The Global Search for Education: Is this the Age of the Arts?

Posted by: C.M. Rubin, The Global Search for Education

September 4th, 2015

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The Global Search for Education (GSE) is a regular contributor to the Edmodo Blog. Authored by C.M. Rubin, GSE brings together distinguished thought leaders in education and innovation from around the world to explore the key learning issues faced by today’s nations. Look for a new post every Friday and join the Global Search for Education Community on Edmodo to share your perspectives with their editorial staff.

Arts education is making a difference in improving struggling schools by increasing student engagement and positively changing young lives in countries all over the world. Additionally, in an age where anyone can access the world’s knowledge on the internet, how one thinks and uses what one knows has become increasingly important – creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving are all skills which can be nurtured and advanced by bringing high quality arts programs into every classroom.

New York is a cultural center of the world. In May this year, Mayor de Blasio signed legislation to develop a comprehensive Cultural Plan for New York by 2017 with arts programming for schools, and in so doing joined other US cities dedicated to increasing arts education, including Houston, Chicago and Denver. Lisa Robb, Executive Director, New York State Council on the Arts, comments: “The time is perfect to meet the needs of our citizens with cultural plans addressing topics like community vitality, tourism, equity, creative economy, artists, geography and the built environment, and art-making, observation, and participation. Arts education for New York State citizens, young and old, is a rich topic for discussion and study.”GSE_Arts photo (2)

The Department of Cultural Affairs will develop the cultural plan, which includes establishing a Citizens’ Advisory Committee to advise on development and implementation. Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl noted: “This Administration recognizes that the arts are essential to the vibrancy of our communities and the quality of the education we provide our students.”

I recently learned a lot more about a number of arts organizations doing exceptional work to help children thrive, both in and out of the classroom. Today in The Global Search for Education, it is my pleasure to share with you some of these initiatives as well as the dreams and hopes for the future of those involved. Welcome to Harriet Taub, Executive Director of Materials for the Arts, Kati Koerner, Co-Chair New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, and John Tighe, Assistant Director, Department of Education & Humanities at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

What do you think is the most significant new initiative you have introduced? By significant, I mean the initiative that has had the most impact on the cultural development of your young audience?

John Tighe: One of BAM Education’s most significant initiatives we’ve introduced over the past two years is incorporating distance learning technology and digital engagement across our programs. Using a digital platform has enabled BAM to extend its reach to connect artists and young people from around the world with the students we serve in NYC. Through BAM’s popular Brooklyn Reads in-school poetry residency and Arts & Justice afterschool program, students from New York City have been able to engage in conversations and art making with peers in Manchester, Liverpool, Trinidad, and Ferguson, Missouri. These connections created communities across great distances and allowed New York City students to see the world beyond their own neighborhood, city, and culture. It also established a forum for these teens, separated by continents, to share their own thoughts and concerns as young people in a safe environment. BAM also utilized this technology to pilot virtual arts workshops for schools who were geographically unable to receive an in-person workshop with a teaching artist. These initiatives enhance our education programs significantly and are part of a larger institutional effort to make BAM more accessible and available to all.

Harriet Taub: We work with non-profits with ongoing arts programming and public schools in NYC. When we realized back in the late 1990’s that some people were not confident in how to repurpose the kinds of materials we were offering, we realized we needed to have an educational component to our program. If we showed people how to use these materials, they would become better shoppers. They would take more and they would keep coming back. The Education Center at Materials for the Arts started with one-off workshops for public school teachers. Over the years, we grew that program to include professional development courses, field trips to the warehouse for students and community outreach events. The environmental aspect of what we do – keeping valuable materials from heading into the landfill – is also now recognized by a much wider audience and coincides with a lot more eco-consciousness as well as a big DIY/Maker movement. Once young people feel engaged and understand that the arts are for everyone, they feel they can have a place at the table – or at the easel!

Kati Koerner: The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable creates peer-to-peer learning opportunities for arts educators that they can turn around and apply to their work in the classroom today. The Roundtable also provides skills-based training in areas such as inclusion or social-emotional learning, and a forum for discussion around larger issues of diversity or education reform that will shape our work moving forward. In terms of our initiatives – more programs; more services; more impact!

Let’s look 5 or 10 years down the road from now. What is your “Dream, Dare, Do” for your work in the arts in education?

Kati Koerner: In one of the great cultural capitals of the world, there are still far too many children – particularly in poor communities – who aren’t receiving an arts education worthy of their birthright as New Yorkers. In 5 years, I hope that every school in the city will have at least one full-time arts teacher on staff and a rich array of cultural partnerships. For the arts education community, my hope is that there will be ever more opportunities – both real and digital – to learn from one another, as well as from best practices in the rapidly evolving fields of technology and education.

John Tighe: In the next five to ten years, BAM Education will continue to explore, develop, and implement programs that thrive in the intersection between education, technology and the arts with the goal of being an innovative global leader in this area. BAM Education’s dream is that anyone, anywhere in the world would be able to experience what happens on BAM’s stages, especially young audiences, at any time. While we continue to develop daring new live experiences for young audiences, we are working with artists to capture and offer “virtual performances” so students and teachers outside of NYC can watch BAM performances at their local cinema, on their computers or devices, participate in virtual workshops with BAM teaching artists, and access BAM’s extensive archive and library of educational resources. BAM Education is already making an impact locally and we’re excited to open up what we do to the world.

Harriet Taub: Creativity can begin early and with all sorts of materials that don’t need to be purchased. We want to make sure the arts in all forms are accessible and just like our ancestors who drew on cave walls with charcoal, we too can create amazing work with things that are around us. The most important piece of this is engagement. The arts are for everyone. It is our job as educators to ensure we pass that message alone.

Continue the conversation in the Global Search for Education Community on Edmodo


Top Row: C. M. Rubin, Kati Koerner
Bottom Row: Harriet Taub, John Tighe


C.M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.

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