The value of arts education

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Katie Dees Arts education shouldn’t be considered an elective when so many studies show it boosts other skills.

 By Melissa Pranke

November 25, 2015 10:34 a.m.

 The arts are one of the most human of expressions. From the time we are small we love to sing, dance, draw and learn about others’ lives through drama. We are provoked and challenged through the arts.

Learning through the arts is not a luxury; it’s a necessity if we are to ensure the success of our students in the 21st century. When a group of international CEOs was asked to list the qualities they identified as most important for 21st century leaders, No. 1 on that list was creativity. Not work ethic or experience, but creativity because it encompasses using a logical thought process, creative problem solving skills and higher order thinking, all things regularly taught and encouraged in an arts based curriculum.

In 2000, Congress enacted the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, which identified the arts for the first time in federal policy as part of the core curriculum. Why then are visual arts, music and theater programs always first on the chopping block when schools have to make budget cuts?

Twenty-eight states require some study of the arts for high school graduation; yet the arts are still considered an elective, an afterthought, when policy makers write curriculum and strategies to advance the rigor and success of our 21st century school classrooms. Thousands of school-based arts programs have demonstrated beyond question that the arts not only bring coherence to an often-fragmented educational approach but through the arts we find student performance in all disciplines becomes enhanced. Visual arts, music and theater teachers daily ask their students to engage in learning activities that require use of higher-order thinking skills like analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Students of the arts continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the Scholastic Assessment Test. In 1995, SAT scores for students who studied the arts more than four years scored 59 points higher on the verbal portion and 44 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework or experience in the arts (The College Board, profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, 1995).

In 2002, The Arts Education Partnership issued “Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development,” which summarized 62 studies. This has become one of the most recognized papers on the positive effects of the arts on cognitions, critical thinking, self worth and behavior.

In 2004, The Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College published “Putting the Arts in the Picture: Reframing Education in the 21st Century,” which emphasized a change from arts education to a more holistic approach of arts integration as “an interdisciplinary partner with other subjects.”

This was followed by a College Board report in 2008 “Arts at the Core,” from the National Task Force on the Arts in Education, citing now familiar research to “utilize arts programming as an effective tool to improve education in general and to achieve access and equity for all students”

These academic studies and research give overwhelming evidence of the connection between integrated arts curriculum and advanced student skill acquisition, achievement and knowledge that cannot be denied. But there is another side of this argument that while not academic is even more soulful and compelling than the factual data.

The arts are one of the most human of expressions. From the time we are small we love to sing, dance, draw and learn about others’ lives through drama. We are provoked and challenged through the arts. So, I invite you to think of the potential of each child, of your child, and ask yourself, why haven’t we acted on all this overwhelming and eloquent evidence? Imagination is an extraordinary human gift and, in my opinion, not something to take lightly or waste.

Testimonial #47: Katherine Elliot, Actor/Producer The Tempest Ladies

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?

Being artistic is just sort of in my blood, so I guess I was born with a broken mold. I was very lucky to have had some excellent and encouraging teachers when I was in school. I think the first one was the French teacher that I had from 6th to 8th grade who everyone called, Madame. She was fantastic. Every class was like watching a performance, and she could make us laugh while she was speaking a language that we didn’t know yet. Needless to say, her humor made me, and I’m sure most of the rest of the class, really want to understand what was going on. It made me want to learn French. Every day before class, we got to pick out what we wanted to wear. There were boas, berets, sparkly dresses, old suit jackets, flowers…all sorts of things. We were called by the French names we chose, and it was a blast. She knew that I liked art, and she was always encouraging me to utilize it.

A couple of years ago, I was taking an intensive at The Second City in Chicago, and I couldn’t believe it when I walked in and saw her sitting in my class. I also couldn’t believe that she actually remembered me after all of these years. It was a fun reunion, and we ended up carpooling to every class. She doesn’t teach anymore, but it made me really happy to know that she is still putting on performances.

Another standout for me is a professor that I had in graduate school (for English Literature; it wasn’t an art program) who came into my life at a time when I was on the verge of making some very big decisions. Allowing me to incorporate my artistic interests into the class may have tipped the scale that sent me rolling off to New York. There were many reasons that I chose to pursue the arts instead of getting a “real” job, but this professor really made it hit home how important the arts always have been throughout history, and still are to this day.

