Students honor legacy of Armenian culture through art

On Monday, California Arts Council staff had the privilege to join legislative members in remembering the Armenian genocide. The California Armenian Legislative Caucus marked the 102nd anniversary at the state Capitol with a universal refrain of “never again.”

“Armenian-Americans have not only survived, they have thrived and enriched the fabric of our communities,” Senator Scott Wilk stated.

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Salinas High School senior Hanna Hitchcock received first prize in the 2017 California Armenian Legislative Caucus Visual Arts Scholarship competition. Second and third place winners Bora Wie and Gavny Vardanyan were also recognized.

High-school students lent their voices to the conversation by commemorating the tragedy through essay and visual art submissions, with scholarships awarded to the top three students in each category.

The visual arts contest—currently in its first year—challenged students to create two-dimensional drawings, paintings, photographs, digital illustrations and graphic design that centered on a theme of “Human-to-Human Interaction.” Members of the CAC staff assisted in judging the submissions.

At the event, Arts Council Interim Director Ayanna Kiburi highlighted the value of art in education, as well as in shaping and preserving the story of the Armenian people: “Artistic and creative expression allows us all to express our humanity, to keep cultural traditions and histories alive within our communities, and to connect deeply with each other, as Californians,” she said.

File Your Taxes, Keep Arts in Schools

Alyse is a student at Elizabeth Freese Elementary School in San Diego who loves to dance.

Her favorite subject is math.

California Arts Council grant recipient the Malashock Dance Company is there to make sure both of Alyse’s passions stay strong.

Malashock’s Math in Motion program, explains managing director Molly Puryear, was developed in response to student’s creeping doubt of their mathematical abilities as they grow. Through dance, MIM teachers offer kids a tangible, kinetic connection to math, boosting their confidence to self-express and solve equations.

“Dance and math are my two favorite things, so being able to combine those two together makes me really happy,” said Alyse.

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Alyse (right) and fellow students show off their moves during their Math in Motion course.

As an arts supporter, we know you get it. You understand the relationship between the arts and academics, and the importance of programs such as Math in Motion. Yet less than 40 percent of all California students currently receive any kind of arts education in school.

If you have yet to file your taxes this year, consider making a tax-deductible contribution on your state tax return in the amount of $1 or more to the Keep Arts in Schools Fund. Donations from the fund are critical to our efforts to increase arts education statewide, and every dollar counts. Just look for the fund in the Voluntary Contribution section of state tax returns. All donations directly support our arts education grantees – we don’t hold on to a penny here at the State.

This year, thanks in part to contributions from the Keep Arts in Schools Fund, we are able to expand our arts education grant programs to reach even more students than ever before. By making a contribution, you’re making a difference. You can help more grantees like the Malashock Dance Company bring arts experiences to more kids like Alyse.

After all, we’re in need of creative math whizzes like her for many tax seasons to come.

Visit the California Arts Council Keep Arts in Schools page to learn more.

Fact vs. Fiction: Government Arts Funding

This morning, President Trump submitted his administration's first budget request to Congress. The proposal calls for an elimination of all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in fiscal year 2018. If this budget is enacted, the elimination of the NEA would have dire consequences for every state, especially California where the NEA awarded nearly $9 million in direct grants in 2016.

Guest post authored by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Click here to view a PDF of this national arts advocacy resource at www.nasaa-arts.org. 

A vigorous democracy periodically debates the role of government and the ways the public sector can best support the prosperity and well-being of its citizens. When those questions turn to the role of government in supporting the arts, make sure the discussion is fueled by the facts!

Fiction: Eliminating the arts will help the government balance its budget.

FACT: The arts return $22.3 billion in revenue to federal, state, county and municipal governments. A strong arts sector makes it easier for our government to balance its books.

Fiction: Cutting government arts programs will save a lot of money.

FACT: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) receives a mere 0.004% of the total federal budget, less than 1/2 of one hundredth of one percent. Appropriations to state arts agencies constitute just 0.04% of state general funds expenditures, less than one half of one tenth of one percent. Arts cuts will harm communities without achieving real savings.

