This is the online stream for sharing conversations that happened throughout the Greater Bay Area from March through June 2012 around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

Please join the conversation and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Mapping the Next 10 Years – Phase I Results!

This blog documents Phase I of the Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership’s strategic planning for Mapping the Next 10 Years. From March through June 2012 more than 280 people representing 50+ organizations from 8 counties participated in self-organized, face-to-face conversations around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

Here you can find documentation and discussion of those conversations. This powerpoint  contains a synthesis of the collective vision that emerged and details Phase II steps to collective action that we will be engaged in September 2012 – March 2013.

Thank you! to everyone who participated and to the expanded Steering Committee that met monthly to digest and synthesize the information on this blog.

Mapping the Next 10 Years Phase 1 and 2 from artiseducation

Integrated Learning Summer Institute Saved My Life from a Broken Heart!

Have you ever….
• Been to a professional development where you were valued as an intricately designed complex person?
• Been to an institute that made you tear up periodically throughout the day?
• Been touched so deeply by content knowledge that you are inspired and hopeful as you begin a new teaching year?
• Been to a 3 day long intensive institute where everyone smiled at you, learning was captivating, and the world of integrated learning was supported and connected in deep and powerful ways?
Last week at the Integrated Learning Summer Institute held at Chabot Space and Science Center, nearly 300 participants had the opportunity to address the challenging needs of the 21st century educator. For three dynamic days we soaked up information from Social-Emotional Learning, Common Core and Assessment to Studio Habits of Mind and Teaching for Understanding. We engaged in how to make learning visible through documentation strategies, practiced dance as a way to develop diverse intellectual paths and learned about the Human Rights Education Program.
Each morning began with a 90 minute plenary of powerful and moving talks by some of the finest thinkers and innovators in the Bay Area who addressed topics such as racialization, equity in our schools, art as transformational not transactional, the process of being an artist, and the ways that communities can combat global warming.
I walked away from the Integrated Learning Summer Institute feeling so grateful to be a part of the Bay Area community, feeling as though the world is changing the ways I have always envisioned it. The ILSI is at the forefront of progressive, insightful, and heartful ways to build the builders. We the teachers and artists, the principals, the parents, the communities, the stakeholders are building the next wave of builders.
Thank you to all for making the ILSI such a huge success. I invite you to add your thoughts from our Integrated Learning Summer Institute. What moved you the most? What insights or knowledge are you taking back to your classrooms, schools or work environments? What moments still linger in your mind from your time at the ILSI?

All the Best!


Profile: Susan Wolf

Name: susan wolf
Job/Role/Title: teaching artist, arts coach, visual artist, printmaker
Organization/Affiliation/School: previously Kala art institute, currently arts coach at Jefferson Elementary School
District or City/County: San Leandro
Contact info:
Email: swolfprojects [at] gmail
Twitter: @objectplace

Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do? I am a parent of a recent graduate from BHS class of 2012. I am a visual and performing artist. I am a teaching artist.

How did you find out about this process? I am on the acoe mailing list. I attended the first mapping event. I enjoyed seeing the momentum and the structure that was in place to organize the comments and ideas being solicited. I am interested in learning the ways people and ideas can make connections with hopes that it will result in forward momentum.

What inspired you to get engaged? I am always thinking about how things work or… don’t work. I am ready to advocate for dramatic improvements in the current state of education.

What do you think of the conversations? I like seeing conversations being reported from meetings attended by  the… ‘deciders’ for lack of a better term. This transparency is important to see.

How would you answer the framing question: How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone? Invite the opinions from many different vantage points. Conduct interviews. Build an archive of individual stories to know who the community is. Utilize teaching artists as a catalyst, as documentarians, as interviewers.


motion made marks from susan wolf on Vimeo.

Hailing from the Chicago area a Bay Area implant since the early 80’s teaching artist Susan Wolf has worked at various East Bay school sites through Kala Art Institute’s artists-in-schools program.  As an Arts Coach at Jefferson Elementary School, Ms. Wolf matches her interest in process with her curiosity for what it means to understand. Her growing familiarity with digital media tools supports the value of making learning visible while engaging with a community of teachers interested in the practice of integrating arts.

As a performing artist her work explores the membrane of and the dialogue between her public and private personas. Wearing a mask or costumes of concealment her performances document her curious perspective of being there while being elsewhere.

As a visual artist her work makes connections with curious archaic texts and original artifacts connected to disciplines and inherent systems of biology, mathematics and mapmaking to inform a more personal re-contextualization of forms using printmaking, collage and mixed media techniques.

