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 »

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 »

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 »

Can the Arts Plant Seeds for a Brighter Future?

Posted by Carol Bogash On March - 21 - 2013
Carol Bogash

Carol Bogash

In Anne Midgette’s February 2013 article for The Washington Post magazine, the headline asked “Can the Arts Save Students?” After spending many years working in the arts and education arena, I think the better headline might read, “Can the arts plant seeds for a brighter future”? And, I believe the answer is a firm and resounding—YES!

During the 1950s and 60s, school systems in the United States believed in the importance of the arts as part of an excellent education. I actually began my career as a music teacher in the Baltimore City Public Schools during the ’60s.

At that time, there were music teachers—indeed departments—in every elementary, middle, and high school. There were bands, orchestras, choirs, and general music throughout the grades. There were performing opportunities for the students. Thousands of children attended Baltimore Symphony Orchestra education concerts. Some of those students went on to become musicians and teachers. Most went on to other professions.

One of my fondest memories is of giving blood at a Red Cross blood drive, and while laying there with a needle in my arm, the nurse began to sing the Western High School song. She had been my student decades before and still loved to sing. I was stunned that she actually remembered the song!  Read the rest of this entry »

Presenting Our Vans Custom Culture Grant Winning Schools

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On January - 15 - 2013

Learning in the arts enables every individual to develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to succeed in today’s ever-changing world. Vans and its national charity partner Americans for the Arts envision a country where every child has access to—and takes part in–high quality learning experiences in the arts, both in school and in the community.

Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce, as a component of its ongoing partnership with Vans, the winners of the inaugural year of the Vans Custom Culture Grant Program. This new grant program seeks to increase both visibility for and resources available to schools across the country who are engaged in working to sustain the arts as a vital part of education.

The grant program is supported by funds from Vans Custom Culture—an art competition whose winners design a shoe that is produced and sold by Vans. (Make sure your school registers to enter the shoe design competition to win up to $50,000 for its art education program!)

Vans Custom Culture Grants are available to public high schools (grades 9-12) that have allowed arts education to thrive in their school community. The grants are intended to encourage the inclusion of the arts as an integral component of an excellent education, and to support activities that are consistent with local and national learning standards for arts education. Read the rest of this entry »

Artist Charlavail designed this amazing pair of Vans.

As a Vans Custom Culture national charity partner in 2013, Americans for the Arts is proud to work closely with Vans to reinforce the importance of arts education in schools across the country.

With the launch of the Vans Custom Culture art competition on January 2, budding artists and designers are racing to have their teachers fill registration slots open to the first 1,500 U.S.-based public or private high schools (more than 650 have already entered!).

The program, in its fourth iteration, pushes students to compete and create a work of art from a blank pair of Vans shoes. Each blank shoe must be designed by using the following themes: Art, Music, Action Sports, and Local Flavor.

Students will have until April 5 to complete the shoes and submit their images online. The Custom Culture competition will generate $50,000 for the winning school’s art program at the final judging in New York this summer while simultaneously drawing attention to the importance of art as an integral part of a well-rounded education.

Artists, fashion designers, athletes, and local news anchors are all being tapped to create their own custom shoes as Ambassadors of the program. Eager to provide inspiration wherever possible, Ambassadors are tweeting images (#VansCustomCulture) of their own custom designs. Some of our favorites can be found below and also on the Vans Custom Culture siteRead the rest of this entry »

500 Artists, Gardens Celebrate Florida’s 500th Birthday

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 17 - 2012

On Easter Sunday 1513, Ponce de Leon landed his three ships on the eastern shore of the peninsula where I live.

Claiming the land for Spain, he named the place La Florida, (for the Spanish word “flor” or flower) because of the lush landscape and because of the day the explorers arrived, Pascua florida, Easter.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of this encounter, I am working through the Florida International University College of Architecture + The Arts to develop FLOR500, a participatory art, nature, and history project that encourages participants to explore Florida’s natural wonder:

Indeed, I wanted to create an art project that allowed our inhabitants to understand the multicultural origins of our state, its fragile biodiversity, and its threatened coastlines. So I took the father of the Fountain of Youth mythology and his historic milestone as a point of departure to explore ways of rejuvenating “the Sunshine State.” Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Campaign Yields Results in Portland

Posted by Eloise Damrosch On November - 19 - 2012

Eloise Damrosch

On November 6, Portland voters passed ballot measure 26-146 to restore arts and music programs in Portland schools and fund arts access citywide.

Needless to say, we are thrilled with the results—the measure passed with 62% approval! Measure 26-126 creates a new income tax of $35 per income-earning resident (above the federal poverty level), which will generate an estimated $12.5 million every year starting in 2013.