Fiction: All Republicans want to cut the arts.

FACT: The last time a Republican President occupied the White House (2001-2008), federal appropriations to the NEA increased by $40 million. Republicans held the majority in both houses of Congress for four of those eight years. Support for the arts is pan-partisan. Republicans and Democrats alike have track records of supporting the arts because they know it’s wise economic policy and is popular with constituents.

Fiction: Government support for the arts primarily benefits the urban elite.

FACT: Government arts support ensures that rural communities and low-income groups get their fair share of the educational and economic benefits offered by the arts. 40% of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. While 15% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, more than 25% of all state arts agency grants go to these communities.

Fiction: Arts organizations are dependent on public dollars.

FACT: Government funding is typically a small slice of the funding pie. For instance, funding from state arts agencies composes only 2.1% of total grantee revenue (source: NASAA analysis of annual statistical reports). However, these small investments pack a big punch: arts organizations use public dollars to generate earned income, secure private contributions and leverage local matching funds. Every $1 of NEA support leverages $9 in matching funds.

Fiction: The private sector will pick up the bill if government arts funding is cut.

FACT: A solely private funding model would leave many American communities behind. Philanthropic giving in the United States is geographically disproportional: rural areas receive only 5.5% of all grant making, a figure that has declined over time. It takes a mixture of both public and private funds to realize the full power of the arts for all Americans.


NASAA is the membership organization serving America’s state and jurisdictional arts agencies. They are a national, not-for-profit, nonpartisan association that provides research, advocacy, training and networking for state arts agencies and their constituents. Their work is evidence-driven and grounded in the principles that the arts are essential to a thriving democracy and that the public, private and nonprofit sectors all have vital roles to play in American success. To learn more, visit www.nasaa-arts.org.

Pictured above: Pasadena Conservatory of Music receives arts education grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council to support arts education programming Title I schools.

Guest Post: Empowering Student Voices through Digital Media Engagement in our Schools

By Sibyl O’Malley, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, California Alliance for Arts Education

 “There is a student named Art in your classroom, your school, your district, she can be the click of comprehension, the moment you master the concept, as long as we give her the chance. Today, she writes of the world she would like to see tomorrow, a world that is colorful and warm, the perfect weather for anyone to bloom.” —Excerpt from “A Student Named Art”, 2016 Student Voices Campaign First Place

Last year, hundreds of students took part in the Student Voices Campaign, an annual video advocacy campaign started by the California Alliance for Arts Education that offers a real-world opportunity for students to learn about and impact school policymaking. Through the Campaign, students across the state spurred exciting changes in their schools, including the expansion of arts programs, the hiring of new teachers, and the addition of gender neutral bathrooms.

In California, students are guaranteed a voice in planning and budgeting for their school district. The Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, requires that districts consult with students, parents, teachers and community members each spring to create an official plan for the coming years. The Campaign invites students in grades 7-12 to create videos that respond to the prompt, “What’s your vision for your school?” and share them with their local school board.

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The 2017 Student Voices Campaign launched in November, and we’re excited to release for the first time this year the Student Voices Campaign Classroom Guide. The Guide allows teachers to use the Campaign as an interdisciplinary service-learning project in the classroom, with lessons that can be scaled from periods of a few weeks to several months over the course of a school year. The Guide is recommended for teachers grades 7-12 in any subject area. Download the Guide for free at StudentVoicesCampaign.org.

