Reflections from Kennedy Center National Partnerships Annual Meeting

Posted on February 24, 2011 by Laurey Stryker, Ed.D., Fellows Program Manager

Last week, 100 Kennedy Center Partners in Education from across the country met in Washington D.C. for the annual meeting and 20th anniversary. Twenty years ago, teaching artists and arts integration enthusiasts had what was to be a one-time meeting.  With the vision of Lynn Silverstein, that one-time meeting grew into the partnership we enjoy today.

Kennedy Center took on the role of supporting partnerships as a resource, guide, partner, and innovator. The partnerships are largely with performing arts centers and area school districts. Sarasota has been a partner since 1997 through the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center and the Sarasota School District.

Florida has the most partnerships in the U.S. with six – Sarasota, Brevard, Broward, Miami Dade, Duval and Palm Beach counties. This could easily reach 50 percent of Florida’s schoolchildren.  Sarasota arts leader Nancy Roucher has tried to get me to understand arts integration, and in Washington D.C.,  it came to life for me through demonstrations and discussions.

Arts integration is learning in, about, and through the arts. It’s art forms (dance, visual, theatre, and music), it’s art history but it’s also a way of teaching other subjects through the arts. Think about Sarasota's Asolo Repertory Theatre's Galileo production – it’s about scientific theory and the historical risks of going against church doctrine, but it’s also a dynamic theatre experience.

The Kennedy Center promotes arts integration largely through teaching training. It prepares teaching artists that work with area classroom teachers. I couldn’t talk to any of the top-notch speakers who hadn’t been impressed after visiting Sarasota.

Susan Burke, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, attended the Kennedy Conference on the State Alliance track. The center has 47 statewide and D.C. alliance partners; only 4 states  don’t have one. These alliances work on arts advocacy at the state and national level.

We were in town when House amendments were flying to zero to fund the National Endowment for the Arts. The group went into action. Florida’s Alliance sponsors a recognition program: ARTS ACHIEVES  MODEL SCHOOLS Arts integration is major part of this recognition. The Alliance conducted studies that show strong correlation between arts integration strategies and school performance.

If arts integration is a proven strategy for boosting student achievement and motivation, why isn’t it more pervasive in schools?  What are your success stories?  What are the barriers?

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