Arts and Education at the 2009 GIA Conference in Brooklyn

Navigating the Art of Change: Arts Education Preconference Notes

Janet Brown

Grantmakers in the Arts – 2009 Conference – Sunday, October 18, 2009

Morning: Opportunities in Arts Education: What’s Different Now?

We all know that the times they are changing for those involved in arts education. The new reality is that funders, nonprofits and schools are working with reduced budgets at the same time as education reform, stimulated by the new administration, is gaining traction nationally. Brief papers developed as part of this preconference touched on a number of shifts and changes on the arts education landscape. Experiences and thinking of participants added much more. Diane Mataraza facilitated a discussion of the frontier issues in arts education.

Opportunities in Arts Education: What’s Different Now? What did people want to get out of this session?
  1. Get a sense of context for work we’re doing in national landscape.
  2. Realistic strategies to maximize grant making.
  3. Leverage points to move public will? Are there really leverage points or is it really just rolling up your sleeves and getting work done?
  4. Hear the national conversation about what people are thinking about.
  5. How to best advocate for arts in education.
  6. Leverage points. We need to listen and learn.
  7. How to include Pre-K and advocacy.
  8. Community organizing around arts education.
  9. Successful teaching and professional development models for generalists.
  10. What should we focus on going forward?
  11. San Francisco had a vital arts education funders network that has stopped functioning. How can I spark my colleagues?
  12. How to strengthen strategy to assure equity in Chicago to reach out to all ages including teens.
  13. To be lifted out of the mud by the end of the day.
  14. Strategies around community organizing and strategy to sustain arts education.
  15. Partnerships in arts education within the system and outside educational system.
  16. How to assess program quality.
  17. Have brought grantees together to address common challenges. I think it’s advocacy they need but no one is asking for advocacy.
  18. How do we sustain programs and commit to good programs once the private grant programs have started? – Quality control?
  19. Ideas for training artists.
What are the biggest challenges facing grantees?
  • Very politicized and bureaucratic system…the capitalist language of “schools are here to train the workforce.” Our capacity to make the case and divisiveness among programs in schools…arts versus other areas of curriculum.
  • New politics of school reform: free market driven school system and failure of our constituents to build constituencies of their own to demand sustainability.
  • Within the artist community, artists believe they know what arts education is and once you get young artists out there, they don’t have any idea of what that means.
  • There is a disconnect on the ground that “any art is better than nothing.” There is stuff on the ground not appropriately connected with policy development. There is no incremental application…difference between policy, which is excellent and application which is not so good.
  • Isolation of the arts as separate from curriculum. Education and arts education within our own funding organizations are isolated.
  • Challenges around scale…teeny tiny arts organizations trying to fill gap for a huge school system.
  • Lack of professional development tools for teaching artists and classroom teachers.
  • Shrinking administrative support for organizations that support arts education activities.
  • Shrinking school system resources; arts standards are misunderstood and there is a disconnect between reality and policy.
  • Schools and teachers are not comfortable talking about the arts.
  • Long-term in-depth training in art forms is hard to sustain.
  • Echo scale issue…small organizations trying to help 30 -40 schools. Artists trained in high/low art and artist-teachers not prepared to get into the education issues.
  • Lack of leadership within district to form a common agenda of where we are going.
  • Schedules in school day makes finding time for the arts a challenge.
  • Who has control over budgeting of individual schools is shifting and there are continuous changes in administrative personnel.
  • Assessment and research in the field seems disparate. Is there a place where they are all coming together? Is there enough money for arts education research?
  • Data gathering – what’s happening in each school and how to get that information. Often the schools can’t or won’t provide data or fill out surveys.
  • Superintendent average (we think) is three years at the job.
  • We have created an unhealthy relationship between schools and funders because schools will count on private funders to fill the gap.
  • Evaluation is a question. Funding assessment. What are we assessing? Often no articulated goals.
  • Lack of real vision about what arts looks like for children and their families. There is a strong emphasis on family in the literacy movement and we don’t acknowledge the importance of family engagement in arts education.
  • Many kinds of evaluation that moves us into areas of data and research.
  • Do our organizations and our funders understand how government and public policy is developed and how long that takes and how we change policy which changes reality? Sticking with programs for the long term if policy change is expected.
What would be helpful to meet these challenges on a national basis?
  • A national movement to put arts education into context of personal growth.
  • Partnership for 21st Century – arts are now a small subset but could be very integrated into the message of this is helpful to promote arts education as “creativity training” for workforce development.
  • Research material can help on time, talent and money.
  • National department of education doing a sample survey – “fast response survey” schools district demographics on number of teachers, etc and can’t take more than 30 minutes to respond and is specific to arts education.
  • Supported certification or mandated training programs for teaching artists to give them credibility.
  • We need a central data collection for funders.
  • Teachers unions could be great allies (and are in many situations). United Teacher Federation and AFT –teacher unions are rarely a part of arts education advocacy. Interesting question as to why they have not been more active. Most arts education conferences you go to lack arts education teachers. Unions are the one way to get them together.
  • Parents and families. Nice to see how arts educations advocacy can have more in touch with parents and families.
  • Cooperation and collaboration needs to be done with other areas. We need to connect with high profile national organizations to help endorse and promote arts education.