Wherever Curiosity Leads and Creativity Follows — by Mary Stone Hanley, George Mason University

There are many wonderful things that work in the education of young people today, however the most deeply positive work can be found wherever curiosity leads and creativity follows.  We are born curious; we want to know;  from infancy we touch, taste, reach for, wonder; and then we try to make something of it, shape it. In so doing we more throughly can understand it and transform it.   Cell phones, automobles, noodles, and rubber ducks, the Sistine Chapel, and hip hop lyrics are all a result of  human curiosity and creativy.  Wherever that spark is allowed to enter the classroom wonderful things happen.  I have seen the children involved and experienced the joy, excitement, and pride of accomplishment when they learn they are capable of answering the questions they wonder about after a process of discovery and interpretation.

The arts tap into our need to understand and to create, to change the world in so many ways–intimate and social, tiny and enormous.  The artist, whether wondering dabbler, serious student, or professional is engaged in perception, conceptualization, expression, and transformation of self, culture, and medium, all of which are at the core of making meaning of the world.  Because the struggle of transformation and expression is so personal the work becomes relevant and ownership increases.  One can see the impact on young people involved in arts-based work in the way they focus and participate.   It’s a wonderful thing we must acknowledge, educate people about, and demand room in the curriculum for.

Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, Professor, Initiative for Transformative Education, George Mason University, has been an educator in pub­lic schools and higher education for more than 35 years. She is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet. In Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature In (prepared for the Heinz Endowments, June 2009)  she highlights the necessity to employ the arts as a means to racial uplift and building on student cultural assets.

Translation and Amplification

In reflecting on the synthesis of the Map the Next 10 Years planning process posted here, and this week’s guest blogs elaborating its key points, I notice a crosscutting theme. That theme is the importance of translation and amplification.


How can we translate what matters to us; what we do well; and where we are trying to go in a way that allows us to find with others what Joe Landon refers to as “overlapping interests,” and “shared commitments?” As John Abodeely writes, when it comes to education, “thousands of people each day make decisions that impact what is taught to whom by whom and for how long,” and each of these people brings different priorities, responsibilities, and perspectives to the table. Translation is key to finding common ground within this complex picture and to forging the kinds of coalitions Abodeely suggests have impact within our messy system.

The current movement around the Common Core State Standards, which Browning Neddeau discusses, and related movements advancing the importance of deeper learning and college and career readiness, for example, represent opportunities for the arts education field to apply the power of translation. Proponents of these movements are talking about the importance of creativity, imagination, engagement, collaboration, higher-order thinking, and hands-on, student-driven, real-world, interdisciplinary learning. As a field, we have decades of experience delivering arts and arts integrated curricula that shift classroom contexts and teaching and learning to yield these outcomes. We have documented this experience through research ( and best practice. How might we now translate this knowledge to illuminate where our interests and commitments overlap with those of these other educational movements? And how might we articulate our expertise to help shape and advance these movements? (I think, for example, of the potential power of the arts education field translating what it has learned about preparing teachers to teach arts integrated curricula to inform the conversation about how to prepare teachers to facilitate deeper learning).


Key to our ability to “Build on What’s Working,” is our ability to amplify our work—to make sure that others within and outside our field hear about our best practice and the knowledge that we are developing as a field. I was struck at the meeting I attended at the Alameda County Arts Learning Alliance during its mapping process, that I had not heard of several of the arts education organizations that were sitting around the table, despite the fact that they were local and doing exemplary work. What role might each of us—as funders, policymakers, artists, educators, researchers, youth, families—play in amplifying the best practice and learning in our field? How might such amplification support our ability to connect around or own work in the fruitful ways described by Audrey Brown, or connect to the work of others in the way Carl Anthony invites in his post about the environmental justice movement?

The Shift to “We” with Teacher Education Programs and Teaching Artists – Browning Neddeau, Faculty, USF and SJSU credentialing programs

The shift from “you” and “me” to “we” is highly relevant to my work in teacher education and equally as relevant to the credential students served in teacher education programs.  Teacher education is a field that is constantly evolving.  In 1983, A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform pushed teachers to focus on accountability in student achievement.  Some states have since tied student achievement to a teacher’s salary or employment status.  This type of relationship is sometimes coined “performance-based pay”.

The latest evolution in teacher education is the understanding and appreciation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  A Nation At Risk, performance-based pay, and CCSS may all be well-intentioned, but all three polarize our work as professionals in education.  They push teachers to focus on student achievement in their individual classrooms and to isolate student achievement in certain content areas such as English language arts and mathematics instead of celebrating the individuality within each of us.  They encourage a departmentalized learning mentality rather than an integrated approach to learning, exploring, and growing.

Emphasizing the need for collaboration in teacher education courses may be a powerful tool as preservice teachers become inservice teachers.  This is especially true as attention grows with conversations concerning STEM to STEAM and how both of these contribute to student achievement while embracing individuality and, hence, creativity in all of us.  I predict that such conversations in teacher education courses will demand greater collaboration with teaching artists and professors in teacher education as standards-based instruction is neither new nor disappearing from the teaching profession.

