Summary Report: NH Fall Arts Education Partnership Conference
The Art and Spirit of Leadership
On November 6, 2015 over 100 New Hampshire artists and arts educators gathered in Portsmouth at 3S Artspace for the NH Fall Arts Education Partnership Conference focused on the art and spirit of leadership. At the invitation of the hosts, NH Listens was asked to design an opportunity for participants to talk together about critical priorities for their work.
The conversation was framed around a key question: How can we make NH a great place for everyone to experience the transformative power of arts learning? In addition, groups explored the assets and challenges of their work and discussed solutions for addressing the challenges and capitalizing on the assets. The goals of these conversations were to:
Inform future work of arts educators and statewide entities with concrete ideas;
Amplify the voices of practitioners in the field and their multiple perspectives;
Empower on-the-ground practitioners to create change in their own community/institution.
Priorities and Themes
The key challenges that were identified repeatedly included the need to address a perceived lack of value for the arts, the lack of equitable access to arts learning, limited resources, the need to hear directly from students, and the need for more opportunities to connect and collaborate. These themes are elaborated upon below, including ideas for individual and collective action. The discussion guide and all small group notes may be found in the appendices.
Advocacy and Creativity: Change the Perception of the Value of the Arts
Every small group discussed the need for shared leadership and strategies to address greater understanding and value for the arts. This perception is experienced by arts educators in the allocation of time and resources, lack of understanding from colleagues and parents, as well as the reduction of arts time in the core curriculum to make room for testing. There is a desire for creative, unified messaging about the necessity of the arts. Participants would like to see tools and messages created that they can use themselves and that they would see reflected in other communities and across the state.
“Arts are essential. Not a special.”
When discussing what is most important to convey, participants mentioned the critical role of the arts in citizenship and democracy, creativity, flexible thinking and problem solving, and nurturing individual talents and confidence. Many arts educators spoke about the environment in their classrooms that encourages appropriate risk taking (trying something and failing and trying again), positive self-expression, and belonging. This helps develop grit and persistence as well as problem solving skills and an ability to read and understand implied messages in life. There is a need for greater understanding of the contributions the arts make to developing critical thinking.
Participants also discussed arts and economic development, the heritage of the arts in communities and the state, and the role arts can play in learning and work environments. Also mentioned was the critical role of the arts in supporting and retaining young people in a community. There is a desire to increase the value placed on arts education through messages that amplify arts as a core component of a quality education.
In addition to messages, participants mentioned a number of strategies for strengthening relationships in schools, with families, in communities, and across sectors. Many of these started with finding creative ways to experience the arts.
Participants talked about ways to increase outreach to parents and families. Parents seem attentive to the need for STEM competency in their children, but are less familiar with integrated arts for STEAM outcomes. Some strategies mentioned included presenting families with an arts experience that is then explained in ways that articulate the arts skills transfer. Getting parents involved in art making can build critical support and understanding.
“Students love seeing adults do art”
Some community outreach ideas that were shared included use of blogs and social media, partnering with the local news, and strengthening connections to colleges and universities. Many participants mentioned the need to reach out across sectors to build partnerships. Involving nontraditional stakeholders in arts experiences (seniors, businesses, college students, veterans) can help encourage lifelong learners and create breakthrough projects in the community.
Finally, participants feel the need to strengthen their own skills as advocates and spokespeople for the arts and public policy impacting arts learning. Some suggested the creation of an arts advocacy class within programs or as a workshop available for professional development to increase arts voices at the public policy table. While a number of participants are concerned about taking students focus away from making art in order to increase advocacy, they see educating others on the value of arts as a big responsibility and are seeking concrete support for these endeavors.
Access to the Arts for All Students
There is concern that access to arts learning is very uneven across New Hampshire. This unevenness plays out geographically in rural and underserved areas, economically as lower income students have decreased access in a pay-to-play arts environment, and programmatically in limited access to various types of arts learning.
Across New Hampshire, participants discussed the differing challenges in rural and underserved areas. In these locations, the need for grant support for artist residencies is even more critical. Participants discussed the role of parent teacher groups and how transformative visible community art projects can be to build trust and support.
Access for students focused on making arts affordable in and out of school and the role a lack of transportation can play for activities that require after school and evening involvement. While the arts themselves are seen as a great “equalizer,” uneven access due to income and other family resources such as time and transportation, marginalize the impact of the arts and add to the frustration and isolation of arts educators.