Program Elements and Resources

To support participation that is widespread as well as rigorous, the Alliance has produced:

  1. Classroom Guide: The Classroom Guide is structured as an interdisciplinary service-learning project, with elements of civic participation, creative expression, media production, and community engagement. The Guide uses National Arts and Media Arts Content Standards as well as Common Core Anchor Standards.
  2. Activate Student Voices Guide: This 10-page resource was created in collaboration with Arts for LA for arts organizations that wish to embed the Student Voices Campaign civic engagement processes in their existing programs for youth.
  3. Student Leadership Lab:The lab supports, documents and shares examples of effective leadership and creative advocacy among a cohort of students. Students use Campaign videos to undertake further advocacy in their community, in school board presentations, one-on-one meetings with school leaders, and student-led learning events.
  4. Arts Now Student Voices Summit:This student empowerment event, the culmination of the Campaign, will bring together students, teachers, and stakeholders from around the state to screen Student Voices videos, participate in student-led advocacy workshops, and explore the possibilities and practical steps of a career in the creative sector.

Partners

The California Alliance has expanded the program this year with support from the California Arts Council. Partner organizations for the 2017 Campaign include some of the state’s most influential arts and education leaders, including Adobe Project 1324, Alameda County Office of Education, Arts for LA, California Arts Council, California State Summer School for the Arts Foundation, Center Theatre Group, Get Lit – Words Ignite, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, Clarence E. Heller Foundation, Inner-City Arts, Performing Arts Workshop, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Venice Arts.

2016 First Place Video


2fb34b8Sibyl O’Malley is the Director of Communications and Community Engagement at the California Alliance for Arts Education. She can be reached at sibyl@artsed411.org.

Announcing a Major Expansion of our Arts Education Grant Offerings

By Josy Miller, Arts Education Program Specialist, California Arts Council

The California Arts Council is thrilled to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2016-17 Artists in Schools grant program! Due to an increased investment by the Governor and the Legislature this year, we’ve been able to craft a major expansion of our arts education funding opportunities, including new grants to support dedicated afterschool and summer programs, field trips and assemblies, and early childhood arts learning.

A longstanding investment in California’s young people

Initiated in 1976, the Artists in Schools (AIS) program is one of our longest standing grant programs. For forty years, our Council has invested in school-based residency programs that offer high quality arts education to California students by California teaching artists. In many cases, these programs have been the sole opportunity for students to experience dedicated arts learning at school. The Artists in Schools program underscores the critical role the arts play in students’ development of creativity, overall well-being, and academic achievement.

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Current AIS grantees include San Diego’s Malashock Dance, whose Math in Motion program teaches students dance technique and choreography using mathematical concepts as tools. The City of San Fernando’s Mariachi Masters Apprentice program connects Grammy Award-winning musicians with underserved middle school students, incorporating artistic and historical instruction to preserve traditional mariachi music. Luna Kids Dance not only implements comprehensive K-5 dance education programs in multiple Oakland public schools, they offer a Professional Development program for classroom teachers in order to extend the impact of the teaching artist residencies.

Click here to see descriptions of all our current Artists in Schools grantees!

Growing resources, growing support

Last year, we awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to 144 organizations that employed 580 teaching artists to provide arts education to more than 43,000 California school children in grades K – 12. When notice came of the increased investment in CAC programs this year, our Council stood by the desire of the Legislature and of California residents to “improve the state of arts education in California schools,” articulated as a top priority in the agency’s statewide listening tour in 2013. This year, our Council approved an additional $400,000 in grant funding to support the arts education expansion, bringing our investment to upwards of $1.7 million for the new grant cycle.

What’s new?

This expansion will increase support for arts education in a number of ways. First, the maximum grant award for organizations operating school residencies through the AIS Engagement program will increase from $12,000 to $18,000, significantly extending the capacity of these programs.

Secondly, while the Artists in Schools program has historically focused its funding on in-school residencies, the new AIS Extension grant program will support afterschool and summer arts education opportunities, both in community settings and on school campuses.

Additionally, the new AIS Exposure program will provide support for arts organizations to perform or present at school assemblies, and to host field trips to professional arts venues. While the CAC certainly maintains its commitment to and belief in sustained, sequential arts education, many of us also remember the first time we experienced professional-caliber art – in a theater, in a recital hall, in a museum, or with a guest appearing in our very own classroom. And for many of us, our lifelong, passionate commitments to the arts are a direct result of those first tastes of its transformative power. The Exposure program will assist the world-class arts organizations of California in providing these opportunities to thousands of young people this year.

