only by political and economic factors, but also by social and cultural issues. Read the rest of this entry »

How Art Can Strengthen Evaluation

Posted by Renan Snowden On May - 4 - 2012

Renan Snowden

Let’s be honest: sometimes evaluation can feel like taking medicine. What’s more, the results of evaluation often take the form of dry reports that are unwelcoming and, at worst, hard to penetrate. But evaluation doesn’t have to be this way.

Evaluation can be a useful and engaging process that incorporates creativity and participation to help an organization learn how it can more effectively reach its goals. Evaluation presents an opportunity for arts organizations to demonstrate the impact they are making in their communities. Incorporating artistic practice and a combination of narrative documentation and compelling graphics can make evaluation interesting and build off of an arts organization’s existing skill set.

Artists and arts organizations have an advantage with evaluation: you want it to be a creative process. Right now, some arts organizations are taking the lead in including drawing, storytelling, and graphic design as part of their evaluation process and reporting.

By making evaluation a creative and dynamic process, these organizations are helping make assessment more attractive to practitioners by showing that evaluation can build off the work your organization already has expertise in.

As a graduate student in urban planning, I’m interested in ways that the arts can help create shared spaces for community development. Writing short summaries of the in-depth resources available on the Animating Democracy website as the spring IMPACT intern, I began to notice that some of the best case studies of measuring the impact of social change incorporated the arts as part of the evaluation process. These innovative approaches to evaluation are facilitating new ways of evaluation that emphasize experience and engagement as key components of evaluation. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts: The Mother of Invention (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Janet Langsam On May - 3 - 2012

Janet Langsam

Every morning, I turn on the treadmill, tune into the Today Show and run until I bank 150 calories to earn a glass of Chardonnay at the end of the day.

Matt Lauer and the NBC crew are usually just eye candy and background chatter, but [April 25] they hit a nerve talking about college degrees that may be “useless” like “fine arts, drama, philosophy, religious studies,” when it comes to getting a job. Lauer quoted a recent poll that said that one out of two recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed.

Donny Deutsch, one of the Today panelists said, “I never looked at a (college) major in my life in hiring people.”

And a good thing too since the National Arts Index published by the advocacy organization Americans for the Arts, indicates that interest in the arts as a college major is growing. It says that from 1996–2010 more than 1.5 million degrees were awarded in visual and performing arts, with annual graduations growing steadily from 75,000 to 129,000—an increase of 73 percent.

Could all these college bound kids be wasting their time? Read the rest of this entry »

Marty Pottenger

Art At Work

Recently, I found myself sitting in a circle in Portland, ME, leading a group that includes the city manager, police chief, a leader in the Occupy Maine movement, one of the founders of Portland’s NAACP, leaders from the Sudanese and Congolese refugee communities, the president of a city union (CEBA), and a doctor active in public health, among others. The members of this group are impressive and diverse, but what we are sharing is more so.

In only seven minutes, 20 city and community leaders composed poems that draw upon their personal histories, the history of Portland, and those things they have witnessed in this place we all call home.

Increasing the Odds

All of Art At Work’s projects are designed to increase the odds that Portland and their partner cities (Holyoke, Northampton, and Providence in 2012), launch their own Art At Work will be better able to turn anticipated social and economic crises into opportunities by integrating creative engagement in their ‘way of doing business.’

This workshop was a part of Portland Works, another one of our experiments in figuring out how to harness the transformative power of art to achieve concrete community-based outcomes. These workshops bring together community and city leaders to create a dialogue and increase understanding between individuals and groups that often see one another as obstacles as opposed to allies. “It’s just brilliant,” says Mike Miles, the City of Portland’s director of human resources, “using art to break conceptions about who people are and what people do.”

Art At Work, of which Portland Works is just one part, is designed to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects involving city employees, elected officials, community leaders, and local artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning That Gets You New Partners (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Robb Hankins On April - 27 - 2012

Robb Hankins

Most community leaders don’t think about the arts much and most don’t really believe there is a link between arts and economic development.

I try to change that by hosting my own arts and economic development planning process, but I do it on a shoe string—quick, dirty, and cheap. It’s exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last year we started 20/20 Vision—the ten year plan for arts and economic development. On March 20, 2012 we unveiled our ten strategies: five community strategies and five county-wide.

