After-school and off-site
will take on the bulk
of arts teaching.
Here's the good news for
art educators: Though an
of NCLB has been a slow
stripping from the school
day of anything that smacks of "extracurricular,"
the national tide is turning. Case
in point: The 2007 National Teacher of the
Year, Andrea Peterson, is a music teacher.
As America begins to recognize (or recognize
again) that the arts are essential, not
peripheral, to true education, arts programs
will become part of the solution to the very
underachievement that NCLB targets. This
year, beleaguered champions of arts education
will find their visions finally -- if gradually --
realized, as the growing conversation
about art education's intrinsic value plays
out in partnerships between community arts
organizations and schools. Beyond simply
filling in the gaps, this fruitful connection to
expertise will offer students rich, meaningful
experiences that will likely improve on traditional
models for art class.
Take for instance, Big Thought, an umbrella
organization managing multiple partnerships
between schools and cultural centers
in Dallas, Texas. The organization promotes
initiatives such as Dallas ArtsPartners, providing
access to cultural institutions for students
and tools for teachers. "In Dallas, we're
seeing an increase in arts and music education,"
says Gina Thorsen, Big Thought's vice
president of research and development.
Though she concedes this trend is atypical
for a large, urban school district, she and
Big Thought's executive director, Giselle
Antoni, travel the country coaching other
communities to pool their resources and
follow suit. "Arts and cultural organizations
have resources that our schools don't have
and that can be used to great benefit in the
classroom," Thorsen says.
John Abodeely, arts-education manager
at the Washington, DC, nonprofit organization
Americans for the Arts, has seen a
distinct rise in these types of partnerships in
recent years. Rather than the old alliances
between professional artists and classrooms,
which took the form of an occasional artist-in-residence, he says, "the depth of service is
much greater." Arts organizations are working
side-by-side with teachers and principals
to develop arts-integrated curricula that tap
into the flexibility and innovation possible in
ArtLinks, in Napa, California, is just
such a program. Leslie Medine, executive
director of its parent organization, On the
Move, recounts an after-school mural project
ArtLinks made possible. When students at
the local Salvador Elementary School discussed
the content of their mural (with the
theme "School as community"), they discovered
that if they were to paint a flag for
every nationality represented at the school,
there would be twenty-one flags. "That's not
necessarily something that would have happened
in social studies class," Medine says.
Granted, it's a paradoxical time for arts
education, with cutbacks on the one hand
and a growing amount of support on the
other. But therein lies the hope -- and the
challenge, explains Deborah Reeve, executive
director of the National Art Education
Association. Though times have been tough,
she says, "there's a change in the air."
Gina Thorsen, in Dallas, concurs.
"Perhaps a pendulum swung too far in one
direction," she muses. "Now it's swinging