Friday, February 27, 2009


Is there such a thing as a "standard contract for teaching artists?"

I have no idea.

That is really sad.

What kind of business is this?

Who has this kind of information?

Also: Michael and Janet live in outer space.

Have a good weekend!

Let's Start With the Money

The New York Times reports that President Obama's new budget has a hole in the bucket.
By redirecting enormous streams of deficit spending toward programs like health care, education and energy, and paying for some of it through taxes on the rich, pollution surcharges, and cuts in such inviolable programs as farm subsidies, the $3.55 trillion spending plan Mr. Obama is undertaking signals a radical change of course that Congress has yet to endorse and Republicans were quick to pounce on.
Examine the budget document.

Examine Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.


Over at the Community Arts Network, professor Carol Ng-He interviews professional Teaching Artist Malik Gillani about "Myths to Drama" an arts-integrated education program that brings a global perspective into Chicago Public Schools classrooms. The program, developed and implemented by Mr. Gillani's Silk Road Theatre Project, is aligned with the State of Illinois’ Board of Education standards and helps students explore social studies themes through the arts. Activities include drama, music, reading and writing and the vision behind the project is expansive.

In answer to a question about why the company decided to use the study of myths as a vehicle, Mr. Gillani explains:

"Myths to Drama” isn’t another class; this is not just to repeat what has been offered in other classes. It is to provide a different model of learning. So, the basic theory of how we deliver “Myths to Drama” is the philosophy of multiple intelligences.

People learn differently, so you need to give people different avenues of learning. So for us, myth is a way of learning a culture in an alternative model, in a way that social studies are not taught in school.

This program appears to be pretty cool, the curriculum outline is online and I dig it.

I think the idea that we learn differently seems kind of commonsensical and true. But since I've started reading up I can't find an end to it and the books on the subject just seem to keep coming.

The categories keep coming.

We are of different minds.

It's an endlessly fascinating and lucrative idea.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Art is the Answer, No Matter the Question

Luckily, the Academy of American Poets maintains a website.

I found this there.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.


I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.


The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.


A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.


When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.


At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.


He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.


The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Blow Not A Word Away

As you know, President Barack Obama delivered an historic speech on Tuesday night outlining his administration's plans for a national response to the economic apocalypse.

According to the New York Times searchable interactive video and transcript, he used the word "education" 14 times, but the word "art" did not come out of his mouth. The words "arts", "culture", "humanities" and "creativity" also yielded no search results. He did use the word "innovation" twice. He also included the word "teacher" three times.

Wonkette has posted a video of President Barack Obama embracing arch conservative and NEA basher Tom Coburn.


Hyper-text: Two Gentleman of Verona


O hateful hands, to tear such loving words!

Injurious wasps, to feed on such sweet honey

And kill the bees that yield it with your stings!

I'll kiss each several paper for amends.

Look, here is writ 'kind Julia.' Unkind Julia!

As in revenge of thy ingratitude,

I throw thy name against the bruising stones,

Trampling contemptuously on thy disdain.

And here is writ 'love-wounded Proteus.'

Poor wounded name! my bosom as a bed

Shall lodge thee till thy wound be thoroughly heal'd;

And thus I search it with a sovereign kiss.

But twice or thrice was 'Proteus' written down.

Be calm, good wind, blow not a word away

Till I have found each letter in the letter,

Except mine own name: that some whirlwind bear

Unto a ragged fearful-hanging rock

And throw it thence into the raging sea!

Lo, here in one line is his name twice writ,

'Poor forlorn Proteus, passionate Proteus,

To the sweet Julia:' that I'll tear away.

And yet I will not, sith so prettily

He couples it to his complaining names.

Thus will I fold them one on another:

Now kiss, embrace, contend, do what you will.

Information Retrieval

The NYC Department of Education launched its third annual Learning Environment Survey on February 24th, 2009. Parents, teachers and students can take the survey until April 24th, 2009.

In 2008, 806,539 parents, students, and teachers in community and Special Education District 75 schools filled out the 2008 Learning Environment Survey. That's a lot of people--close to 1 out of every 10 New Yorkers. Survey results count for 10% of schools’ yearly Progress Report grades.

Who knows if all this collected data is accurate or useful?

Who knows if all the effort to collect it was worth it?

Who knows where the money might have been better spent?

Data doesn't care.

To access a school's Learning Environment Survey Report, all you have to do is go to the NYC DOE website portal, enter the school name and up pops a survey report on that school.

Hyper-cinema: Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A World of Pure Imagination

Hey, have you noticed that we now have a daily update of jobs from the idealists at

It's right there on the right side of your screen. Just scroll down until you get to the word's "don't panic!" It updates automatically and if it ever looks out of date, that's because this is the Great Depression.

You can also experience A World of Pure Imagination on youtube.

Captivate and Transform

Bank Street College of Education is the home of the Children's Book Committee, which helps parents, teachers and educators "choose books that children will find captivating and transforming."

The Committee publishes a "64-page annotated list. More than 600 titles. Fiction and nonfiction for babies and toddlers through age fourteen. Arranged by age and category."