Last – but absolutely not least – as part of the arts education expansion, we are extending our support to programs that work with our youngest Californians. All of this year’s programs will be open to application by organizations that provide arts education to children in their first five years of life (PreK). A growing body of research demonstrates that many of the most egregious and irreparable contributors to achievement gaps have already been established by the time children enter kindergarten. The California Arts Council is determined to support arts from the outset, and to do our part to ensure the benefits of arts-rich lives to each and every Californian.

The California Arts Council and our staff are delighted to share news of these expanded opportunities and hope that you will visit the Artists in Schools landing page on our website for more information and to apply!

Make sure to join us for a live webinar on December 8th, 2016 at 11AM PST, when the programs staff will review the goals of the Artists in Schools program, the requirements of the various funding strands, and the application process. Please register for the webinar here.

And remember, Artists in Schools is just one of fourteen grant programs we’re offering this year! Be sure to check out the full lineup of opportunities.


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Josy Miller
is the Arts Education Program Specialist at the California Arts Council. She can be reached at josy.miller@arts.ca.gov.

Top photo: Cal Arts Community Arts Partnership
Center photo: P.S. ARTS

Serving the Field, Gaining Insight: Reflections from a Peer Review Panelist

By Jenny Wei
School & Teacher Programs Director, Palo Alto Art Center

As if spring isn’t a busy enough season for those of us who work with schools, this year I added serving on a California Arts Council grant panel for the Artists in Schools program to my to-do list. Eighty-one applications and three days in a Sacramento meeting room later, I am certain it was a good decision.

I wanted to be part of the peer-review process because it was clear that it would directly connect to my work at the Palo Alto Art Center and it would give me insights and experience to help my career.

For so many museums, grants provide vital revenue that, combined with individual gifts, enables us to serve our audiences. I have been involved in the receiving-end: finding funders, writing requests, and delivering final reports. But by being part of a peer-review panel, I felt I could take my grant-development skills to the next level. Our panel reviewed many applications, so I saw first-hand what was helpful to reviewers (like organizing information in bullets or adding notes to clarify your budget spreadsheet) and what stumbling blocks kept programs from fully telling their stories.

It seemed that in every proposal there was a tiny tweak that would add value to the Artists in Schools program I oversee at the Palo Alto Art Center. Ask partner schools to post a link to your program’s website—of course!  Send parents e-mail invitations to events in addition to paper invitations—why didn’t we think of that? I felt as though reading the grant proposals was like crowd-sourcing smart ideas from across the state.

As a wake-up call, I was disappointed to realize that my organization’s artist compensation was at a lower rate for our area. This was important for me to see, and I felt empowered to take my new perspective to our leadership to address this issue.

Aside from these specific tweaks and adjustments, I came away with two takeaways that were front-and-center for me:

  • There is no one way to be an outstanding applicant. We found great examples of programs working with completely different age groups—high school groups creating full-fledged productions and kindergartners showing the first glimmer of creative accomplishment. Also, as I didn’t grow up in California, I was intrigued by the diversity of California’s communities and the programs finely-tuned to serve them.
  • California’s teaching artists are doing awesome things for schools. It was energizing to think of each grant award both serving students and helping the livelihood of a teaching artist. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful educators in our communities!

Of course, I am also eager to rewrite a few sentences in our own grant applications to make our proposals just a little bit clearer for future panelists.

From the small program tweaks to the career experience, I took so much away from volunteering for my California Arts Council panel. Think about signing up next winter when the Arts Council issues their call for panelists. I’m sure you will also find it a rewarding experience.


