Art for Art’s Sake: The Impact of Arts Education Report

New Image[1]The Arts are Extra-Curricular and Disposable
July 23, 2013
by Guest author

Following the publication of Art for Art’s Sake by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development, OECD’s Education Directorate, we asked Frances McGarry, PhD, host, producer, and blogger at First Online With Fran to describe her personal experience as a teacher.
The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable when budgets are decided. Nothing is farther from the truth: the Arts challenge us to not only dare, but also explore the myriad of possibilities of “What if…”.
As a k-12 (primary and secondary school) English and Theater classroom teacher for over 30 years, Educational Theater scholar, and Director of Instruction for Arts Education organizations, I have witnessed firsthand the efficacy of an arts integrated curriculum.
Among the various experiences I’ve had as a theater education practitioner, perhaps the best illustration of how an arts-integrated curriculum works is the nationally acclaimed Theaterworks & Theaterworks Troupe program. Under the aegis of the Northport-East Northport High School English department, a team of innovative teachers created the Theatreworks program, a collaboration of 4 disciplines whose objective was to teach the intersecting terms: line, color, and texture through play production for grades 9-12 (ages 14-17). As the English staff member I introduced them as dramatic literary analysis terms; Home Economics translated them as costume design applications; Visual Arts scenic/lighting applications, and Music/Dance offered interpretations of vocal technique.
Through a hands-on approach students learned not only the skills associated with play production: casting, directing, rehearsing, designing, fabricating, sewing, producing, but also a practical work ethic: being on time, meeting deadlines, balancing responsibilities, working as an ensemble. Did I mention, that as an English teacher it was the best tool to get students to read and study and memorize lines from a piece of literature more than the typical cursory glance? I’ll never forget when Theatreworks students could cite verbatim lines from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest for the New York State English Regents Exam.
But, perhaps, the most valuable skill was to have the freedom to fail: to understand that risk makes us learn how to be all that we can be. There are endless stories I can share as can so many of my capable colleagues: Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Edie Falco insists on crediting me for her career path. Hardly.
For me, it was those “closet-kids” like the perky blonde ninth-grade cheerleader Erica who we discovered could not read! She was able to hide behind her beauty until we rotated her into the acting cycle and she refused to read for a part. That was quickly remedied and she was immediately placed in a special program. Or the lone Hispanic student in a 90% white population who found his place as a Stage Manager? I’ll never forget the deaf student J.J who danced in the after-school musical Brigadoon. Or my son, who credits Theatreworks as the source to pursue an engineering career: it was the only high school course where he was given a job (one that he was unfamiliar with like lighting), had to research the topic, get a team together to get the job done, by a deadline, under budget (or suffer the wrath of his director/mom).
Incorporating drama strategies across the curriculum also enhances learning. For example, to introduce To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee to my tenth grade English students, I lined up shoes that characters from the story might have worn. Using creative drama techniques students stepped into those shoes, shared, interacted with others thereby allowing them to create a foundation for their journey of understanding. I teamed up with the American History law class program to provide an historical framework.
Selected writing exercises from Young Playwrights Inc.’s Write a Play! curriculum were used with writing classes for high school students who would not even hold a pen, never mind write a one-act play. The popular “match” exercise where students talk for as long as the flame burns was the introductory lesson with Composition classes at Nassau Community College, a requisite entry level writing course. It’s about finding your voice: the Arts encourage students to think for themselves. These are all marketable skills vital for 21st Century employment.
Fast forward twenty years, adjunct stints, student teachers, training teaching artists, working with young playwrights, conducting professional development workshops across the nation, I continue to marvel at the lack of connect to what seems to me the most valuable global treasure we have.
The Arts have impacted the lives of so many people young and old and yet budget cuts continue to be the spiraling trend. Utilizing testimonials, interviews, and videos First Online With Fran, a talk show/blog was created to serve as the sounding board to give sustainable national attention to the Arts by inviting people from all walks of life – ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make our world a richer, deeper, better place to live.
Upset over the slashing of arts programs in schools I decided to do something about it. So, I got a bunch of kids from Brooklyn Theatre High School and asked them to respond to the statement: “The Arts are extra-curricular and disposable”.
Please take 6 minutes and listen to what they have to say…

Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School Students Speak Out

My goal for episode 2 is to receive as many views as possible to pitch to a network TV station; ultimately, to air it as a public service announcement (PSA) commercial. The message is clear, accurate, and it’s straight from the horse’s mouth: kids! Who better to express the transformative powers of the Arts?
I am asking for any of the following means of support (none of them require money!): your endorsement as a website comment, the click of your finger on the episode link, social media sharing, any kind of professional networking that you feel would benefit from viewing this episode. Or not. This is where my passion lies and this is my way of raising awareness and advocating for an arts inclusion education.
As a dedicated arts advocate I am committed to raising awareness of how the Arts rejuvenate. The arts restore. The Arts are our supernatural gift, the force that unites us as a single, breathing, living entity that connects every human being to be all that is good and pure.
Share your stories of how the Arts transformed lives and why we have a responsibility to ensure the Arts will continue to be a staple of our humanity. Bring it on!!
Useful links
Arts education in innovation-driven societies by Art for Art’s Sake co-authors Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin and Ellen Winner on the educationtoday blog
The Impact of Arts Education report examines the state of empirical knowledge about the impact of arts education.

Every Child Needs This: Learning Bravery with Compass Creative Dramatics

By Cathlyn Melvin, Development Director Compass Creative Dramatics

My summer vacations as a kid were a whirlwind of gymnastics practice, camping across mosquito-infested Wisconsin, and terrifying just-after-dark sessions of “Ghost in the Graveyard” with the twin boys who lived across the street. My favorite part of summer, though, was the time I spent at a children’s theatre in town. They did a project each August that I always looked forward to; there were no costumes, no sets, just the story and the actors. It made us all look forward to the school year, when the company would produce shows with detailed costumes and colorful sets.

I moved away after high school to study theatre at a university about two hours from my hometown. After graduation, I worked with theatre companies in the Milwaukee area, and then was offered a short contract with a children’s theatre company in Minnesota. I spent several weeks working with kids in rural Minnesota, and was reminded how much I loved children’s theatre when I was a teenager – and how much I still love it now.

Which is why I am so excited to be bringing the company I started last May, Compass Creative Dramatics, to my hometown of Sheboygan, WI this summer. We’re based out of Chicago, but we’re a traveling company that specializes in bringing theatre to your community (and in this case, to my own!). Organizations like schools, after-school centers, churches, or other groups, bring us in to work with their kids for a week, and it’s amazing to see the transformation of students from the first day to the last.

Last fall, we worked with a group of students in Evanston, Illinois. The first day, one of our students, Ella, she stood in the circle with the rest of the kids, but wouldn’t participate. When we asked her to repeat a few words after us, she just shook her head and looked at the floor.

By the end of the week, Ella was a leader in the cast. She knew all of her lyrics and dances, and she spoke her lines big and loud and with a grin on her face. This sort of transformation isn’t uncommon with this programming, and it’s partially possible because our structure includes two adult actors who perform alongside the students, offering support, and helping them shine. If a student forgets a line, we’re there to help them out. If they get a sudden attack of nerves, we’re next to them to calm their anxiety and lead the way.

In Sheboygan in June, my colleague Cassandra and I will work with up to 75 kids, meeting them on Monday, rehearsing with them throughout the week, and readying them for performance on Saturday. It’s an exercise in creativity and in bravery, and our students will walk away with a little more courage, a little more trust, and a sense of responsibility and teamwork. They’ll walk away with the magic of live performance, and I hope that never leaves them.

We’ll work with kids – in Sheboygan, in Chicago, in Indiana, and elsewhere – who, like Ella, need extra support to really come into their own. We’ll work with kids who haven’t learned to read, or who freeze at the thought of singing in front of an audience.