If you need persuading, they offer a sample page (pdf) on their website.

You could buy the list and then ask the entire school community to purchase and donate all the books on the list. Then you could have a book party to thank them.

As I have mentioned repeatedly and often, GIFT is an organization that can tell you all you need to know about grassroots fundraising.

Bad Wolf

The Star Ledger reports that Scholastic has been marketing video games, lip gloss and other toys under the cover of its ubiquitous in-school book clubs.

The market is huge and the potential for profit is enormous:

The world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books, Scholastic earned nearly $337 million last year from the book clubs... The company estimates that three-quarters of U.S. elementary-school teachers -- and more than 2.2 million children -- participate annually..."

Non-book items for sale through the book clubs have included these fun things:
  • M&M's Kart Racing Wii video game
  • American Idol event planner
  • SpongeBob SquarePants Monopoly computer game
  • lip gloss rings
  • Nintendo's Baby Pals video game
  • Hannah Montana posters
  • Spy Master Voice Disguiser

Also, The Star Courier reports:

As part of their new marketing campaign, "The Strength Inside," Nike Sportswear assigned high school teens in New York City, along with those in Philadelphia and Baltimore, with the task of creating a photo journal of what strength means to them...In New York, Nike partnered with the Center for Arts Education (CAE)...

Also, one pair of Nike Jordan True Flight Men's Basketball Shoes costs $140.

Plus, Christopher Walken interprets the 3 Little Pigs:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Materials for the Arts (MFTA) has been serving New York City arts and cultural organizations since 1978. They are the original recyclers and if you don't know about them you should.

They give away free stuff and here's how it works: Materials are gathered from companies and individuals that no longer need them and Materials for the Arts redistributes the good stuff to the organizations, artists and educators who need it to run their programs.

Find out if you are eligible to receive free stuff from MFTA.

Find out how to become an MFTA donor.

Going to the MFTA warehouse always feels like an adventure and, in my experience, they always have exactly what you need and something you never knew you wanted.

For instance, I was just over on their website poking around and I discovered that they have an education program with a whole roster of teaching artists and cool workshops and everything.

Who knew?

What is Art For?

Lewis Hyde wrote an astounding book called The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, which has recently been republished with a new subtitle and a poorly chosen cover. But don't let that stop you from reading it. Writer Jonathan Lethem said: "Few books are such life-changers as ‘The Gift’: epiphany, in sculpted prose.”

I agree.

Mr. Hyde uses his book to criticize capitalism and to place artists in the realm of "gift culture"; a construct that is the origin of the pejorative "Indian giver."

The Gift is a paean to art, a survey of folk narratives and a poem masquerading as prose, which is to say the book defies accurate description. Most of the copies I have seen were shared among friends, dog-eared and in danger of falling apart at the seams.

It's that good.

Get a copy, read it and give it away.

Make the Case

The New York Times editorializes about the impact of the stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama on school reform efforts:

"The stimulus package has given a real chance to resuscitate school reform, but these reforms will only happen if the new education secretary ignores political pressure from resisting states."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited a Brooklyn Charter School last week and much of the buzz, as usual, was about common achievement standards, data collection and stronger systems of accountability. Reforming or strengthening Arts Education was not one of the newly appointed secretary's talking points.

New York City schools will receive about $1.5 billion over the next two years, a significant increase in spending. Reforms on the table include a data collection system that will supposedly allow teachers to share best practices.

The stimulus package included $50 million for the NEA. A relatively tiny sum which Greg Sandow described in the Wall Street Journal as "a bubble on a wave."

If the secretary of Education doesn't think we are worth a mention, then who are we expecting to make the case for arts in the schools?

Maybe we should all write letters to Michelle Obama?

About the image: Mr. Fish is a political cartoonist over at Harpers Monthly.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just the Type

Over on Craig Roland's Art Junction you will find a cool collection of videos and links to information about typography.

As I mentioned just recently, Art Junction is the "Art Teacher's Guide to the Internet."

Our tour guide Mr. Roland introduces the subject of typography:

Typography is something we encounter everyday...and yet it seldom receives the attention it deserves in the K-12 art curriculum. The following collection of resources is for art and design teachers who are looking for ways to teach students about typography as well as to make them more aware of the typography that’s around them.

Fun videos and useful stuff.

Go there.

The Philosopher King

Daniel H. Pink is the latest straight male expert to explain to us what the future will look like and what we better do if we want to rule, succeed and win, win, win!

His book is called Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future and it's all about how creative types are going to be indispensable in the new world economic order. Everyone I know is reading it and I hear it's a really thought inspiring book. I plan to read it as soon as I feel the urge to be a member of the ruling class or when I feel better about patriarchy and 400 years of oppression which are now, even now, coming to a blessed end.

In the meantime, I will be re-reading bell hooks' book Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope and thinking about how my work can help forge a society in which no one rules over anyone else.

Below, professor bell hooks talks talks about her approach (youtube). The introduction to this clip warns of "strong language" violence and nudity, but I spotted none of that in this short excerpt. It's just her talking.