JennyWeiJenny Wei is the School & Teacher Programs Director for the Palo Alto Art Center where she oversees the Cultural Kaleidoscope school outreach program. She came to the Art Center with a background as a museum educator, with several years and several positions at the Smithsonian Institution (most recently, the National Museum of American History) and one year teaching elementary students as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Yilan, Taiwan. She received her BA in Art History and Masters in the Art of Teaching in museum education from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Featured Photo: Student artwork on display at the Palo Alto Art Center

Arts in the Post-No Child Left Behind World: Watching ESSA Carefully

By Donn K. Harris, Chair, California Arts Council
Executive and Artistic Director, Oakland School for the Arts

The 2001 federal educational law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was a skillfully marketed attempt to balance all sides of the educational equation: for schools and districts, incremental gains in achievement were acceptable, as long as all subgroups gained at least the minimum required; low-performing schools were both stigmatized and forced into supports simultaneously; cohort groups were created in some states so that one could compare oneself against schools deemed “similar” based on transitory rates and socioeconomic data.

There were new credential requirements, a new designation called “Highly Qualified,” and in some cases teachers with credentials were not “Highly Qualified” depending on whether they received their credentials through coursework or testing — high school science in particular began demanding specialized credentials in Physics, Biology and Chemistry as opposed to the more general “Physical” and “Life” Science designations of the past. We seemed to be equating rigor with specialization, and achievement with test scores, and at times words and titles seemed to overwhelm reality. One school I visited had students enrolled in Calculus who could not even pronounce the word, but their boast was: every kid takes four years of math here.

The plan began to dissolve into a morass of regulation and compliance fear. Lists began to be published in local media as to who was in “Program Improvement” (the category for schools who did not meet their expected yearly gains), and when the time came to reauthorize the bill in 2006, things stalled, but the schools kept up with NCLB lingo and process for nine more years, an extended stay by any measure in accountability limbo, and by that time in California over 70% of the schools were in Program Improvement status.

My own school was a California Distinguished School one year, in Program Improvement the next. Then, finally, in 2015, Congress adopted a new law designated the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), billed as a deeper, more demanding curriculum that replaced the rote with the thoughtful, dictation with facilitation, commonly-accepted facts with challenging questions and then deeper questions. Mathematics was to be a communicative, collaborative subject, student teams approximating engineering teams with their creative energy, and the world seemed new again.

But what about the arts?

Much of the analysis around ESSA praised its arts friendliness and the use of the phrase “a well-rounded education” as evidence of that. Maybe there is some kind of code here, but that in and of itself is a problem: Why are we speaking in code as if hiding some dirty or dangerous secret? An even more intractable problem than language is the way school days are constructed and how artists are used in classrooms and other school settings: There is rarely the sense that the arts are on equal footing with the academic pursuits. Being special and different has its advantages most of the time, and the arts are branded as that no matter how many times someone screams “But they are core!”– and in a bureaucracy divergence and uniqueness are rarely seen as desirable qualities. So in some environments the arts are at a disadvantage from the start: The strange and unexpected behaviors of a young artist are not something we are comfortable with in schools, and when we give these young artists full rein to create, we often have an output that is profane, enraged, the opposite of tame. Are we prepared to unleash the demons that lurk beneath the surfaces of our children? Not to scare you off, but the arts may do that. Are schools as much places of truth as the church, or the community center, or the streets for that matter?

Not usually. Schools are places of convention. The word appropriate is probably used in schools more than anywhere else –- we expect young people to do the right thing for the time and place, and in schools that means to play to the middle ground, to community standards. Schools are the American social institution that has changed the least in the past 200 years, technology notwithstanding. Truth is often painful, and deep, and in the arts it knows few boundaries: There have been symbols in student art work that caused me to reveal the pieces only in private showings, with someone there to explain the themes, to prove the adults understand the limits and have found creative ways to express that. I once changed the title of a poem or was about to deny the student the right to read it publicly. We don’t censor, but we do control.

So will ESSA even bring this to bear in our schools?

Perhaps I am too hopeful, but I do lead an arts school, where every day something extraordinary is created. If many more schools are able to unleash student creativity, we could be awash in some kind of unpredictable youth movement. It seems we are already on the verge of one as it is.  Will the ’20s be the new ’60s?

