Clay Lord

Clay Lord

The pursuit of forward progress in issues of diversity, access, and equity in the arts in America is a difficult and frustrating business. A conversation that starts with, say, a lack of racial diversity on an organization’s staff can quickly move from hiring practices to a perceived lack of qualified candidates of color in the pool, to a discussion of the systemic devaluation of the arts as a career option in certain populations, which may or may not stem from systemic inequalities in the American education system surrounding arts education, which in turn is representative of a society built from bottom to top on the creation of privileged class predominantly defined by the unequal distribution of wealth and access to opportunity across hundreds of years and dozens of generations. And suddenly you aren’t talking about a problem you can do anything about, and you feel either overwhelmed or off the hook. What can I do about that, anyway? Read the rest of this entry »

Questions to Ask Before Addressing Scale

Posted by Judi Jennings On December - 5 - 2012

Judi Jennings

Does size matter? Of course it does. But is this the right question to ask first?

How about approaching the question of size by first asking how arts, culture, and philanthropy advance positive social change? And how does size relate to equity?

Size matters locally and globally, but arts and culture drive change regardless of the size. Maria Rosario Jackson’s recent report on Developing Artist-Driven Spaces in Marginalized Communities convincingly argues that arts and culture create community identity, stimulate civic engagement, and affect neighborhood economies directly and indirectly.

Writer and cultural organizer Jeff Chang argues that “where culture leads, politics will follow” on national and international issues.

As a place-based grantmaker, my theory of change is that local people make the most appropriate and lasting advancements when they have the necessary tools and resources.

Allied Media Projects (AMP) in Detroit is a great example of place-based social change. AMP argues that “place is important” and “Detroit is a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions.”

Honoring local culture does not mean working in isolation. MicroFest USA, for example, led by the Network of Ensemble Theatres, is looking at how art and culture can create healthy communities in Detroit, Appalachia, New Orleans, and Hawaii. The idea is that performance-based learning exchanges like this can connect artists, activists, cultural workers, and thinkers working locally and nationally. Read the rest of this entry »

Social Inequity and the Unpaid Intern

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On April - 4 - 2012

Gregory Burbidge

In writing about innovation and arts sector reform, Diane Ragsdale issued a call to action urging all of us to “actively address the social inequities in our country.”

Typically, my initial response to such a call would be something like, “let’s make sure that low-income neighborhood schools have the arts!”

I could then write some letters, “call city hall,” or contact members of the school board. None of those actions would require any substantial change in my conceptual frameworks or daily habits.

While committed to the goal, my efforts would be undertaken with a feeling that they would accomplish little. I am also aware that I may prefer such predictable actions not because they produce results but because they are, well, easy. Maybe that’s just me.

The Emerging Arts Leaders of Atlanta Network hosts regular events, often with one speaker or a panel of speakers.

Last summer, at one such meeting, I heard all sorts of great things about a particular internship program. That same meeting raised the issue about labor laws requiring that unpaid interns are not do work that someone else would otherwise be paid to do. I thought I might put together a panel with some interns who were willing to talk about their experience along with the people who run that intern program and a human resources professional to clarify legal mumbo jumbo. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years Later: A Puzzling Picture of Arts Education in America

Posted by Narric Rome On April - 2 - 2012

Narric Rome

On April 2, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a study glamorously entitled Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 1999-2000 and 2009-10.

The surveys that contributed to this report were conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), mailed to about 3,400 elementary and secondary school principals and approximately 5,000 music and visual arts teachers.

National arts education leaders, through policy statements, have been calling for this study to be administered for many years, and helped to direct specific funding from Congress to make it possible.

Ten years is a long time to wait for a federal study to be published and finally it has arrived!

This report presents information on the availability and characteristics of arts education programs of those surveyed, broken down by discipline (music, visual arts, dance, and theatre).

  • It indicates that while music and visual art are widely available in some form, six percent of the nation’s public elementary schools offer no specific instruction in music, and 17 percent offer no specific instruction in the visual arts.
  • Nine percent of public secondary schools reported that they did not offer music, and 11 percent did not offer the visual arts.
  • Only three percent offer any specific dance instruction and only four percent offer any specific theatre instruction in elementary schools. In secondary schools the numbers improve somewhat as 12 percent offer dance and 45 percent offer theatre. Sadly, the study was unable to survey dance and theatre specialists because the data sample didn’t have sufficient contact information in those disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

The Parallels of Quality Dining and Quality Arts Education

Posted by Jennifer Bransom On March - 12 - 2012

Jennifer Bransom

First, let me confess that I’m trapped on a plane and hungry. I’m dreaming of a great dinner and hoping I can get a recommendation when my plane touches down.

What does this have to do with quality arts education? Well, I’m hoping for a quality dining experience and here is how I imagine I’ll find it.

I’ll ask someone for a recommendation, and she’ll say, “Oh you should try (insert name of restaurant).” This begins a conversation that will teach me why this particular restaurant is being recommended. Is it because of the food, maybe even a particular menu item, or did my friend/cabbie also factor in service, ambiance, speed, cost, etc.?

A quality dining experience means different things to different people. Why should it be any different when we discuss quality arts education?

