To improve—and perhaps to increase—the teaching of the performing arts in public schools, Dana supports innovative professional development. Dana grants fund nonprofit organizations that train in-school arts specialists or professional artists brought into schools to teach students.
We help nonprofit organizations launch, expand, and refine arts education programs focused on the development of professional teaching artists who we hope will become models of best practices. We encourage our grantees to mentor other fledgling programs as well as to “cross-pollinate”—to visit other grantees’ programs to study one another’s work. Our goal at the end of our two or three years of support is for the program to be up and running on its own, attracting local and national funders that will sustain it.
Beyond specific grants, we support this special niche by creating and distributing free publications and articles related to the field, including the latest news in arts education. We hold or contribute to public conferences and smaller grantee gatherings, where arts-group leaders can share what works for them and the teaching artists they serve. And our Web site offers a storehouse of best practices, downloadable materials, and other resources in arts learning, including work by our grantees.
New in 2008: Grants to States
A new area of Dana support has grown out of an initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to build commitment to arts education among a state’s school leaders, legislators, and policy makers.
The first session of the NEA’s Education Leaders Institute, held in March 2008, drew teams of school leaders, politicians, artists, advocates, and arts and education experts from five states. For three days, these teams discussed their challenges and successes in providing arts education. They jointly created strategies to strengthen each state’s arts education policies and programs. The NEA held a second session in July 2008 and plans to continue sessions until it has served all the states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories.
Under Dana’s new States Arts Learning Initiative, the states that have gone through the NEA process are invited to apply for funding for local projects that emerge as a result of it. We aim to fund projects that take action on the lessons learned at the NEA Institute, that will be a springboard for larger initiatives, and that will eventually attract local funding. These grants would be separate from, but designed to leverage, the work accomplished through the NEA Institute. The goal of all the groups is to increase support for arts education by coordinating collaboration of diverse stakeholders.
In December 2008, Wisconsin was awarded the first grant. Its task force, led by the state’s superintendent of schools and lieutenant governor, already has held discussion forums across the state and has identified specific goals that could change attitudes (and funding) for arts education. Now, with the Dana grant, the task force aims to support the plan, which is divided into four areas: legislative and state policy, creativity in the classroom, community involvement, and business and the creative economy.
“We’ve said the arts are not a luxury, they are essential, and people in Wisconsin believe that,” State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster said during a January 2009 Creative Wisconsin Summit announcing the award and the task force’s plan. Wisonsin’s plan has the potential to become a best practice—a replicable model for other states—which is another of our priorities.
Grants to Programs
For the past eight years, the Dana Foundation has awarded grants to arts organizations to provide professional development that fosters improved teaching of the performing arts in public schools.
We fund two sets of grants each year. One is for projects that originate within a 50-mile radius of Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. (the “three-city round”). The other is for projects in rural areas of the United States (the “rural initiative”). Our online resources are available to all who seek examples of arts education programs that work. From 2001 to 2008, we awarded 196 grants amounting to just over $8 million.
Developing Teaching Artists in Urban Areas
As with our science grants, our arts education funding is intended to last not forever, but just long enough for a program to take root and start to grow. Then it is up to local communities or state and national funders to help it flourish.
Just such a program is the Los Angeles–based (Out)Laws & Justice. This organization helps students ages 11 to 14 discover their role in creating a just and civil society by using the history of westward expansion and the Wild West to examine the roots of violence and to learn conflict-resolution skills. Students attend history and language arts classes, and then they become a part of the action by acting out historical situations and parallel situations from their own lives. They study primary source documents, discuss them, and then write and act in their own dramas.
A resident theater artist works with each public school class that takes on this project, by helping students to create and perform their work. [see a short video of one such performance]. Dana funding supported multipart professional training in Los Angeles and New York City for teachers and artists, including tips on how to document students’ learning. After the training in August, one new teacher was hired as a teaching artist, and the program has had many inquiries from teachers and artists wanting to join in, said Lisa Citron, the organization’s executive director. In December, the program was awarded two private grants to continue its work.
In New York, teaching artists with Mark DeGarmo & Dancers/Dynamic Forms provide dance instruction to 2,025 students and their classroom and arts teachers through the group’s Schools Partnership Program. Through a two-year Dana grant, the organization aims to at least double that number by offering a Teaching Artist Training Institute to 15 teaching artists and prospective teaching artists.