The real test will come when the Smarter Balanced assessments have built a few years of credibility and we start to look at schools that are struggling. Will the arts be cut right away? Will it be NCLB 2.0, with schools pushing even science and social studies into a corner to improve reading and math scores? Today I heard an awful thing: After just getting used to a robust economy and rising funding levels for education, there’s a new prediction that a downturn is on the way and we’d better build a nest egg, or remain cautious and wary even with the current high revenues.

ESSA is bound to be tested in these next few years, and the arts should be a measuring stick of our commitment to the new principles of creative expression and cultural relevance. The hope on my end is that failing schools are given more art resources to stimulate children and build engagement and investment in learning, rather than falling back on the ages-old fallacy that NCLB embodied: If you’re failing at something you do four hours a day, just add a fifth hour and everything should be fine, and if it isn’t, heads will roll. And it’s so much cheaper than keeping that art class going: There are no paints, or clay, or stage props, or special teaching artists –- just the usual books and paper, and maybe if we all try a bit harder it will click. History tells us probably not, though, and for me this is the test of ESSA: When the going gets tough, in achievement measures and financially, what is going to happen? The Every Student Succeeds Act is tied to the Common Core Curriculum, and the idea is that we are going to go deeper into subject matter, probe more aggressively, demand that students express a point-of-view. How much will that be worth when some data point is not reached, or when finances are low, or when the content of the expression becomes unnerving and controversial?

With NCLB, we never even got that far, so controversy itself would be a sign of progress. These are the things we should be watching. If the values are truly different in this new world of ESSA, the solutions to problems should look far different than they have up to this point. Maybe the student with a poor vocabulary will be assigned a part in an August Wilson play, and pure emotion and the adrenaline created by movement and purpose will nail home words he otherwise would never have understood.


 

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Donn K. Harris is the Chair of the California Arts Council and the Executive and Artistic Director of Oakland School for the Arts. He also sits on the leadership council of the statewide arts education coalition Create CA and is a member of the Board of Directors of the national Arts Schools Network.

#MyCreativeCA Video: Malashock Dance “Math in Motion”

We’ve created a series of short-form, documentary videos that celebrate creative expression in California. The videos follow art programming across California, from rural towns to some of the state’s largest cities, which are making positive impacts in our communities.

STEM + Arts = STEAM. In this week’s #MyCreativeCA video, watch San Diego’s Malashock Dance Company teach students math through movement at a local Title 1 elementary school.

#MyCreativeCA #CAarts40 http://www.arts.ca.gov

#MyCreativeCA Video: Destiny Arts

We’ve created a series of short-form, documentary videos that celebrate creative expression in California. The series of videos follow art programming across California, from rural towns to some of the state’s largest cities, which are making positive impacts in communities.

The first video in our series comes from the Bay Area. Oakland-based dance organization, Destiny Arts first received California Arts Council grant in 1989. They currently receive support through our Artists in Schools and JUMP StArts programs.

#MyCreativeCA #CAarts40 http://www.arts.ca.gov

Video Series: My Creative CA

We recently traveled across California to film some of the inspiring people making an impact in their communities through art and creative expression. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be sharing a new video here each week. Here’s a sneak peek that was previewed at our 40th anniversary celebration at the historic Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.


As our host Annette Bening stated on stage at the Crest Theatre, “From its beginnings in 1976 to today the Arts Council has demonstrated why government support of the arts is so important. Public support is what brings the arts, with all their power to heal and inspire, to rural communities, towns large and small, blighted neighborhoods, struggling schools, prisons and hospitals, and everywhere the arts can make a difference – from Skid Row to symphony hall. The arts are an invaluable policy asset and prosperity generator for California. The creativity of our state sets us apart and gives California a special place in people’s imaginations.”

From the role of art in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) to preserving traditional and folk arts, this video shows the wide reach of California Arts Council’s grantees and partnerships to advance arts in California for everyone.

Featured California nonprofits include:

The videos were produced by Los Angeles-based, For Example Media.

‪#‎MyCreativeCA‬ ‪#‎CAarts40‬