The season of Thanksgiving in Arts Education

Posted by Mr. Ken Busby, Dec 02, 2015 0 comments

It's the season of thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for in a world that may, at times, seem less than hospitable.

This week, we celebrated Giving Tuesday – a reminder that while the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday retail efforts are all important to the economy, the nonprofit world deserves equal consideration in terms of financial support for the good these organizations do in our communities.

Where would we be as a nation without our arts education nonprofit organizations?  Where would we be without art and music and dance and drama and poetry and theatre?

Recently, I attended an Advisory Board meeting of the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance.  My participation on this committee is to be an advocate for STEAM.  And it’s great to see our community come together and recognize that the arts really should be on par with science, technology, engineering, and math.  Our board focuses on incorporating the arts in every aspect of STEM education, while also valuing the arts as a standalone subject.

Congresswoman Suzanne BonamiciIn November of this year, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) successfully added an amendment to the rewrite of the nation’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation that will integrate the arts into STEM education.

This is of particular significance because her amendment was unanimously adopted by voice vote of the joint House-Senate Conference Committee during the mark-up of the final ESEA bill.  The bill next goes to the House and Senate for final (and likely) passage in early December, before going to the President’s desk for signature.

After many years of anticipation, this bipartisan legislation will set new K-12 education policies impacting the nation’s 100,000 schools across the country.  This is critical as we work to empower students with 21st Century learning skills so that they can compete in a global economy and provide the creative workforce that companies demand.

In a recent article in Soapbox Cincinnati, Rick Pender talks about ArtsWave, the Greater Cincinnati region's local arts agency and the nation's largest community campaign for the arts.  Working with community leaders, ArtsWave has just released a “Blueprint for Collective Action,” an undertaking that will ensure the arts are supporting their vibrant regional economy and enabling a more connected community.

There are five stated elements in the Blueprint, one of which is:  Arts fuel creativity and learning.  We have ample research that demonstrates that the arts improve student motivation, attitudes and attendance, making students more likely to succeed.  “Whether or not kids go on to be professional artists, they can learn skills from the arts,” Alecia Kintner, president and CEO of ArtsWave, points out, mentioning, “collaboration, problem solving and creative process building, [as well as] greater confidence and self-esteem” as essential skills to be successful.
Kintner points to Cincinnati Ballet’s program for third grade students who learn about posture and eye contact.  “That is a skill that will stay with them for a long time.  It might help them on their first job interview.”

As we approach the end of the calendar year, it’s a time of reflection about the year just passed, and a time to envision the New Year before us.  What have we accomplished this year?  What will we make of 2016?  Now is the time to embrace possibilities, to encourage new ways of looking at the world, and to chart a course for raising awareness of arts education and the tremendous impact the arts have on all aspects of our community.

As you read this, I encourage you to write down three arts education-related goals to accomplish in 2016.   This could include finding new partners, developing a new program or expanding a current program to serve a larger audience or increasing awareness of arts education in your community through greater PR and marketing efforts.

We have a shared responsibility toward arts education; to make certain that we have the necessary tools in place to provide the best possible education for our children.  Working together, we are and will continue making a difference!

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