As I mentioned, and you’ve no doubt experienced, the question, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” is the beginning of a conversation. By listening and asking questions about what is being recommended and why it is better than some other restaurant, I get to know the person offering the suggestion and what she values.

Often (though not always) I feel that we, as arts educators, shy away from similar conversations about quality within our field. If you came to Dallas and asked me to recommend a restaurant, I’d definitely share some of my favorite places. And, it wouldn’t scar me for life if you disagreed with or didn’t visit any of my offerings. I know not everyone has the same tastes. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop the Patchwork (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On January - 25 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

Our patchwork approach to providing arts education has gotta stop!

I recently read an article about a school that won a $25,000 contest by HGTV to redesign their arts room, and it actually left me upset. Why, you ask?

The short answer? I’m tired of the band-aid approach. The stop gap measures.

It’s the same reason I had to stop watching Oprah’s Favorite Things and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. For every deserving person that is honored on these shows, I know someone who is just as needy and just as deserving.

As I watched the following video about makeovers, I couldn’t help but wonder if that money could be put to better use:

What would I do with $25,000? Read the rest of this entry »

Is Equity the Antithesis of Diversity? (or Why Everyone Needs an IEP)

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On January - 13 - 2012
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

While facilitating a panel recently, the need for one-on-one attention to help students achieve their personal goals came up.

This got me thinking about IEP’s (Individualized Education Programs). An IEP is developed to meet the unique educational needs of an individual student who may have a disability.

Here’s my thought: Don’t we all need an IEP?

I don’t mean to downplay the critical importance of IEP’s for students with disabilities (in fact, IEP’s are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act), but to acknowledge that what works for one student, regardless of their disability status, may not work for the next.

We all have unique educational needs.

As an adult, I fill out a yearly self-evaluation, detailing my goals for the next year and my plan to achieve them. I work closely with my supervisor to make sure I include her feedback, but my self-knowledge is the driving factor in developing the plan. Together, we create an IEP for my professional development. At the end of the year, I identify areas that need continued improvement and go forward from there.

Isn’t this the kind of reflective goal-setting that encourages students to take responsibility for their education? Read the rest of this entry »

Change: Another Thought

Posted by John L. Moore On August - 18 - 2011

John L. Moore

I think the issue of our time is “changing how people see” … but let me come back to that.

John Killacky wrote two posts for ARTSblog in late June/early July that said:

“… many funders did not feel equipped to judge quality outside of their own world views and experiences. I know that was a problem for me. Excellence matters — and there was not a lack of artistic excellence — but what was missing were the multiple perspectives in philanthropy needed to judge excellence in culturally specific organizations.

As a result, a separate “other” track was created for these organizations, a kind of affirmative action track with far less resources. By creating this separate track, we may have unintentionally entrenched a two-tiered caste system.

… Maybe philanthropy should have taken a page from venture capitalists’ playbooks …”

This sub-section of John’s piece compelled me to offer my own. Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Salon Reflections: Art, Enterprise, & Equity

Posted by Ebony McKinney On July - 29 - 2011

Ebony McKinney

“We are witnessing new practices and challenges to old assumptions.” ~ Ben Cameron during the closing keynote at this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention.

A sector transformation is underway. Today’s arts administrators, activists, and cultural entrepreneurs are fashioning new routes to mission fulfillment, while contending with diminishing grant funds, demographic and technological shifts, and audience erosion. The relevance of institutions is being challenged as much of the sector experiments with new opportunities for practice and participation. The expanding definition of ‘the who, how, and where’ is evident.

The role of enterprise in this shift is of great interest to me. This fall I’ll begin a graduate program focused on how to create the infrastructure and environment needed for cultural and creative enterprise to flourish. I know for some arts and enterprise are conflicting ideas – enterprise represents the commercial, the shallow, the crude and calculated manipulation and manufacture of cultural, creative, or artistic product, but I think that enterprise can encourage resilience, flexibility, and empowerment inside and outside of institutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Circus Mojo – Part Two

Posted by Paul Miller On May - 19 - 2011

Paul Miller

Circus as an industry has been incredibly exploitative.

When I joined the circus as a college drop-out in the late 1990s, the Soviet Union fell and with it, went their highest art form—the circus. Their amazing artists had no support from the government, so American circuses enticed these talented individuals to come to the United States. They were paid thousands of rubles which seemed like a lot of money but was, in fact, only about $50 per week. This is not unusual.

I’ve worked with many Russian and Asian circus teachers who can barely read or write. In 2000, I had a six-month gig in Japan with a fellow performer who could speak seven languages but his agent stole half his fee because he could not read the contract.  Read the rest of this entry »

Unpicking the Equity Knot in Arts Education

Posted by Lynne Kingsley On May - 5 - 2011
Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley

If you were to untangle the unified, multi-layered rope that is arts education in public schools in this country, would you find equal amounts of art, music, theater, and dance strands?

Without thinking, most of us would say mildly, “well, not exactly.”

As a theater person, I realize this too, but it can’t be THAT unequal, right?

The Snapshot of Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2009-10 (a first look at top level national data from the upcoming FRSS study), published on Monday reveals a huge gap between the number of schools that offer art (83 percent) and music (94 percent) instruction and those that offer drama/theater (4 percent) and dance (3 percent) instruction at the elementary school level.  Read the rest of this entry »