Through collaboration with teaching artists, teachers can blend their skills in content pedagogy with effective and meaningful experiences in the arts.  Early experiences with teaching artists in teacher education programs will allow preservice teachers to engage in the power of art-making early in their teaching careers.

I think that engaging in a shift from “you” and “me” to “we” truly needs to be embraced early in one’s teaching career before novice teachers become “too busy” to explore alternative ways of knowing that may benefit their students tenfold.  This leaves us with the question: How shall we start this important dialogue about the shift to “we” with teacher education programs and teaching artists that is both evidence-based and rewarding for all involved in the collaborative efforts?

– Browning Neddeau
Faculty member at the University of San Francisco and San Jose State University in their multiple subjects teacher credentialing programs

Building on What Works-an art teacher joins the conversation

I have been asked to comment on the 5 concepts for collectively transforming public education through the arts. Change is great, and sometimes, most of the time, I would love to tear down the entire public education system and start from scratch. I have 3 paragraphs to write about something that occupies 75% of my life, so here we go.

Building on what works, that is the concept that speaks to me loudest. And how do we define what works? For me it is a high level  of student engagement, students understand key concepts, and at the more advanced levels, students create compelling , high concept, risk taking work, using a high level of craftsmanship and showing authentic voice. I think this holds true across the board of the subject matter game, although I am not sure about Math. Do I know how to make this happen in my art classes? You bet I do, and I have plenty of evidence to prove it.

I do know what works, and I am pretty clear about the obstacles to making things work as well. Here is a short list: NCLB, Companion Math and English Classes, lack of funding, lack of parent and community understanding of the importance of Visual and Performing Arts. I am lucky to be in a district where the administration really supports the arts and “gets it”. Even so, did I mention facilities, lack of funding, crowded classes, lack of funding, constant threats of layoffs,  furlough days, and lack of funding?

And finally, understanding that Building on What Works means that not just one thing ever works. Every student has a different need in order to shine. Building on What Works means “Connecting. “ What has helped me the most as a teacher, is my connection with other great teachers, through conferences and workshops, through online list serve groups, and serving on advisory boards.  Connecting with schools and higher education offering the kinds of classes we can only dream about  ( Here, I’m thinking about Oxbow and all our fabulous California art colleges).And finally, connecting the student to that larger world of the arts., whether it be higher education, career connections , gallery and museum visits or professional performances.  Connection is the challenge. It is the work outside the work and it is how to build what works.watercolor by naomi caylao, 12th grade, 2012

Arts Education is a Political Issue

I’ve said this before (if you Google the title of this, you’ll see other stuff I’ve said about this):

Arts education is as much a political issue as it is an educational or instructional one.

This seems obvious to me, but I work at the intersection of educators and politics. This of it this way: what is taught to whom by whom and for how long are all political questions. What subjects are taught? What constitutes each subject? (Generally, these are state standards.) Who is teaching them? Who is hired to teach? How are they trained to teach? What qualifies them? Who is being taught? Which kids attend which schools? Which kids end up in which classroom? Which kids are remediated into math-only school days, for example? And, finally, for how long? Is reading a 180 minute-block session? Is the schedule block or linear? How often does the music teacher see each kid? Is it “each kid” or is it just the 5th graders? Is it just the 5th graders who aren’t in trouble?

These questions about how the education system is organized and run are answered by adults. They are not answered by the recipients of the decisions’ outcomes (the kids). They are answered by people who are paid by the system or who are elected to make decisions. They are made, secondarily, by advocates who spend their time and/or money trying to affect each decision.

A good example of the political nature of public education: any controversy over state standards. See the recent Texas debacle. Or the previous Texas debacle.

Let’s add to this daunting picture. There are multiple levels of governance: federal, state, and local. Within states, sometimes there are intermediary units such as county departments of education that sit above school districts. (In PA and other state they’re call “intermediate units.”) Within the “local” sphere there are districts and there are schools.

The federal levels includes congress and the president and the US Department of Education. The state includes the state department of education, the state board of education, the governor, etc. Locals, of course, include superintendents, their team, principals, teachers, etc.

Lest we forget the private sector: there are PTAs and other advocacy groups at the federal, state, and local level. There is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Diane Ravitch and other outspoken leaders and advocates. There is the national Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the National Education Association and the AFT. There are too many to list.

In summation, thousands of people each day make decisions that impact what is taught to whom by whom and for how long. They may be high-profile controversies like the ones in Texas. They may be subtle shifts (Race to the Top teacher evaluation). They may be standard practice such as school scheduling.