  • Do we have the capacity to get at reauthorization and citywide agendas? Should we be spending more time looking at smaller goals and accomplishing real data and successes instead of national change?
  • “Expanded learning day” movement is an opportunity for arts education. Also social justice grassroots organizations can be integrated into arts education advocacy.
  • One of the fundamental facts of USA education system is local control. We have to work on how we build advocacy.
  • Can we reframe the case and use language that has more meaning today.
  • In Canada, UNESCO energized series of meetings across the country, rooted in arts education but linking it to fundamental education/ family and community livability.
  • We should be able to make more significant inroads into connecting arts education with work of others in issues. Can we be more connected with information or is there something.
  • Can we partner with other entities like Education Trust, Fordham, NCLB, teacher unions that have the muscle to make change. Arts education collaboration makes sense.
  • Should technology help to link us? YES.
Who should you be working with? Who are you allies locally?
  • We work with community partners, organizations in the community that send our artists out. We could have a roundtable with our partners to talk about their issues and share common obstacles.
  • Alternative schools are using Trust money in Corrections, Department of Justice added money and then a college wanted to work with them. It wasn’t our intent to work in juvenile corrections but they had the money and we worked with them for a common purpose.
  • Partnership with Juvenile Corrections and County organizations that focuses on Zero-5 children and their families. Big target around corporate dollars that are interested in education and arts and not just arts.
  • Stage parents are notorious for pushing an agenda and they can be coordinated to be activists. We also work with local economic development partners and social clubs.
  • LA has formed a pool fund to coordinate arts education efforts district-wide and work directly with County Department of Education.
  • Manitoba: We created the Arts Alliance. The original intent was a coalition of arts groups in life-long learning. Now expanded to include health, community livability, and other organizations.
  • I think about who are the allies I avoid? In education, the education funders that I’m aware of in my region are focused on better equity and social justice issues. There is another group that is all about school vouchers and I don’t know what they think about arts education. I don’t talk to those funders who I think are on the conservative end. I might rethink this strategy.
  • We are looking at the school board association. We gave a grant to the statewide PTA for advocacy training and engagement of which the arts would be a part. Can PTA help us to hear from students?
  • There are youth organizing groups that are existing networks that can be a resource.
  • We should be working with other funders and artists who are social justice focused.
  • We convene grantees in arts education once a month. Every other month, it is a social networking gathering. Other months are a formal program. We have been working as a coalition of funders for over seven years and have created a certification program for artists. Quarterly meetings with art coordinators in the schools. Reaching Principals is our next goal.
  • We are working with the state arts council to put together an event in February with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Chancellor of NC School of the Arts to invite an important list of “miracle workers.” About 40 people will meet and talk about the capacity of building professional development for teaching artists and arts specialists.
  • We convene teaching artists quarterly. When we initially started, we brought in speakers and then brought in conveners.
  • We bring grantees together every year and we’re asking them to come together and share their ideas about what is arts in education and why it is important.
  • There are few funding organizations that understand and can navigate the politics of policy-making within education. How do we grow the support and how do funders empower grantees to come to you and ask for policy funding or advocacy efforts?
How many fund public policy advocacy:
  • We fund advocacy and will fund policy organizations and groups that lobby. 99% of our grants are general operating grants; which then can spend on advocacy.
  • We required our arts education grantees to join the statewide arts advocacy organization.
  • Are we furthering anything if we only convene those who are our partners, grantees and artists?
  • As a local funder, after school people are my allies (like athletics) and they should be my partners. The competitive nature doesn’t serve us well, it should be “how do these two work together” to improve the lives of children?
  • We are still working together to make sure arts people are on the same page. Advocacy issues and how to act on policy issues will bring people together. Advocacy organizations have to be sophisticated and organized and need funding to be affective.
  • Convenings should be done with core constituencies and information shared with other target groups.
  • How do we get data out to the “non choir” groups in education? Can we come to agreement on vocabulary and core messaging to reach populations other than arts folks?
  • How do you look at local politics and needs of partners as strategy to further their causes in order to also further the arts?
  • Our group funds an advocacy strategy called “no child left inside” to get children outside to play and move. Are there similarities that we can learn from that that advocacy effort? The coalition is part of a regional movement and probably state/national. Borrowing advocacy strategies that from other sectors might be helpful.
Frontiers in Arts Education Programming and Funding
  • We funded a Jazz Camp at a university who needed to be more ethnically diverse and they got really into it. Band directors drove buses of their kids to participate. Parent attendance at the performance was big.
  • We fund the conveners and leaders (Wallace). In every city it is a different configuration. It’s looking at “who are the resources in your community”…leadership changes and moves around. We look to support their efforts on the local level. Data collection is critically important and once we see where the gaps are and the inequities are, some of the conversation will change.
  • What can we learn from other industries? The megatrend is about systemic change. Although we are all still funding arts organizations to do good work in schools but we are now working on systemic change. Funding CA Alliance of Arts Education; education coalition, county superintendents, Inside out and outside in…