If you check out the Insider's Guide to Arts Education Planning on the website of the California Alliance for Arts Education you might feel encouraged because it is a really informative guide on how to go about getting a comprehensive community plan for arts education off the ground.

If your job is to raise money for arts education in California, you're going to need all the encouragement you can get because the plan to close California's $42 billion deficit involves "devastating" cuts to education, which means there is less money for art.

In this case, "less" means none.

The California Teachers Association has testimonials about the impacts of the budget crisis. This one is from student Jose Corona who goes to school in the Azusa Unified School District:

"The effect of the budget crisis in my school is that they want to cut all K-12 music as well as many other arts which prepare us for the future. I will be a musician, but this budget cut is going to hold me back."

If you check out Joni Mitchell singing California live on the BBC you'll feel better about everything. It won't change anything about the budget, but you'll feel better.

Since it is Monday, I would suggest you start with dessert.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The New York Times reports that more people who are unused to asking for help are visiting food pantries.

“These are people who never really had to ask for help before,” said Brenda Beavers, human services director for the Salvation Army in New Jersey, which dispenses emergency food supplies at 30 pantries throughout the state. “They were once givers and now they’re having to ask for assistance.”

Many TAs already live paycheck to paycheck. Charities and arts organizations across the country are cutting back, closing their doors or even filing for bankruptcy which means TAs are getting fewer workshops and making less money. You may think that you don't know anyone who is struggling to put food on the table, but chances are you work with someone who is underemployed or newly poor. Scared and ashamed, they may not know what to do, or how to ask for help.

Shame keeps you quiet.

Do you need friends?
Your community is on Facebook.

Do you need health care?
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center at 356 West 18th Street provides sensitive, quality health care and related services. They are primarily set up to serve to New York's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, but they will serve anyone in need regardless of ability to pay.

Do you need housing?
New York City Affordable Housing Resource Center posts information about City housing, including renting an apartment, housing lotteries, and what to do if you are in danger of being evicted.

Do you need food or other essentials?
Even if you are working, you may be eligible for food stamps. Download the food stamp application and get more information on an array of services and programs offered by the New York City Human Resources Administration Department of Social Services.

Concept to Classroom

Have you discovered Channel 13's online series Concept to Classroom?

I am loving it.

Concept to Classroom is a ridiculously useful online series of FREE, award-winning professional development workshops on various education related topics. If you qualify, you can even get credit for taking them.

The website says:

"The workshops are intended for teachers, administrators, librarians, or anyone interested in education -- and there's no technical expertise required. They are self-paced, so you can explore them on your own time and go back as often as you like; you can take all of the workshops, or just one."

I'm winding my way through the workshop on Multiple Intelligences which was developed by Howard Gardner, Ellen Weber and Jane Carlson-Pickering.

I told you it was FREE, right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Get What You Need

If you are a fearless leader looking for money in and around the Mid-Hudson Region, you should know that the Dutchess County Arts Council administers a terrific grant with an awkward title and they would like you to apply.

The 2009–2010 Arts-in-Education Local Capacity Building Program is an arts in education funding program supported by the Local Capacity Building Initiative of the Arts in Education Program at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).

The application deadline is Monday - March 9, 2009 at 5:00 p.m.

If I were you, I would download the guidelines (pdf) now.

Don't wait until the last minute to get everything together because you know that is the same day the copier will decide it no longer has the will to live.

Talk Fast

Education Week is currently accepting questions for an upcoming web chat on President Barack Obama's education plan. If you are a fearless leader, you might want to add an arts-related question to the cue.

The Chat starts on Thursday, February 19th @ 3 p.m.

Yikes, that's today!

Here's the blurb:

With the new administration in Washington comes the prospect of new approaches to education policy and practice that would directly affect schools and districts at the local level. Get an advance look at how decisions on the No Child Left Behind law, Title I, and other key legislation by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan may change the education landscape.

It's FREE, which is one of my favorite words.

Did I mention this is happening at 3:00 p.m. today?

Speak Memory


Arts Journal
Is there a Better Case for the Arts?
A Public Conversation, March 7-11, 2005
"Back when I was NEA Chairman, it was a great deal of fun to work with the good Endowment staff, Americans for the Arts, NASAA, members of Congress pro and con, in order to get the agency moving again. We accomplished that together, and it's great...

Thanks for all the good ideas.

- Bill Ivey"


Wall Street Journal
The Arts Need Better Arguments by Greg Sandow
February 18, 2009

People in the arts had a triumph.

They got culture money into the stimulus bill -- but not without a fight. The House, in its version of the bill, gave $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts, increasing its budget by more than the third. Then the Senate took that out. Arts advocates mobilized, made phone calls, asked supporters to make some noise. And lo! The final version of the bill restored the funds.

Arts advocates, from Robert Redford to the president of New York's Lincoln Center, are celebrating now. But I wonder, in a still, small voice, if this is really such a victory.