Approximately $6.8 million will pay for 68.5 certified arts education teachers in Portland’s school districts (Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds, and Riverdale) —that’s one arts specialist for every 500 students. Districts receiving these funds will be required to maintain weekly arts instruction in grades K–5.

In addition, the new tax will generate about $5.7 million per year for our local arts agency:

  • $3.8 million will fund arts organizations that provide arts programming and access for every Portland resident through RACC’s general support grants program
  • $1.6 million will fund project grants to schools and arts organizations that provide arts programming for K-12 students and underserved residents
  • $366,000 is being set aside to coordinate arts education programs across Portland’s six school districts. Our partnership with the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program will be our foundation for this work.

In the months ahead, we will be having lots of conversations with local arts organizations to help them build plans that leverage these resources. Our ultimate goal is to improve arts access in the City of Portland and build new audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

KRIS Wine ‘Art of Education’ Contest Winners Unveiled

Posted by Tim Mikulski On November - 13 - 2012

As you saw in a previous ARTSblog post, Brunswick Acres Elementary School in Kendall Park, NJ was very dedicated to winning the third annual “Art of Education” contest sponsored by KRIS Wine and Americans for the Arts.

Not only did this video help them jump out to an early lead, but it helped them score the top prize of $5,000 for their arts education programs:

Even more amazingly, they secured 16,000 of the 90,000 total votes in the contest!

Art teacher Suzanne Tiedemann plans to use the funds to support her recent “Shells for NJ Shores Program” for which students will create shell-themed art to raise money for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy late last month.

In addition, 15 other schools in 9 states will receive a total of $20,000. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Creativity THE 21st Century Skill?

Posted by Janet Stanford On November - 6 - 2012

Janet Stanford

YES is the answer to this question judging from the enthusiastic audience response on October 10 to Imagination Stage’s Creative Conversation on the topic.

One hundred and forty parents, educators, and other stakeholders attended a panel discussion, moderated by Doug Herbert of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Innovation & Improvement, and then enjoyed breakout sessions that included sample sessions in professional development for teachers, creative parenting classes, and an opportunity to take the Torrance Test, the only nationally recognized measure for creativity that has been in use for more than 50 years.

Each of the four panelists described their viewpoint about creativity during the forum.

Developmental Psychologist Meredith Rowe debunked the commonly held assumption that creativity is a gift which cannot be taught.

Neuropsychologist Bill Stixrud spoke about what he sees daily in his clinical practice: that kids today enjoy less free play, feel more stress, are less motivated, and have lower self-esteem than past generations. His findings parallel data from the Torrance Test, which has noted a sharp decline in children’s creativity scores over the last 20 years, especially in the elementary grades. Stixrud recognizes that children are missing the benefits of creative play and arts education.

I discussed how theatre arts classes and arts integrated into the school curriculum can help children of all abilities to find motivation for their studies. Projects that are student-led and focused on creative problem solving have been shown to engage young people in ways that traditional modes of instruction no longer can. Read the rest of this entry »

Vans: Committed to Helping Visual Art in Schools

Posted by Adriane Fink On November - 5 - 2012

Generating $50,000 for the winning school’s art program while simultaneously drawing attention to the importance of art as an integral part of a well-rounded education, Vans Custom Culture comes back in its fourth iteration with registration opening on January 2, 2013:

The Vans Custom Culture Competition sparks the creativity and teamwork of art students across the country as they work together to design blank pairs of canvas shoes into wearable pieces of art.

Shoes are sent out in the month of February to the first 1,500 U.S.-based public or private high schools that register and students have until April 5 to complete the shoes and submit their images online.

Each registered school receives four blank canvas shoes they must design using the following themes: art, music, action sports, and local flavor—a design inspired by the surrounding community, city, or state.

An internal selection narrows the field down to 50 participants and the external online public vote whittles those 50 schools down to a group of five finalists who will be flown to New York City for the final judging in June 2013.

The winning school receives a $50,000 prize for their art program and the opportunity for the shoes to be produced and sold in Vans’ retail stores. The remaining schools won’t go home empty handed—the four runners-up will receive a cash prize of $4,000 towards their art program. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Arts Integration Working?

Posted by Ken Busby On September - 28 - 2012

Ken Busby

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, discussed the importance of the arts to the overall education of our children:

“The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students.  All of the arts—dance, music, theatre, and the visual artsare essential to preparing our nation’s young people for a global economy fueled by innovation and creativity and for a social discourse that demands communication in images and sound as well as in text.” 

