Week 4 – Arts Organization Education Programs
The Dana Foundation report presents information on a symposium about artistic residencies, the role of performing arts centers in supporting these residencies, and how to support professional development among school teachers and administrators related to arts learning. The report also presents case studies of performing arts centers arts learning programs. The RAND report summarizes the evolution of six large-scale initiatives to improve access and quality to arts education in six large urban areas: Alameda County, Los Angeles County, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Dallas.
First to the questions about what arts administrators should keep in mind with regard to residencies, I think having an outside organization such as a performing arts center can really strengthen efforts. The message for me is that arts administrators need to facilitate clear communication so teacher, artist, teaching artist, funding agency, district office, and other participants in the residency process are all on the same page. I think linking the residencies to a larger story is important so it doesn’t seem like “one off” experience that is a luxury for the kids. The residencies need to have a larger purpose and be a part of a larger initiative, either related to arts education or community/youth development.
I have to say that the Dana Foundation report about the standards for arts residencies in schools seemed incredibly optimistic. I wrote in my notes, “Who has time to do all of this?” The teacher doesn’t, the school administrator doesn’t, the teaching artist is likely working four jobs to get by, and there isn’t really any accountability built into the experience. The case studies were informative and convinced me that having a school attached to a performing arts center is a good thing. For visual arts, then, there should be a similar connection to a museum and for music education, there could be a connection to a concert hall.
I like this model of partnership more than schools hiring art teachers for stand alone classes within the school. I like this better because it creates advocates in the community for arts education, it gets young people comfortable with these community institutions, and provides a more diversified funding base for community-based arts organizations. They can contract with the school district to complement their other programming. Community-based organizations, however, must be compensated for this work.
It was helpful to think about this idea relative to the RAND report in which, out-of-school time providers felt marginalized by the coordinated efforts in these different urban areas that were often focused on what was happening in schools. The case studies in this report was fascinating because of the different strategies at work. I checked up on some of these initiatives on the Internet. Los Angeles now has 54 of 81 districts participating in its program. Chicago now has an arts education plan, but this only came about as a result of the larger cultural plan initiated by Rahm Emanneul when he became mayor in 2012. It looks like Chicago had to start over in terms of their arts education effort.
The RAND report suggests to me that arts learning will only be secure in these public schools when enough parents (and their children) demand it from the state. Cutting arts education has to be the equivalent of cutting off one’s nose. How does that happen? The entire community, parents especially, has to value art. It has to be essential. Making art is often essential to an individual’s identity. Can it be the same way for a community? Only if the artistic process and the product have a clear connection to the identity of the community. This is a roundabout way of saying that there is an argument for community-based art to be at the foundation of education. Art education programs should be connected to community life, history, and the environment in their process and content. This can make the arts essential to the community’s identity and help innovate art forms that are indigenous to that particular place.