For one thing, in the larger scope of things, it's not much money. Fifty million dollars, in a hastily assembled $800 billion stimulus, is just a bubble on a wave...

Meta-musical: Shirley Bassey-History Repeating.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Whistling in the Dark

Colin Dabkowski who writes the excellent Arts Beat column over at the Buffalo News highly recommends a recent New York Times article that has been making the rounds.

In The Boom Is Over. Long Live the Art! NY Times writer Holland Carter, suggests that economic malaise might be a good thing for American art.

Mr. Dabkowski seems to agree, writing:

"Anyone fearing for the future of the arts ought to give Cotter a look. He argues that the art-crash now in progress, like those that came before, is an opportunity to reach down into the muck that is the current art world and produce an entirely new vision. Which, after all, is what art is supposed to be about."

It's a nice line of thinking, but I refuse to get overly excited about the creative opportunities that are the inevitable by products of poverty.

You only get one life.

You might as well live it with health insurance, a living wage and a pension plan.

Meta-text: The New York Times reports on uninsured young adults and Do-It-Yourself Health Care.

Meta-music: An ancient Johnny Cash covers Trent Reznor's Hurt @ youtube. If you know anything about Johnny Cash you will flip over this video.

Beneath the Waves

Have you read Nicholas Kristof's latest column on education and the stimulus bill in the Sunday New York Times? He says that our current economic situation has led him to place education above healthcare as a national priority. Although I think he is headed in the right direction, Mr. Kristof is worried that he might be out of his depth.

From his blog On the Ground he calls out for advice from the field:
I’d particularly welcome thoughts from teachers and principals — particularly those with experience in under-performing schools — about how to improve education. This is a relatively new area of interest to me, and I’m still on the steep part of the learning curve.
Even when he has no clue, Nicholas Kristof's heart is always in the right place.

The comment section of his blog is alive with responses--about 760 comments at last count.


Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?

That's the question asked by researchers conducting a three-year study sponsored by the Dana Foundation, one of the leading funders of brain science, immunology and arts education. Their report titled Learning, Arts and the Brain provides evidence that "children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also to other apply to other subject areas."

Dana shares the results of this important research and more on their useful website.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some Sort of Record

Artists have been making artists' books since paper was invented and probably before that. Still, no one can agree on what they are.

I think they are fun, but a much better explanation can be found on the website of the beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in a catalog intro written by Lynda Bunting.

"An artist’s book is a book made by an artist. While this sounds rather obvious, scholars have been grappling with describing the genre since the 1960s. Often deviating from conventional publications, artists’ books have complicated storytelling in myriad ways....The carefully selected sequences of information they present empower the reader to interact with them liberally and at their own discretion."

Besides being diverting, I think creating an artist book is an effective way for students to interact with and process new information and themes. MOCA has a great online video catalog of examples by Keith Haring, Olafur Eliasson, Lara Schnitger, Jorge Pardo and others.

The exhibition at MOCA is called To Illustrate and Multiply: An Open Book. It closes on March 1st, 2009.

Also: Leonard Cohen wrote a famous song about a Blue Raincoat.

Hold Up Your End

Fractured Atlas is a non-profit organization that facilitates the creation of art by offering vital support to the artists who produce it.

I will keep reminding you about them because they may be your salvation one day and because like all non-profit organizations they can only survive with the reciprocal support of the community they serve.

Fractured Atlas saves artists lives by providing increased access to health insurance and community resources. An individual membership in Fractured Atlas is only $75/year and, since they are a membership organization, their advocacy voice gets stronger whenever someone signs up and sends in their check.

Maybe you should scrape together some coins and join today?

Adam Forest Huttler is the founder and Executive Director of Fractured Atlas. He also keeps a terrific blog. When he and his colleagues Emily Watts, Juliana Steele, Kristine Nordine, Courtney D. Jones, Dianne Dibecella, Eugenie Cowan, Marie Ortiz and Adam Natale are not holding up their little corner of the world, they are artists with dual lives, just like you and me.

Go lend a hand.

Meta: Weight by Jeanette Winterson is a book about an encounter between Atlas and Heracles at the "hinge of the world." Like most myths, it's really a commentary on our lives now and I left my body while reading it.

A snippet:
"(Heracles) comes for help... Heaven and earth fold away from each other, but here they lie edge to edge. To this doubleness he comes for help, this man of double nature, the god in him folded back in human flesh.

‘What kind of help?’

‘It’s a long story.’

‘I’m not going anywhere.’

‘Well,’ said Heracles. ‘If you’ve got all the time in the world, I’ll begin.’ "

A hefty excerpt from Weight is available online and the full text is available from Amazon.

Let's You and Him Fight

OMG, I was hating on Diane Ravitch just a few days ago and now she goes and writes this tough opinion piece and I can't help but admire her just a bit. Ms. Ravitch can usually be counted on to stand up for classroom teachers--our allies in the field--and this time out, she does not disappoint.

The essay in question is part of Bridging Differences, a frank exchange of letters between Ms. Ravitch and Deborah Meier posted on the website of Education Week. This entry, a response to an earlier missive by Ms. Meier, is called Why Are People So Gullible About Miracle Cures in Education?.

