On Thursday morning, June 24, 2010, I arrived at the Americans for the Arts Arts Education pre-conference. It was my first time at AFTA, so I arrived early and with a little apprehension. I met another attendee; we were the first to arrive. As we waited together we discussed why we came and what we hoped to get from the experience. By the time the pre-conference started, I had really made a new friend!
We received homework ahead of time. We were going to work on the seven identified trends in arts education. Jeanne Schulze of Jeanne Schulze & Associates and members of the AFTA Arts Education Council facilitated our World Cafe discussions. Jeanne asked us, “What can a student/constituency-centered arts education be in 2020?” I thought, “How could we accomplish that in two half-days? Where do we want to be?”
Artist and activist Derrick Ashong, or “DNA” as he is sometimes known, discussed the impact of arts education and the value of the arts in creating social change. He challenged us to make changes in the way we think not just about art but about people. His quote “In times of great challenge, we can do great things. What will you do?” really stood out to me. His visionary ideas and views challenged us to think beyond our own little area of the world. We need to shift position to illustrate the power of innovative thinking. DNA will be coming to NJ PAC next year to bring his work to students in Newark. I hope to see him in action!
Over lunch we were charged with discussing what a student/constituency centered arts education would be in 2020? Reviewing the trends and foreseeing what these trends will look like 10 years from now in 2020 is a daunting task to say the least. As we shared our ideas on the value of arts education, a few main ideas came to us:
- We need to make sure that there is equity and access for all across the nation;
- we need to overcome our barriers and differences to discover new opportunities;
- our public schools are in crisis—we can’t let that crisis affect what we know is right for all students;
- the arts are an important part of life long learning.
We then split into 7 sections, one for each trend. I choose to be part of the group working on “Increasing quality of arts education professional development currently unmatched by demand”. We all presented ideas and prioritized them for presentation to the group. We had to think about what teachers want, what principals and supervisors want and how this is related to what students need. A big question that popped up often was how to make it equitable for all. Wait, I’m not done… that was only day one!
Day two began with an early sharing over breakfast. How can we move our constituencies from valuing to prioritizing Arts Education for the next decade? How can we make things work in our new environment with less monies and time? I shared one thing I noticed: Parents were mentioned but not really discussed as a viable force when it comes to arts education. Parents, PTA/PTO etc. are a partnership that needs to be explored. They are your community—shop keepers, businessmen and community leaders. The PTA Reflections Program,was widely unknown, as was the extent of National PTA’s commitment to Arts Education.
The future will bring a lot of changes. Will we really be convening like this in twenty years? A new revolution for education may make it viral and systemic; no paper, no face-to-face meetings. We will have more digital communities.
How would we put our ideas into actions? How would we move our constituencies from valuing to prioritizing arts education for the next decade? Our next assignment was not an easy task. We were all from different backgrounds as well as different states (with each state facing their own particular socio-economic issues).
- We need to continue to be vigilant arts advocates at all levels.
- Keep telling our stories and use the electronic media to our advantage.
- Share our best practices and consider new partnerships. We will need to make changes in how we work.
- We will need new ideas that are innovative and different.
- As the world around us changes we need to shift how we think about arts education to what it will be in the future. If we don’t we’ll be caught in a maze, unable to find our way out!
The last thing we did was to share individual promises and gifts that we would use to continue to make an impact. I promised to look for ways to learn more at the summit and beyond. When I went home–to use new media and other tools to create innovative actions and plans to move forward. My gift to share was my ability to network and connect others as well as sharing my knowledge of parent involvement and PTA to further arts education in the next decade!
Flickr photo – group discussion on the trend Professional Development Increasing quality of arts education professional development currently unmatched by demand.
Geri Iannaconi, Director of Marketing and Performance, Arts Horizons