So here’s my point: it is coalitions of caring individuals and organizations that do the difficult, rare, and critical work of coming to agreement about what they will do, together, as a coalition, that can impact this mess of a democratic civic institution. And this difficult, rare, and critical work is exactly what Alameda is up to.

Quest for Environmental Justice: How Arts Learning Can Help – by Carl Anthony, Co-director, Breakthrough Communities

Many years ago when I was a Professor at the University of California College of Natural Resources, teaching one of the first university based courses on environmental justice several of my students were interested in teaching about environmental issues in multi racial schools. In our class discussions one day, a young woman became emotionally upset as she was describing her work as a volunteer in an after school program at a middle school in Berkeley. She was teaching the young people about separating compost for the garden, and cans, bottles, newspapers in kitchen containers for curbside recycling. It turned out that one of a dozen young people in the after school program, was homeless. She was living with her family in a car. Her mother, father and brother carried most of their belongings with them in the car, and got rid of the trash in waste containersaround the city. My student was devastated that the child was homeless and was upset that she didn’t know how to talk about this in the after school group. She wanted to know whether homelessness was an environmental issue.

At the other end of the spectrum, I heard the story of a middle school kid from West Oakland, who got a scholarship to go to a fancy private school in Marin County. The students in his class took turns in hosting pajama parties at their large and wealthy homes. When it came to his turn to host the pajama party, this young man invited a half dozen of his classmates to spend the weekend with him in the housing project where he lived in West Oakland. The kids from Marin County loved being in the ‘hood. They didn’t want to go home.

These stories illustrate the challenges of educating kids in a time of environmental devastaion. growing inequality, media hype, and demographic change. What should the learning of students be when parents have lost their jobs? What should it be when a father or brother has been sent prison? Or has been deported? How do we help the next generation cope with the realities of life as they experience it? How can we support them in building emotional resilience, hunger for knowledge, skills and robust leadership that our society will need to create a better future for everyone? How can we support attitudes of self-respect, excitement about learning, hope for changing the world? It seems to me, the arts have an important role to play here. With their paintings and sculptures, photographs and video documentaries, music and dramas, the arts can help our young people make sense of their world, giving them the confidence to reinvent the future.

One of the most exciting movements in the world today, that is reinventing our future is, the environmental justice movement. It is a large movement that needs the nourishment and creativity of the arts, and the tools of science and technology in support of a purposeful and sustainable economy. The environmental justice movement is a large movement. It brings together the pursuit of healthy communities, the greening of our cities, the saving of energy, the creation of opportunities for everyone, the end of homelessness and hunger, social and racial justice and the quest to save the planet.

We look forward to the upcoming Summer Institute “Inventing Our Future” August 7-9, 2012, where I will join with Professor Manuel Pastor from the University of Southern California in presentations and discussion of these topics. I also look forward to joining in an afternoon workshop on “Building Healthy Healthy Communities” at the Summer Institute, led by Paloma Pavel, PhD, CoDirector of Breakthrough Communities, and Jill Ratner, President of the Rose Foundation.

Carl Anthony
Co Director
Breakthrough Communities
Oakland, California

A New Territory for Partnership — by Joe Landon, Executive Director, CA Alliance for Arts Education

The Policy Council of the California Alliance for Arts Education is comprised of 40 organizations from around the state, representing the interests of education, business, arts and parents. It’s a natural forum in which to raise the question of how to expand and strengthen the impact of  partnerships in the work we do.

At our last meeting, Jeffry Walker presented the findings of a report commissioned by the California Alliance. Its conclusion underscored the point made in this blog, that partnerships are more effective than unilateral actions, and that we must seek new ways to bridge sectors of society as well as engage and serve diverse communities.

In order to ‘test out’ those findings, we invited the response of representatives from three unique sectors whose interests may overlap with arts education, but who until now have not been seen as natural  partners in the work we do. The organizations represented were Ed Trust West, whose work focuses on high academic achievement of all students; Preschool California, working to increase access to high quality early childhood education for all children; and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the union of professional stagehands, motion picture technicians, and allied crafts.

What we heard from their representatives reflected the recognition that arts education was not seen as a priority nor particularlyrelevant to their mission. Yet, as we discussed our individual missions, what emerged were the overlapping interests, whether connected to our shared commitment to provide every child with a complete education that includes the benefits of arts education, the importance of  ‘experiential’ learning opportunities throughout the educational experience, and the relevance of the arts to preparing students for careers in the workforce.

The conversation opened new territory for partnership and building a stronger base of support for schools and communities that support the aspirations of all children. As the statewide advocacy organization forarts education, we recognize the critical importance of that effort.


Joe Landon is the executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education. His professional background includes being a speechwriter and senior consultant in the state assembly, a K-8 music and drama teacher, a preschool teacher, and a playwright, composer and  television writer.