Challenging the public's prevailing belief that classroom teachers are the problem, Ms. Ravitch writes:

As long as we expect schools to perform miracles, we will continue to be bitterly disappointed. Perhaps it is this phony expectation that has created so much anger and frustration among the public. Surely they wonder why all teachers can't be like Jaime Escalante or any of a dozen other miracle-workers.

I was struck, too, by your mention of the journalists who see a miracle where there was none at all. Geoffrey Canada's school, as described by Paul Tough, is one such. It really was a story of Canada abandoning the kids who started at his charter school because they couldn't get the scores he wanted. So out they went. No miracle there!

I think Diane Ravitch is no joke and, with enemies like her, you don't need friends.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Do you love the work of Romare Bearden? I do.

It's colorful and there are so many techniques he used that are fun for students to attempt. Collage was one of his favorite approaches and since you can stretch the idea of collage to theater or sound or anything, I use it all the time in the classroom. Today, I am on the website of the Metropolitan Museum taking a guided tour of Romare Bearden's piece The Block which is part of a cultural database made possible by the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation.

Later, I will go to the Guggenheim and give in to the natural impulse to run up the ramp like a well-adjusted child.

It's a holiday. Don't judge me.


My People

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,

So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.

Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

-- Langston Hughes, 1923


According to the Library of Congress researchers, Abraham Lincoln was a poetry reader and writer. His "fondness for poetry influenced the nature of his thought and the character of his writing."

The Library of Congress maintains an online collection of Lincoln's famous speeches and has a Web Guide exploring his love of poetry.

Since I am descended from slaves, Abraham Lincoln is someone I admire and respect.

On the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, he delivered this:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government : of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You have to trust it

You Can't Say You Can't Play by Vivian Gussin Paley is a remarkable book about what happens when the author introduces introduces a new rule into her kindergarten classroom. "You can't say you can't play" is the rule, of course, and since so much has been written about this remarkable book already, my work here is done.

Go get your own copy.

Meta-radio: The Cruelty of Children on Chicago Public Radio's This American Life. It features a reading by David Sedaris and a third act segment on You Can't Say You Can't Play by Vivian Gussin Paley. David Sedaris is usually not safe for work, which is one of the reasons he is famous.

Also: Bjork "All is full of love" @ youtube.

Attention Seeking Behavior

CommonGround, the annual New York State arts-in-education conference featuring three days of policy setting, planning and other forms of useful talking will be held on March 25th - 27th in Albany. The gathering is an opportunity for the community to take a fresh look at curriculum design, school reform and new models for classroom learning.

Everyone you know will be there and, if would like to get some attention for your worthy cause, you should take out an ad in the CommonGround program because every conference attendee gets one and they take them back to the office after the ball has ended.

All program sponsors are given recognition in the printed conference program and lots of other benefits that you can read about here.

Hurry. Copy and graphics for ads are due Friday, February 20th.

To place your ad go to: and download the form.


The California Alliance for Arts Education has this idea that "when students have access to arts education, they are getting the high quality education that every child in California deserves."

What a beautiful, expensive idea.

Every two weeks the alliance publishes ArtsEdMail, a free e-newsletter which informs and connects the Arts Education community in California.

In the latest issue, among other jewels, there's a budget crisis update, an announcement about new resources coming out of the Wallace Foundation and a listing for a free Alemeda County Arts Assessment Workshop. In the back, there's a slew of funding opportunities and job listings.

You can think of it as a treasure map, but you'll have to bring your own shovel.

Register for ArtsEdMail.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Write On!

Do you know about WritersCorps?

Since 1994, their professional Teaching Artists have worked with over 15,000 young people to develop their writing and communication skills. They focus on youth who have historically been underrepresented or ignored and they help them find their voices.

This really important work is, from what I can gather, a project of the San Francisco Arts Commission, which sounds to me like an underfunded city agency.

I think if the politicians won't allocate enough to fund our work, we'll just have to find other ways to stay afloat.

We could start by circulating our money within the community. For instance, you might decide to support WritersCorps by visiting their online store and purchasing Tell the World an anthology of work written by young people who have participated in their programs.

You could call it a mini-stimulus package.

Art Junction

Professional Teaching Artist Craig Roland keeps a blog called Art Junction which is about "ideas, tools, and resources for teaching art and design in a digital age."

On Mr. Roland's terrific site you will find many useful resources and links to things you didn't even know you desperately wanted.

For instance, I followed a link to the monthly column he writes for SchoolArts Magazine and found a mention of the Philips Collection and since they are big on Jacob Lawrence I quickly downloaded one of their Jacob Lawrence migration series worksheets and I was making art before I knew it.

Exhaustive and fun.

Craig Roland's Art Junction.

It's a place of unexpected intersection.

(The image is of Jacob Lawrence in 1941.)

I'm In the Front Row!

The Kennedy Center's On Location: Spotlight On Your Community tour bus is still on the road visiting schools to help students produce video documentaries about art in their communities.