Afternoon: Sustaining Arts Education Advocacy at the Local Level: How do we organize our communities to engage in sustainable arts education advocacy?

This interactive session, led by Eric Zachary of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, took participants through the paces of organizing an arts education community that not only makes change possible but sustains that change for the future.

Rituals of Engagement:

An icebreaker helps people to feel more comfortable and puts them at ease. Eric asked participants to get short answers to several questions from others in the room. This caused the group to mingle, interact, become loud and move around. More importantly, people who did not know each other spoke to one another on a one-to-one basis.

Eric asked participants to imagine they were community organizers in a neighborhood that helped rebuild the housing stock for that neighborhood. Parents come and say that only 18% of their children are reading at an adequate level. Participants broke into small groups to figure out what strategies could be used to address this issue and then prioritize them.

Group reports Consensus:

Group 1

  1. orientation to get a sense of capacity of interest in parents to take this on and facilitate their leadership in solving the problem
  2. work to help things happen right now: tutoring – assisting in the classrooms

Group 2

  1. Use leadership team to go door to door to talk to the neighborhood and tell them what was going on and assess their awareness of the problem.
  2. Use available wall space for marketing campaign to project message about the issue
  3. Bring school to community center or organizations where people live

Group 3

  1. Basic research: sit down and talk to parents about what they want and what they need and what are their skills in this. What resources do they need? Is this problem isolated to this school?
  2. Internal questions about what our mission was, who are our partners, and what is the possibility for action.
    1. Work with parents to train them to expand their skills in reading at home
    2. Make sure students have access to materials
    3. Proper eye test and ear tests
    4. Early grades exposure to vocabulary and languages
    5. Work with parents to craft their own statement about who they are and what they are prepared to do at home.