“Arts are an equalizer”
Finally, participants shared extensively about the need for all artistic disciplines to be better represented across schools. Dance seems especially underrepresented. Still, students do not have access across the visual arts, performing arts, and media arts. Like other disciplines and learning experiences, the arts seem unnecessarily separated and participants shared strategies for encouraging more connected and integrated approaches. Some of these include curriculum based enrichment projects, connecting across generations with partners in preschools and senior centers, knitting for the homeless, programs with veterans, Old Home Days, and strong connections with local libraries.
Amplify Student Voices and Experiences
In addition to access to the arts for students, much of the conversation among arts educators was centered on student experiences. Despite challenges, students are a primary motivator for arts educators and they expressed pride in being able to create learning environments where students can support their peers, teach each other, and relate their learning beyond the walls of the school and into their community. Several participants mentioned that students often see the arts classroom as a sanctuary where they feel a sense of belonging.
“Students can feel relaxed in art class”
Some of the challenges discussed included the struggles of students to be creative themselves rather than just the consumers of creativity. Some students appear to be over scheduled with little downtime or quality time with adults and many struggled with the freedom of creativity and “fear not having the right answer.” Teachers are inspired when they are able to foster developmental shifts toward artistic expression but see the context of students needing different ways to express themselves as all the more important in a of task-focused school environment. Connections between art and prevention is undervalued.
Some of the ideas shared included ways to encourage students to share their arts/music/stories with people in their lives, highlighting the breakthroughs of older students to inspire younger students, and harnessing the skills of “digital natives” to highlight the power of the arts. Starting with how arts are discussed in the classroom, arts educators can impact a student’s ability to talk with parents about art, share art with broader audiences, and amplify enthusiasm and talents.
Addressing Resource Limitations
The conversations included many ideas for addressing challenges, all of which acknowledged the context of a resource constrained environment for the arts. The primary challenges were limitations in time, funding, and the overall structure of funding education in New Hampshire that many perceive as problematic.
Many arts educators discussed their struggles with limited time. Adequate time to prepare and plan, time to connect with critical partners in and out of school, and time to nourish their own artistic endeavors - for themselves and as a way of enriching their teaching - were all discussed.
Core resources of funding, including grants and access to adequate supplies, were discussed. There were questions about the distribution of funding options in New Hampshire, access to grants, and the combined challenges of needing always to find funding, build partnerships, and advocate for the arts in addition to creating and sustaining transformative arts experiences with students. This context adds to the workload of arts educators in ways that often feel overwhelming. There is a perception that there are fewer grants opportunities today and that rural areas seeking grants are at a disadvantage. Similarly, arts educators are concerned that there are fewer options for artist residencies. Artist residencies are seen as a key way to add capacity and energy, and many see strengthening this capacity in New Hampshire as important.
“Adequate funding is always an issue”
Finally, participants discussed how education is funded locally, statewide, and nationally in ways that are fundamentally at the heart of the dilemma of adequacy and value. Arts educators feel an urgency of making arts education an essential part of human experience, building on the enthusiasm from students in the arts to tie arts literacy to other subjects.
Collaboration and Connections
Some of the key challenges faced by arts educators include feeling isolated in their work, arts being too disconnected from other subjects, and time and energy to build stronger networks locally, regionally, and statewide. Many participants talked about the contributions they can make through leadership and collaboration with other teachers, administrators, artists, and parents and community members.
Participants discussed the need to startin their own schools and communities to increase interdisciplinary reciprocity, connect across subjects, and work intentionally to bring STEAM partners together. There is interest in a central resource of best practices for this work, including support for regional conferences and workshops for non-arts teachers and administrators. This may also help spur involving arts teachers in grade level and core curriculum planning. Some mentioned building on programs like the NH Arts Learning Network.
A critical asset of the network of arts educators is their passion and ability as artists to work collaboratively in a small state. Many would like to see the network connecting more through a state wide roster. Others discussed the need to stay positive and share the credit across efforts. Finally, arts educators have rich assets to share bringing resourcefulness and creative problem solving for positive action.
Small Group Notes
The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts offers academic
year 2015 - 2016 grants to support quality arts learning experiences
and develop the creative skills of youth.