When we last checked in on them, On Location's intrepid Teaching Artists were heading into West Virginia and then they hit some serious snow. They were trapped in their hotel and school was cancelled for a week. Disaster.

Well, I am happy to tell you that the crew of the On Location bus have surfaced in sunny Florida where they are going to help public school students make a documentary about a local artist. Here's some reportage from the source:
The team settled in at the Samuel S. Gaines Academy and got a chance to touch base with Anita Prentice, the glass mosaic artist who is the subject of our documentary. The weather is beautiful, and we are looking forward to driving around town to see the bus stop benches Anita has worked on.
They still haven't posted any video but I'm going to keep cheering them on until they do.

It's a cool project, don't you think?

(The image above is from the On Location website.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


In two recent articles posted on the Community Arts Network, writer and social activist Arlene Goldbard has outlined the history of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and called for Washington to fund new arts initiatives and create new jobs for artists. As the battle around the stimulus package heats up, Ms. Golbard's thoughtful articles have become an advocacy platform for the community. If you haven't read her work, you must.

Start here:

The New New Deal: Part One

The New New Deal: Part Two

Ms. Goldbard has graciously agreed to answer three questions about the New New Deal. I'm going to focus on the proposed idea of the WPA style approach and what Teaching Artists might hope for or expect within such a context. As you know, I'm not a journalist, so, as usual, there will be no editing and we'll keep it short.


1. Ms. Goldbard, briefly summarized, what are the opportunities and pitfalls for Teaching Artists within a government sponsored initiative to create jobs for artists? In other words, what's in it for us and is there anything we should be wary of?

My current motto comes from Voltaire: "The perfect is the enemy of the good." Most teaching artists already work within a government-sponsored context, the public school system. So in the simplest terms, if there were more public money to hire more teaching artists, both the good things and the dangers affecting those who currently have work would continue: more of the same.

I've been searching fruitlessly all my life for the perfect position, the one that rewards me generously just for being me, no strings attached. I doubt that most teaching artists have been more successful than I in finding it. In the absence of a free lunch, there are always concerns: Who judges the value of one's work? Are there undue constraints on freedom of expression? Is there enough continuity of support to establish and maintain the ongoing, meaningful relationships so key to effective work for teaching artists and community artists? Are collegial relationships encouraged and supported between teachers, administrators, parents, students and teaching artists, or does an atmosphere or competition prevail? These are perennial questions for anyone working in the field of cultural development; I can't see them changing much if a "new WPA" were to come into being, although the existence of increased funding could heighten some of these tensions.

2. If WPA projects similar to the ones you've proposed are implemented, how long do you think the new jobs for Teaching Artists might last and how might these projects fare after the next presidential election?

Duration is an interesting question. On the one hand, as in the WPA of the New Deal, such public programs tend to be seen as temporary measures to aid economic recovery. On the other hand, the work of teaching artists and community artists should be an ongoing part of public provision, as integral to local cultural life and as permanent a feature as the public library. As part of national recovery, it makes sense to propose instituting public service jobs for artists with a defined beginning and end (e.g., a five-year, renewable program would make sense to me). Politically, I doubt that this is the time to succeed in advocating for ongoing, permanent funding, as much as it is needed and right. I hope Barack Obama will win the next presidential election too, so presumably anything that came into being on his watch would continue throughout the eight years. If the campaign for artists' jobs succeeds, the challenge will be to use the time well, documenting success and building the strongest possible arguments for continued funding, creating an initiative so popular and so firmly rooted in local communities, it could survive a shift in political winds. That's a tall order, especially when you consider that right now, "the arts" are widely seen as the most dispensable of public funding programs.

3. As advocates for our own futures, what questions should professional Teaching Artists be asking and to whom should we complain?

Right now we are seeing exceptionally keen interest in questions of cultural policy in this country—at long last. I would like to see teaching artists become active in advocating for public policies and funding initiatives that promote cultural democracy: creativity, pluralism, participation and equity in our nation's cultural life. This is a good time to complain to elected officials who have used arts funding as the poster child for government waste, making sure they hear from people who know how valuable and essential to cultural citizenship arts and education programs are. It's also a good time to become active in proposing new policies and programs, as I have done in laying out parameters for a "new WPA." What would education in this country look like if the best work of teaching artists were integral to every classroom? Now is a time to dream big and broadcast those dreams, creating a sense of possibility. I'd like to see teaching artists ask themselves what they want for themselves, their communities and those with whom they work, and then put that vision out without downsizing it to accommodate anticipated opposition.

Thank you for your time and advocacy on behalf of the arts community.

About Arlene Goldbard
Arlene Goldbard is a writer, social activist, and consultant who works for justice, compassion and honor in every sphere, from the interpersonal to the transnational.

Her essays have appeared in such journals as Art in America, The Independent, Theatre, High Performance and Tikkun. Her books include Crossroads: Reflections on the Politics of Culture; Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development; Community, Culture and Globalization; and her novel Clarity.


Lotte Lenya - Seeräuber Jenny (Brecht / Weill)
Lotte Lenya-Pirate Jenny @ youtube.


