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.
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 (www.artsedsearch.org) 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?
This week, we have invited some Guest Bloggers to respond to the latest synthesis of ideas that are emerging from our conversations over the past 4 months. We are so appreciative of their taking the time to lend their experience and wisdom so that we can emerge from this process with a set of shared ideas that will help multiple organizations, institutions and individuals collectively chart a path toward student success and healthy communities.
Let me introduce our bloggers, who will be posting throughout the week:
John Abodeely, Manager, National Partnerships, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has worked for national arts and arts education organizations for about a decade. His specialties include systemic approaches to improving the access to untested subjects, trans-institutional coordination for mission-based work, and breakthrough strategy for nonprofits.
Carl Anthony, Co-director, Breakthrough Communities Project, is an architect, author and urban / suburban / regional design strategist, and has served as Acting Director of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation. He was a founder and, for 12 years Executive Director, of the Urban Habitat Program in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Audrey Brown, Visual Arts Teacher, was selected as San Leandro High School Teacher of the Year 2009. She is the Chair of the San Leandro High School Art Department, and a practicing visual artist.
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.
Joe Landon, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Arts Education, whose 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.
Martha Montufar, Arts Education Consultant and Parent Educator, is an experienced program director, planner, trainer, facilitator, teaching artist and designer of curriculum for education programs and arts integration. Her recent work incorporates using the arts to engage students, their parents, teachers, and administrators in authentic partnership for increased student achievement.
Browning Neddeau is a fourth year Learning & Instruction doctoral student at the University of San Francisco where his research is focused on arts education. He is an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco and San Jose State University in their multiple subjects teacher credentialing programs.
Nancy Ng, Director of Community Development of Luna Dance Institute, has worked as a performing artist, choreographer and educator for her entire life, including a long tenure as choreographer, performer and administrator for Asian American Dance Performances. She holds a teaching credential from San Francisco State University and Ng received the first national award for mentorship from the National Dance Education Organization in 2003.
Dr. Lauren Stevenson, Junction Box Consulting, has been a leader in arts education for over 12 years. As the principal at Junction Box Consulting, she specializes in research and program development connecting arts, education, and youth development.