Artist Residency in Schools (AIR) Grants
Maximum Grant Request: $1,000 - $4,500
Postmark Deadline: Friday, April 10, 2015, Project Dates: July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016 AIR provides matching funds to bring juried teaching artists into alternative education sites and public schools in support of creative learning and skills development in the arts. AIR grants support partial costs for artist residencies in a variety of arts disciplines. Arts disciplines may include: dance, film, media arts, sculpture, murals, photography, poetry, book arts, eco arts, ceramics, puppetry and traditional arts.
Youth Arts Project (YAP) Grants
Maximum Grant Request: $1,000 - $4,500
Postmark Deadline: Friday, April 17, 2015, Project Dates: August 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016 YAP grants provide matching funds for high-quality arts and cultural education programs that encourage creativity, develop new arts skills and foster academic success for young people (K-12). The overall goal of this grant category is to provide young people opportunities to engage in the arts beyond the normal school day so they can develop creative problem solving skills and become more engaged in their communities. Activities may take place after regular school hours, in the summer or during school vacations.
General Project Grants
Maximum Grant Request: $1,000 - $4,500
Deadline: July 31, 2015, General Project Grants are designed to help Main Street Programs, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and schools bring arts presentations and activities into communities to enhance the quality of life for citizens, attract visitors and help stimulate local economies through the arts. This matching grant category supports a wide range of activities including:
*Performances, concerts, exhibits, workshops, local festivals, collaborative public art projects, etc., that engage the arts and artists for the benefit of New Hampshire residents and communities
*Short-term art presentations and activities in schools or after school programs for youth of all ages.
*Projects that help to preserve, document and showcase heritage & traditional arts.
NH State Council on the Arts Offers
Two Free Grant-Writing Workshops
for Arts Learning
The workshop will focus on these two grants:
Artist in Residence (AIR) and Youth Arts Project (YAP) for Creative Youth Development
Friday, January 30
9:30 - 2:30 pm
Friday, February 13
9:30 - 2:30 pm
Both workshops take place at the Plymouth State University (PSU) Graduate Center, Concord, 2 Pillsbury St, 5th floor. The NH State Council on the Arts has a variety of grants available for Academic Year 2015-2016 (FY2016) that support quality Arts in Education and Integrated Arts Learning in both the regular school day and out-of- school educational settings. The workshop, led by Catherine O'Brian, Arts Education and Grants Coordinator, will cover the new electronic grant application system, guidelines, roles of partners, thematic curriculum connections, choice of artists, writing goals and outcomes, evaluation, planning residency schedules and budgets. The workshop is free and open to arts educators, classroom teachers, curriculum coordinators, after school youth leaders, arts administrators, youth development professionals, parents and teaching artists. This will be a lively and interactive workshop. Pre-registration is required as space is limited. Please select your preferred date and contact Catherine O'Brian to register, Catherine.R.Obrian@dcr.nh.gov. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Serving as an AIR School Coordinator or Youth Arts Project Coordinator is an excellent way to develop leadership skills and add "grants writing" to your resume. Beginners to experienced grant writers are welcome, including PTA/PTO parent leaders, teaching artists, youth development leaders and school principals.
Center for Arts in Education at Boston Arts Academy 2009 Anne O'Hara
The Center for Arts in Education invites arts teachers from public arts high schools and Title 1 high schools and middle schools to apply for funding for artistic development through its National Artist Teacher Fellowship program. Join us in celebrating 15 years of the NATF program, which offers arts teachers the opportunity to immerse themselves in their own creative work, interact with other professional artists, and stay current with new practices. The NATF program provides grants of up to $5,500 to enable selected arts teachers from all disciplines to rejuvenate their own art-making. A complementary grant of $1,500 is awarded to each Fellow's school to support post-fellowship activities in the classroom. Eligibility for NATF: Schools must: Be a public arts high school, magnet school, or charter school with the primary mission of fostering the development of artistic talent; or a Title 1 middle or high school with a sequential arts program. Offer sequential arts courses as a requirement for graduation Employ artists as teachers Arts Teachers must: Be permanently assigned full or part-time faculty (teaching a minimum of 6 hrs/week in an arts discipline) Be minimally in their fifth year of teaching arts at the high school or middle school level (middle school educators must be from a Title 1 schools) Previous NATF and Surdna Fellows (Rounds 1-14) are ineligible to apply for 2015 NATF program. Online Letters of Intent are due November 19, 2014 Applications will be available online by September 26, 2014 For complete program information, please visit our website: www.natf-arts.org Center for Arts in Education | 174 Ipswich Street, Boston MA | bostonartsacademy.org/center