One of my Senators voted for the Coburn Amendment, which is basically like telling me to drop dead. Luckily, Americans for the Arts has provided me with an easy way to craft a customized message so I can respond, which I did, vehemently.

If your Senator voted for this funding prohibition, you can send them a note expressing your extreme disappointment and ask them to work to delete this language in the final conference bill with the House. You can also give their office a call.

Find out how your Senator voted and send them a customized message courtesy of Americans for the Arts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Anatomy of Ideas

Andrea Kantrowitz is a professional Teaching Artist, just like us. Sometimes, I surf over to her blog and just hang out because she has posted lots of reflective ruminations featuring "why?" and "how?" which are two questions that I've never been able to answer.

Last week, Ms. Kantrowitz began a portrait lesson with a group of middle school students and then things went to that place where art often takes us:
We started a discussion about the small acts of superficial prejudice and hatred we encounter everyday, and how every person is infinitely more complex and mysterious than you might imagine at first, the more you get to know them. My hope is that through making art, the lessons I am trying to teach about being human will become real and concrete. I have thirteen more weeks with these students. In the end, how will I know I have succeeded?
Andrea Kantrowitz is a painter and a teaching artist interested in anatomy of all kinds including "the anatomy of ideas, desires and the imagination."

Her blog is called Zyphoid and I'll let her explain why.

The image above is by Ms. Kantrowitz and it's on her website.

The Beggars' Opera

President Barack Obama called a press conference yesterday to address concerns about his economic recovery plan, which has won little Republican support.

The New York Times headline reads "Obama Says Failing to Act Could Lead to a ‘Catastrophe'"
Mr. Obama’s tone was for the most part serious and businesslike, and he was pointed in rebutting Republican criticisms of his economic plan, saying he was not willing to take advice from “the folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt.”
NYS ARTS has an online Arts Advocacy Center that enables you to directly contact both your state and congressional representatives.

As we discussed yesterday, some of your favorite things are on the chopping block. There's no time like the present for you to take action. Let's face it, in this crisis, there's really no time at all.

Metamusical: Weill/Brecht (Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht - The Threepenny Opera @ youtube.)

Natural Talents

The Teaching Artists of Aspire of Western New York and their colleagues at The Resource Center work to help individuals with developmental disabilities realize their full potential.

Artists from Aspire’s iXpress art program and from The Resource Center are having their artwork jointly exhibited in a group show at the Wright Gallery located inside The Arts Council for Chautauqua County, 116 East 3rd Street, Jamestown. The exhibition will be on view from until February 24. Hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. More than 30 artworks are on display.

Natural Talents features paintings and pastel images of nature. Participating artists from Aspire include Andrew Grover, Carrie Haas, Derek McCullor, Eric Morrison, JB Murphy, Jon Staley and Henry Wesley. Participating artists from The Resource Center include Martha Briggs, Raphael Hernandez, Peter Joy, Sharon Leach, Taynisha Lynch and John Shoop.

Aspire of Western New York is a comprehensive provider of programs and services for adults and children with developmental disabilities. The Resource Center serves persons with disabilities and other social and economic disadvantages, and their families, in Chautauqua County, New York.

For more information about the exhibit, contact The Resource Center at (716) 661-4864 or (716) 661-1076, or phone The Arts Council at (716) 664-2465.

I think a work of art always makes a good gift.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Greatest of these is Love

I've been meaning to tell you that Anne Rhodes over at the Empire State Partnerships blog outpost ESPrit de Corps has posted the executive summary of Project Zero's recent report Qualities of Quality: Excellence in arts education and how to achieve it.

I'm not an executive, but I've downloaded it anyway and I think it's terrific.

Americans for the Arts offers an "on-demand webinar" where Steve Seidel outlines all of the research findings in detail. I can demand the webinar for $85, or I could demand a week's worth of groceries.

Music: Here Comes the Sun (Here Comes the Sun @ youtube.)

Your Favorite Things

If you read the news, you know by now that all the jobs have vanished and the Imperial Senate has reached a deal on the stimulus bill. Since you did not get to vote on this one, you may be wondering just what got cut.

CNN has posted a handy list of the missing and the dead, which includes, but may not be limited to:

• $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start

• $98 million for school nutrition

• $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

• $600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)

• $16 billion for school construction

For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter'd?

Hypermusical: N.E.R.D. - Sooner or Later.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

$50 million in federal funds for the arts hangs in the balance.

Take the next two minutes to do something about it.

Americans for the Arts has made it easy:


In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger...

Friday, February 6, 2009


Have you joined your peers and colleagues on Facebook or on the exclusively private ATA Members Yahoo Forum? If not, you should do so tout de suite because the ATA Members Yahoo Forum is free and valuable at the same time. There are over 900 ATA members registered, but it is private and exclusive nonetheless. A paradise of paradoxes. Come see.

