Arts Ed from Bed: Early Ruminations on Day One of Convention

Posted by Tom DeCaigny, Jun 01, 2007 2 comments

So I decided to return to my hotel room to blog from bed.  Vegas is nothing if not exhausting, and I've already seen more fake bodies and drunken frat boys than one San Franciscan can handle. I suppose it's fitting since rumor has it Vegas IS the new Hollywood.  This rumor might also explain the trash items found by one of my colleagues underneath her bed at the Flamingo.  Fortunately for me, the Flamingo and Harrah's were booked by the time I got my act together to make a reservation so I'm reaping the benefits of a great deal at the Signature at MGM Grand.  Just a tip for your next trip to Vegas...

Anyhow, Risk and Reward is definitely the right theme for this conference.  It's risky enough just negotiating the Flamingo casino floor to get to your workshop of choice.  But all and all, it's the best kind of environment for an arts conference - chaotic, loud, unruly, fast, wildly varied in temperature, and challenging to navigate.  It makes you pay attention to where you are going (or staying) which is a fitting metaphor for the state of arts education (in case you haven't had the opportunity to hear Eric Booth so eloquently speak to this yet).

This morning I attended the first half of the Super Session entitled "California Carries the Torch".  The full session was divided up into 

  1. Needs Assessment
  2. Develop a Plan
  3.  Implement; and
  4.  Evaluate, Revise, and Expand.

San Diego started us off with their recent county-wide assessment and San Francisco followed up with a review of their recently completed Arts Education Master Plan.  This afternoon will cover the "Implement" and "Evaluate, Revise, and Expand" portions.  I think some of the key themes that emerged were right on: 

  1. Systemic progress is very much about leadership development (teachers, parents, administrators, policymakers, artists, etc.)
  2. Arts education leaders need and deserve quality professional development and opportunities for life-long learning
  3. Systemic change in arts education requires broad stakeholder investment to develop a pool of folks to fill future leadership vacancies.

Albeit crass, but I call this the "hit by a bus" phenomenon. If a charismatic or prominent leader should disappear from our important work, then who will fill their shoes?  All too often we rely on a handful of charismatic leaders to forge a path that is not paved or replicable for future leadership.  This is most likely fed by America's obsession with the individual and the competitive culture created within capitalism, but that's a topic for another blog entry. 

What if we advocated for more intergenerational leadership models?  What if we ran young school board members (as has recently happened in San Francisco) and hired young promising arts administrators and paid them well?  What if we decided we're all "emerging leaders"?  What if we asked the more seasoned leaders what it is they haven't figured out rather than what it is they do well?  What if we moved away from didactic conference models altogether? 

I'd love to help answer these questions, but right now it's time to change for tonight's opening event.  I mean, "enjoy light refreshments in the beautiful rotunda of the Clark County Government Center" and "then take the bus to Fremont Street Experience to view Jenny Holzer's FOR LAS VEGAS video art piece on the 90-foot high, four-city-blocks long canopy".  I know where my priorities are.

2 responses for Arts Ed from Bed: Early Ruminations on Day One of Convention


Linda J. says
June 02, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Woo hoo Tom!

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June 06, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Terrific post, Tom. You touched on a lot of points brought up in a leadership session I attended at the conference. It would be great to have a follow-up meeting to address the important questions you've raised. From one "emerging leader" to another, thanks for encouraging us to step outside of the cake mold. And thanks for the shout-out -- I couldn't have been happier to check out of my garbage-riddled room.

I enjoyed our conversations in Vegas and look forward to working with you in the future.

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