It’s experiences like this that confirm for me that theatre is a vital part of education. The poise, confidence, and bravery that come from participation in theatre are skills that every child needs to experience. Through Compass Creative Dramatics, we’re hoping to give kids that important opportunity – one community at a time.

Compass Creative Dramatics partners with school and community organizations to offer quirky, engaging theatre programming designed to provide arts enrichment and cultivate personal growth and character. We strive to provide these organizations an opportunity to enhance their current theatre education and life skills training as well as provide arts programming within schools and organizations with limited arts resources.

The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career

By Kathy Henderson
Twitter @KatH_NY
February 27, 2013
Broadway.Com

Before Edie Falco donned mob wife couture as Carmela in The Sopranos, she won a Theatre World Award for her harrowing performance as the embittered wife of a jazz musician in Warren Leight’s Tony-winning drama Side Man. Falco continued to make stage acting a priority while becoming only the second person in history to win lead acting Emmys in both drama (The Sopranos) and comedy (the title role in Nurse Jackie). Now starring as a runaway mom in MTC’s off-Broadway premiere of The Madrid, Falco chatted with Broadway.com about her iconic TV heroines, three favorite stage roles and the high school musical that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in acting.
Read more…

Role That Changed My Life

“I was a shy, awkward kid—I didn’t know how to be popular and never wore the right clothes—and being chosen to play Eliza in My Fair Lady at Northport High School [on Long Island] was very, very meaningful. My mother had been an actress, and the idea of auditioning for a play was mortifyingly scary for me. But Fran McGarry, who is still performing, cast me and gave me the confidence that I could carry a play and lead an ensemble. The fact that she trusted me was a huge part in my becoming an actress. My Henry Higgins was David Troup, who now works at a theater in Maine [Everyman Rep] and was one of my dearest friends. I would love to do a [Broadway] musical. I almost did Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming, but I had a conflict. I find the whole mode of expression in musicals very moving.”

Fran’s Comment:

As Edie’s high school drama teacher, I am grateful and humbled to know that I played a small part in the arc of her career; nevertheless, there are thousands of teachers who have impacted the lives of so many students. Edie was the first to share her story:
“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a schoolkid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.” Edie Falco, July 11,2011

What about you?
How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

National Arts in Education Week

First Online With Fran: The First 100 Stories Campaign
National Arts in Education Week
September 9-15, 2012

In July 2010, Congress designated the second week of September as National Arts In Education Week to promote and showcase the immense role arts education has in producing engaged, successful, and college and career-ready students. To that end, First Online with Fran is launching The First 100 Stories Campaign.

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable. In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, the central character decided to right a wrong by collecting stories: “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.” Similarly, we can do the same for the Arts. Here’s how:

Let’s hear it from you: Teachers! Students! Graduates! Parents! Artists!
Fill out the following form to submit your testimonial!

Interviews & Testimonials

First Online With Fran: The First 100 Stories Campaign National Arts in Education Week, September 9-15th, 2012


In July 2010, Congress designated the second week of September as National Arts In Education Week (add link) to promote and showcase the immense role arts education has in producing engaged, successful, and college and career-ready students. To that end, First Online with Fran is launching The First 100 Stories Campaign.

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable. In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, the central character decided to right a wrong by collecting stories: “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.” Similarly, we can do the same for the Arts.

The collection of testimonials will be forwarded to Arts Education Partnership who will serve as a national hub for information on how the arts are going strong in our nation’s communities and schools and strategies for getting involved in arts education and supporting the arts in your community.

First Online with Fran Series Trailer


The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation. Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable. First on Line with Fran will offer opportunities for other artists to join me in discussions on how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things in The Arts to make our world a richer, deeper, better place to live.

First On-Line With Fran” was shot and edited by Brandon York Productions

Learn more about Fran at http://www.FrancesMcGary.com

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http://www.youtube.com/user/FrancesMcgarry