He would show us paintings that were painted at the same time that the books we were reading were written, which is typical to do from time to time in most literature classes, but this professor made it a focus. We would analyze paintings in the same way that we analyzed writing. We would find ways in which the author was likely influenced by the painting, which really made the connection between the arts, literature and society hit home for me. Everything is interconnected, and to this day, this is still a pattern, if not more because of the internet and our ability to easily mass communicate. He also allowed me to make a pair of Viking boots instead of writing a paper because he recognized that I would learn well that way, and it is because of that class that I am able to make my own moccasins. It’s also responsible for my knowledge of the trials and tribulations of Viking footwear during battle 🙂

All in all, I was champing at the bit to pursue the arts as a career, and these teachers assisted in making me feel confident that the arts are not only important, but crucial. Art is a form of communication, and I believe that it’s as necessary a school subject as learning to write. I am very thankful.

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I am a Producer/Actor for an all-female Shakespearean theatre company called The Tempest Ladies, and part of our mission is traveling overseas (primarily Istanbul, as of now) to schools in order to make Shakespeare more accessible in a fun and creative way. It gives children the opportunity to learn about Shakespeare and his plays through movement, character/relationship building and performance as opposed to sitting in a classroom only analyzing the text. We are based out of and perform in New York City, and we are currently talking about bringing our productions and workshops to underprivileged schools in the area as well as other cities abroad.

April 22-26, 2015

American Theatre of Actors, Chernuchin Theatre (View)
314 W. 54th Street
New York, NY 10035

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1382019

Slow Art Day April 11, 2015

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“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”—Henry David Thoreau

Join a movement! Slow Art Day is an international event encouraging people of all ages to visit museums and to look at art slowly.

WHY:

• To break out of your typical “go, go, go” routine.
• To learn about yourself, fellow participants, and the creative expressions of women artists.
• To make discoveries about and forge connections with artwork.

HOW IT WORKS:

Participants will look at five works of art for 15 minutes each and then meet together over lunch to talk about their experience. Simple by design, the goal is to focus on the art and the art of seeing. Don’t worry, museum staff will be present to provide you with artwork suggestions and questions to consider.

SCHEDULE:

11–11:15 a.m.: Check in
11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: Look at five artworks for 15 minutes each
12:30–2 p.m.: Discuss and dine (buy your own lunch) at nearby Le Pain Quotidien

RESERVATIONS:

Reservations are recommended. This program is free with museum admission.

reserve your spot
– See more at: http://nmwa.org/events/slow-art-day#sthash.YNwz585R.dpuf

Here at Slow Art Day we focus on how visitors engage with physical works of art – how paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other media are perceived, considered, and experienced by the viewer. But in our digital age, museums are increasingly trying to deliver “snackable” digital content – short bursts of entertaining and enlightening information delivered through social media initiatives or interactive installations. In an article published by The Guardian earlier this week, Danny Birchall, Digital Manager at London’s Wellcome Collection, eloquently makes the case that digital or virtual engagements with artworks allow for the same unhurried, slow potential as physical interactions. Birchall writes, “[…] if museums can deliver snacks, why not three-course meals? Is there space in museums for slower and longer digital experiences for audiences to savour and enjoy?” Birchall uses the Wellcome Collection’s Mindcraft, an immersive and interactive tool that describes the history of hypnotism over the course of a six-chapter digital story, as a case study for his article. However, even the relatively long-form (for the digital realm) Mindcraft is only about 15 minutes long – a fraction of the length of your typical Slow Art Day event. Is this enough to ensure visitors’ full engagement with digital content? Can museums offer an immersive, engaging digital experience that avoids superficiality and truly deepens the visitor’s experience of a work of art without relying on gimmicks?

Read the article “Museums should make time for slower digital experiences” here

About the Event Date Apr 11 2015 Time 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Location Meet at the Information Desk in the lobby Admission Free with admission Reservations Recommended – See more at: http://nmwa.org/events/slow-art-day#sthash.YNwz585R.dpuf

http://www.slowartday.com/

Why Arts Education Matters

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March 12, 2015
By Judith Light

My mother taught me when I was three years old to memorize and recite “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Everybody laughs, but it’s absolutely the truth. My mother was my first teacher of the arts, and I performed “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” for my father, so he was my first audience. Even at that young age, I had a child’s intuition, which I would now say was a simple understanding of how art and culture affect us as human beings and how we can connect to each other through the arts. That understanding is something that defines my life to this day.