Group 4

  1. Respond and look for space in common area for tutoring.
  2. Convene larger group of parents along with teachers and administrators
  3. Look for others working on the issue
  4. Identify new causes and problems
    1. Health issues
    2. Inexperienced teacher population
    3. Determine the actual problem and come up with action plan

Group 5

  1. Start with initial group of parents and reach out to more to that group about how they understood this data and what it meant to students
  2. Analyze state of children, home life, barriers, etc. Did the parents have will to lead the effort to meet the goal.
  3. Identify other resources, tutoring, library (to be used to increase literacy)
  4. Talk to school board and then elect their own person. (later)

Addressing social problems:
(All these are important and none are more important than others)

  • Service and programs that address the problems
  • Advocacy – advocate for problem on behalf of the people affected; led by staff
  • Development – creating something to solve the problem
  • Organizing – involving the people most affected by the problem to change conditions and policies

Justice + Democracy
Power   Engagement
People   Investment
Campaign   Ownership

To get justice you need power; the power in communities is in the people and organizing them to make change.

Democracy is Justice. If people are the most important element, how do you construct an organization that engages people and invests in their actions and helps them take ownership?

Eric entered the field to improve schools in New York City 20 years ago. There were two parent organizations that weren’t really defined by location and several resource organizations that provided training. How can a parent association with no staff, no money, and no direction and totally dependent on the schools be successful in advocating for the school to change?

Coalition for Educational Justice was created. This organization connects staffed parent organizing groups from each borough with partnerships with teacher’s unions, urban youth collaboratives, the Center for Arts Education and other advocacy groups. Landscape of advocacy in NYC looks differently today than 15 years ago. It was done organically starting with one stage , which led to the urgent need to create the next stage.

Eric introduced three colleagues to discuss their work:

Cassie Schwerner, Schott Foundation

Involved in school reform and started as a family foundation. Wanted to change the funding formula for NYC. The Foundation funded litigation to reach their goal. Came up with logic model that created the theory of change. Have used this model for past ten years. To achieve the goal, they needed to build public and political will. They Fund advocacy and organizing to build that will.

Tool Box:

Technical assistance

Richard Kessler, Center for Arts Education

Project Arts was created through Annenberg challenge. It had large plans and much support. Project Arts supported funds going to arts education from the city. There were still schools where there was nothing. These were poor schools. Project Arts was eliminated in 2005. CAE decided to start speaking out. None of the arts organizations would join them because of the funding from Bloomberg; they began to develop coalitions with organizations like Coalition of Educational Justice (not art groups who feared losing their Bloomberg dollars) but organizations that were more grass roots and had children at the center of their missions.

Victoria Bousquet, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

Parents are indignant when they learn some students are getting less than others. As parents are aware of it, then they can act. The world isn’t just number crunching and arts are a way to have a broader experience. Critical to the work in NYC over the past few years has been data collection and dissemination…how their school compares to others, how their students are doing compared to others. This is a powerful impetus for getting parental involvement.

Programs alone don’t make systemic change. Advocacy is not possible without programs. Developing leadership to become decision-makers: electing people to school boards who are sympathetic.

Foundations came together in NYC to form the Donors’ Education Coalition (DEC) about 14 years ago. Facilities and schools were in trouble 15 years ago. Being part of the collaborative has three key benefits:

  1. leveraging funds (small investment mingled with in larger funders)
  2. institutional learning with other institutions
  3. encouraging length of time for support that could actually create change (longer periods of commitment to funding programs)
  4. allowing for risk-taking that single organizations may not be able to do

Participants ended the day in small groups defined by geographic region and/or community to discuss the relevance of what was learned today to their own issues.

Preconference co-chairs Julie Fry, Hewlett Foundation, and Richard Kessler, NY Center for Arts Education, thanked participants for attending and participating.

Notes taken by Janet Brown, Grantmakers in the Arts