20/20 Vision has already dramatically changed the landscape for the arts in Stark County (Ohio). We have new partners (and new dollars) available for the arts from places we’d never touched before.

Business leaders like Robert Timkin, managing director of Cormony Development, are leading the effort by planning to increase creativity and innovation in business through arts-based workshops, and increase cultural tourism by creating a marketing partnership between five major nonprofit tourism attractions in downtown Canton.

This strategic marketing partnership hopes to dramatically increase the number of visitors and increase overnight stays, as well as create day trip opportunities for arts destinations throughout the rest of the county.

Here’s the quick story on how we did it: Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Advocacy Day from a Newcomer’s Point of View

Posted by Candy Nguyen Smirnow On April - 20 - 2012

Candy Nguyen Smirnow

I came to Arts Advocacy Day for the first time this year not knowing exactly what to expect.

I’ve never considered myself a political person. I rarely sign petitions and have never campaigned for any one organization or candidate. I’ve just always been very passive when it came to politics, most certainly because of my Gen X mentality.

So, when my boss asked me to join her I was hesitant, wondering does my voice really matter? But, I’ve learned a lot in the business world, and one of those things is never to pass up an opportunity to learn something new. So, I quickly reconsidered the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill.

As I walked into day one, I was amazed by the congregation of over 500 advocates. I was especially surprised by the number of young people who were participating.

When I was their age, I would’ve never even considered joining something like Arts Advocacy Day. I grew up in the public education system in Southern California, which unfortunately did not have much of an arts-infused curriculum.

In elementary school we had a “music cart,” where once a week Mr. Nelson would roll into the classroom with his keyboard and pass out the maracas and tambourines. It was everyone’s favorite day of class, but unfortunately it didn’t come quite often enough. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Economy

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 6 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

Thinking about the economy can be rather depressing. For many people, it can seem like a volatile god: a mysterious force that affects everything and we mere mortals have no control over its whims.

Let’s start with a basic idea of what I mean when I write about “the economy.”

Economic analysis is often an attempt to make the complex world of interconnectedness more comprehensible by quantifying everything, usually through monetization. In other words, the world is complicated so we make charts.

The “economy” is everything that happens. Economics is a (left-brained) method of analyzing everything that happens, and it’s mostly focused on measuring everything in dollars and euros.

This focus on monetization is problematic for the arts because the value of artistic products is not always calculable by how much it cost to make them or by how much people are willing to pay for them. In fact, we often strive for the opposite—to give away the arts for free and know that they are priceless.

The subversive tack accepts economics for the way it is and uses the system to our advantage. In order to do that, we need to know the basic principles and be able to speak the lingo: quantification.

The arts sector is getting much better at quantifying the value and impact of the arts. Here are three great examples:

I took my first economics class in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, the heart of economics can be summed up in a phrase: “supply and demand.” This is something we already understand in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Education

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 5 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

The realm of combining arts and education is vast. I do not intend to address this vast landscape in a modest 600 words. However, I will highlight two of my favorite approaches to arts + education in the Los Angeles area.

Inner-City Arts (ICA) offers a variety of programs—school field trips, afterschool and weekend workshops, teacher training, programs for parents—to give children in one of the nation’s poorest areas opportunities for skill-building, artistic expression, and a safe environment.

ICA backs up its work with phenomenal statistics and partners with UCLA, Harvard, and the Department of Education to publish research that others can leverage. In addition to their excellent work and partnerships, the stories from Inner-City Arts are a never-ending source of inspiration.

Arts for All is the mothership for organizing sequential K–12 arts education in Los Angeles County and our 81 school districts. (Yes, eighty-one.) More than half of these districts have signed on since 2003. In addition to providing half a million students with arts education, the organizations backing Arts for All actually agreed on a definition of “quality arts education”.

Despite amazing organizations like Inner-City Arts and herculean efforts like Arts for All, we’re still fighting for the arts’ righteous place in society and education. We do have reason for cautious optimism, though. The #1 most-watched TED talk is Sir Ken Robinson talking about the faults of linear-based education, a product of the industrial revolution. He illustrates his point with the story of a dancer, which gets us artsy types all atwitter. Read the rest of this entry »