When I was growing up, my parents supported my interest in taking acting classes and doing community theater. My father drove me to the rehearsals every day after school, whenever I was doing community theatre productions, and I went to a performing arts camp in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, and my parents even allowed me to go on the train to New York City when I was a young teen to study theater.

My parents’ faith in me at that young an age—and the kind of professional training I was getting from my theater teachers—gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of self-confidence, a sense of discipline. I learned what artistic achievement actually was, what hard work the business was. I didn’t have this rosy picture of what our business was. I was really learning what it would require for me to become a professional.

I was also learning about life. Working with great teachers like Ruth Strahan and Herb Hamsher, who’s also been my manager for 35 years, I learned about having faith in myself and about developing humility. Most people know that this business is all about not getting everything you want when you want it. Since success comes with such incredible gifts, many people don’t realize that, for an actor, most of our lives are actually filled with recognizing that we can’t control things. So I’ve learned, and am still learning as this is an active process, to simply be grateful for what I’ve been given. Those are very, very precious life skills that were all part of my arts education.

I became an actor, but arts education isn’t just about preparing our young people for a career in the arts. I’m on the board of several organizations that work with young people in the New York City area through theater education, including MCC Theater and LeAp OnStage. I recently went to a LeAp OnStage class, and I talked to some of the kids participating. Some of them want to work in theater, and some of them don’t. The program teaches them theater skills, but they also learn about the world around them. They learn about discipline and hard work and what’s required and what they have to do to bring themselves to the work. They learn how they can be of service in the world through the arts. They learn how to elevate the people around them. They learn how to work with a team. By studying the arts, these students are exposed to worlds and lives that they might not have any other way of knowing about or any other way to connect with in their lives the way they are right now. Arts education expands their horizons.

These young people are our legacy. We are passing the torch to them. And I think that’s one of the most important reasons why we need to foster the arts. My late friend Wendy Wasserstein, the wonderful Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, created a program called Open Doors, run by Theatre Development Fund, that brings young people to the theater. When you talk to them after they’ve seen a performance, you hear how their lives are changed exponentially. They feel differently about themselves and the world around them. I think when we get into the arts as young people, it tends to be pretty much about us and our egos. But as we really learn about the arts we discover that it is all about being of service and all about supporting others in seeing things they would not otherwise see—about themselves as well as other people.

Because of my own experience in arts education, and all of the visible ways I see it impact young people today, I was thrilled to learn that there’s a new honor from the Tony Awards®—the Excellence in Theatre Education Award—which is supported by a partnership between the Tonys and Carnegie Mellon University. I think this award underscores that the Tonys are not actually a competition; they are a recognition of achievement. Everyone who ever gets an award always wants to thank the many, many people who participated in their achievement, and really where it all always begins is with our teachers. So this award makes the Tonys a recognition of that beginning as well as the culmination of the achievement.

What’s even better is that this particular Tony award is open to nominations from the public. I know my own story is just one of many stories of the ways that people have been changed by arts education delivered by great teachers. I hope you’ll take a moment to nominate a great theater education teacher in your life for this award. I can’t wait to lead the standing ovation for our very first honoree this spring.

For three consecutive years, Judith Light was nominated for Broadway’s Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a play. She won back-to-back Tonys for Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities”(2012) and Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties” (2013). She also won back-to-back Drama Desk Awards for those performances. In 1999 she starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit” in New York and also at the Kennedy Center winning the Helen Hayes award. Her Broadway debut was in “A Doll’s House” with Liv Ullman, followed by a season at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Judith received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and has worked in repertory theatres in the US, Canada and performed in Europe. In 2014, she was named the National Ambassador for the 19th KIDS NIGHT ON BROADWAY® by The Broadway League.
– See more at: http://arts.gov/art-works/2015/why-arts-education-matters#comment-1358936

March is Save Our Schools Month: Matt Damon Speaks

Matt Damon