The Teaching Artist Training Institute includes a 42-hour seminar series, followed by a semester-long practicum in the schools, where participants use the skills they learned in the seminars to teach dance. They finish with a month long, mentor-led independent inquiry and research project, which they share with their colleagues.
Mark DeGarmo & Dancers/Dynamic Forms started an individual donor campaign to match the Dana grant. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has cited the project as an exemplary private-public funding partnership.
Elsewhere, Young Audiences New York’s teaching artist professional development program is a year of training, support, and mentorship for teaching artists who provide educational performance programs and residencies in dance, music, theater, and other performing arts, as well as the visual and literary arts, to public school students.
A 2006 Dana grant to Young Audiences is funding not only teacher training, but also the production of 40 to 50 classroom-ready, No Child Left Behind–compliant, literacy-through-arts lesson packages. Each package consists of lesson plans and guidelines for teaching artists, as well as extensions such as videos and links to other materials matched to grades 3, 4, and 5.
In 2008, Young Audiences New York secured a $2.25 million grant from the Starr Foundation to continue and expand its work.
Serving Rural Areas
In 2006, we began supporting arts organizations that have the same mission as our three-city grantees but that serve rural areas of the United States. Distance is a barrier for quality arts teaching in many rural areas; one of the goals of the programs we support is to link teachers and teaching artists so the artists can offer a sense of community as well as share their expertise.
For example, the Lied Center of Kansas runs a statewide outreach program, Arts Across Kansas, bringing international touring artists to rural communities for performances and workshops. These programs are short-term, however, and the center wanted to develop new and current teaching artists into a “teaching artist corps” to offer long-term arts education to more students, teachers, and communities across the state.
Using a Dana grant, the Lied Center developed the pilot program Lied.Art.Teach. In the pilot’s first year, a group of 12 teaching artists attended a series of workshops under the Kennedy Center Artist as Educator Series (developed in part with Dana funding in previous years) and then traveled to five rural Kansas communities to present workshops and hold residencies. In 2008, the program’s second year, the first group of students finished its training and acted as mentors for a new class of 15 teaching artists. They keep up with one another via an e-mail listserv, sharing performance announcements and opportunities for more training and collaboration.
According to the program directors, an unanticipated benefit of the funding was the strong camaraderie and support that developed among the artists. For example, one of the corps members traveled 120 miles from Abilene to see a dance performance organized by a fellow corps member.
“The artists, many of whom live in very small or isolated communities, discovered that there were other artists in their region,” program director Anthea Scouffas said. “The connections made among the Lied.Art.Teach artists are powerful, and many are discussing ways they could collaborate on projects and/or simply support one another.”
Meanwhile, the Arizona Community Foundation is heading a statewide partnership using a two-year Dana grant to build a network of teaching artists, performing arts specialists, and classroom teachers in five rural communities. Part of the project is an online portal that offers a place for six school districts to share resources and to collaborate on projects.
In each community, the teaching program can be tailored to the available artists and the needs of the students. Teaching artists receive ongoing mentoring, including team teaching and help planning curriculum. Via the portal, they participate in seminars, upload and download teaching plans, and chat with one another about problems and progress.
This project “has galvanized a shared mission to make the arts and arts education available to all people in Arizona,” said Jacky Alling, the program’s senior program officer. The partnership—including the state department of education, its commission on the arts, and the community foundation—aims to sustain and expand the pilot program into a broader Arizona rural arts education network.
In 2007 a group of Dana grantees began working with Americans for the Arts to create a teaching-artist themed series of events during the national arts promotion group’s 2008 annual conference in Philadelphia.
At the conference, from June 20 to 22, many of our grantees lectured and held workshops as part of the Teaching Artists section of the conference’s Arts Education series. Sessions included evaluating programs, managing a faculty of teaching artists, and analyzing models of teaching-artist training. In total, 75 grantees received stipends from us so they could attend the conference.
Also in June 2008, Dana sponsored a three-hour workshop called Nurturing Teaching Artists at the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, Colorado. Led by arts learning consultant Eric Booth, Dana grantees and other participants discussed the evolving roles of the teaching artist, new venues for their work, and whether they are getting the right sort of training and support from schools, arts organizations, and other funders.
Building on these events, and on a growing interest in developing more teaching artists, we have started planning for Dana’s next arts education symposium, a series of Webcasts on the new challenges emerging in the profession. We also are sponsoring the summit and roundtable discussion Learning, Arts, and the Brain at Baltimore’s American Visionary Arts Museum in 2009. (See more in the next section, “Special Focus: Learning, Arts, and the Brain.”)
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