He went on to say, “research shows that arts-rich schoolsones that provide opportunities for students to experience the arts in deep and meaningful ways and to make curricular connections with math, science, and the humanitiesare more engaging for students.”

And he referenced research that all of us in the arts education field have used for years saying, “We know that students who attend arts-rich schools are more likely to stay in school and go on to graduate from college.”

At the end of his comments, Duncan issued a challenge: “Now is the time to make the arts a vital part of a complete education for all students.”

Here’s the conundrum…

The U.S. Secretary of Education states what we know to be true. He states it with authority and without equivocation. And yet, we continue to see education budgets slashed year after year. And we continue to see the arts and art opportunities diminished within our schools in favor of more “time on task” for reading and math, and more testing. The disparity among schools is widening, with some really outstanding schools at the top, a few in the middle, and more and more considered “failing.” Typically, the schools with the lowest performing students are also the schools with the least amount of arts opportunities and integration.

What to do? Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping the Arts in Public Schools

Posted by Adriane Fink On September - 26 - 2012

KRIS Wine Art of Education contest

It’s a favorite time of year for students, teachers, and parents as the weather finally cools, leaves begin changing, and pumpkins pop up on every corner. Oh, and students across the country make the daily trek back to school.

For 16 lucky schools, those students and arts teachers can add a little more bounce to their steps. Last fall, consumers and arts advocates selected 16 grant winners by voting for their favorite K–12 public school during KRIS Wine’s Art of Education contest.

$25,000 was disseminated to schools all over the country to be used for arts programming. From Washington to Michigan and L.A. to Georgia, funds are being used for a wide range of projects. In an era where funding for strong arts programs consistently fall by the wayside, every extra dollar helps.

For the following schools KRIS Wine’s investment has made all the difference:

Kenmore Elementary, Kenmore, WA
Kenmore Elementary was the top awarded school in the KRIS wine “Art of Education” program. “We believe the money will greatly help us in continuing to provide an enriching educational experience,” said Principal Steve Hopkins. Kenmore Elementary plans to use the grant to host an artist-in-residence for the entire 2013 school year to conduct a series of visual art lessons with 500 students in its K–6 classes.

Lake Ridge Elementary, Magna, UT
Lake Ridge Elementary was able to fund costumes and scenery for The Avalanche, an opera created entirely by fourth grade students. The opera took the class nearly the whole school year to organize from writing the story and music to painting all 320 square feet of scenery. Barbara Knowlden, fourth grade teacher shared, “With the money from KRIS Wine, I was able to purchase the necessary supplies. It really helped my students’ self-esteem as they realized what they accomplished and how wonderful they looked in the costumes!” Read the rest of this entry »

Measuring Access to Arts Education, or Not Another Survey!

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On June - 22 - 2012

Deb Vaughn

Since I started my job 4 ½ years ago, I have been looking for a way to quantify arts education. There are an overwhelming number of models circulating:

Washington State did an invited, online, school principal survey, leveraging the partnership of their Arts Education Research Initiative to elicit responses.

Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming worked with the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) to develop a shared survey instrument, administered in collaboration with the four state offices of education and public instruction.

Communities involved in The Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child initiative have created extensive school-based survey instruments, drawing on the expertise of locally-formed partnerships to create the best instrument and guarantee response rates.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

With over 1,300 public schools in the state, the cost to hire a research firm to design and administer a survey instrument was prohibitive, and every existing survey instrument we looked at needed substantial adaptation to satisfy our stakeholders.

Luckily, two years ago, a graduate student in public policy at University of Oregon, Sarah K. Collins, mentioned to me that her thesis project involved pulling data from the Department of Education to examine access to arts education. The Oregon Arts Commission hired Sarah to produce a state-level summary report of her thesis, which we then published.

While the summary data was useful in tracking overall trends, it wasn’t applicable to most citizens, who wanted to know what the numbers meant for their local school. This demand evolved into what is now the Oregon Arts Commission’s newly launched online arts education databaseRead the rest of this entry »

Upon hearing that the York City School District School Board in Pennsylvania was considering eliminating art, music, guidance counselors, and some sports to help balance the budget, arts education supporters rallied for the cause.

They even had band members play outside of the meeting deciding their fate.

This is exactly the type of simple advocacy that draws the attention of local media and the members of the school board. Check out their rally and excellent student and parent comments from the York Daily Record website:

In the end, five art and music positions were restored by the board as well as three guidance counselor positions and the football, basketball, volleyball, and track programs.

If you have any examples of local school board advocacy at work, tell us in the comments below and if you want to know more about the many influences on local arts education programs, be sure to check out our arts education webinar series (free to members of Americans for the Arts or $35 per session).

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.