Messages In today's ATA Digest #1284 include:
  • An Advocate: Bill Irwin on artists and the recovery
  • A Job Announcement: Dance teachers needed for Arts to Grow after-school program in Newark
  • An Update: The NYSCA Budget From NYS Arts, Alliance of NYS Arts Organizations
You can read all about it there, but not here.

If you are a Professional Teaching Artist, you can now keep in touch with a growing professional community on Facebook and on Yahoo. That's revolutionary, useful and fun.

The Association of Teaching Artists supports professional Teaching Artists in all our roles and the organization will gratefully accept your contributions. Yes, ATA knows times are tough, so just give an amount that is meaningful and significant to you.

If that's $500? Fine.

If it's $50? Terrific.

If you give $5 that's amazing, because it means you care enough to give.

ATA is grateful to you and, no matter the amount, your gift will make a difference.

Thanks and have a good weekend!

You may leave a comment, send an email or take a dance break with George.

Staying Alive

Like all good Divas, the Metropolitan Opera is desperately trying to stay relevant and if the Professional Teaching Artists of the Metropolitan Opera Guild's Education Programs have anything to do with it, they may have a chance.

Guild TAs implement a range of workshops in different contexts, but my favorite has to be Family Explorers, which introduces children aged 5-12 to opera. Families attend workshops together and through "hands-on experiential learning...learn to recognize characters by sight and sound, follow a complex operatic plot, and understand the power of music, acting, and design to tell a story."

The Metropolitan Opera is in movie theaters , on the radio and online. They are heavily involved in schools and they produce educator guides to make the work even more accessible.

I have no idea if they're hiring TAs, but old job announcements state that new hires must be members of Local 802.

Hey. Isn't that a union?

Read It and Weep

The field is littered with the husks of old reports about the vital importance of the arts in education and public life. They always seem to end with something about "how this conversation must continue" and "plans for possible next steps."

I have no idea what happens after that, but I do know that nobody ever asks me to do much except contact my elected officials--which I do, with abandon and shamelessly, like Callas.

Arts, Artists and Teaching (PDF) is an excellent report that was prepared by a gathering of leaders at Bennington College, in collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Trust, in the year 2002.

It says cool things like this:
Ironically, the business community clamors for creative people, seen as the competitive key to innovating in a globalized economy; but the educational system continues to put greater importance on mathematics, science, and other "hardcore" disciplines, which are seen as more "useful." The arts help to promote both the creative abilities and cultural literacy that are critical to developing fully engaged citizens in the global society.
I'm sure the report was used to bolster proposals and appeals to legislators, but I doubt it changed closed minds and I'm rather certain that no one who disagreed with the conclusions was invited to participate in the initial conversations. The people who make the actual decisions are not in the choir and it is clear that not enough of them have been convinced by this report or any of its relatives, ancestors or descendants.

I have read it though and I am grateful to have access to mounting evidence of what I already know: We are vitally important and the full measure of our usefulness has not been made. I guess I could call one or two of the members of the Imperial Senate who are jonesing to cut the measly $50 million allocated to the NEA out of the stimulus package and tell them just how I feel.

Or, I could just sit here and cry about it.

Meta-musica: Chavela V.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

If you are an individual artist or a fearless leader struggling to find that almighty dollar, you may have noticed that you're going to need some help.

Here's some!

The renowned dance company Urban Bush Women, which is dedicated to facilitating the use of art as a means for encouraging social responsibility and civic engagement, offers Getting REAL about Fundraising by Cathy Draine. This snappy guide was originally developed to help individual artists raise the money they needed to attend the Urban Bush Women Summer Institute.

The acronym defined:
Researching – knowing what funding is out there.

Evaluating – deciding if the funding is right for you.

Asking – requesting the funding you need in a way that favors you getting it.

Listening – hearing the response you are given and responding accordingly.
I skimmed through while listening to my role model and hero Nina Simone who is as real as you can get without bursting into flame.

Getting R.E.A.L. about Fundraising (PDF)

Nina Simone!!!

Can you repeat the question?

Over at the NYU Educational Theater blog, the valiant Dennis Baker, who is a grad student and a working TA, shares and reflects on a meeting he attended at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).

NJPAC has an extensive residency program in the schools, the goals of which they are apparently reevaluating. Teaching Artists were invited to discuss the shape of the elephant commonly referred to as Arts Integration vs. Art for Arts' Sake.

Dennis reports:

"...the schools are questioning the importance of paying for the students to learn acting/theater techniques. This lead into questioning whether NJPAC should offer a more arts integrated program where the teaching artists go into the classroom and use theater skills to teach subjects in history, science and English classes."

It's a big question, and apparently an eternal one, because we keep hashing it out.

We keep coming back to it.

Like moths to a flame.


The Second Coming

Maria Johnson is a Brooklyn-based freelance flutist and teacher. Over at Maria's Blog, which is a cool place to hang out, there is much rejoicing over the arrival of Eric Booths' new tome The Music Teaching Artist's Bible: Becoming a Virtuoso Educator.

Reviews for the book are positive and the website of Oxford University Press is strewn with breathless testimonials from people like Bill Ivey, Steve Seidel, Richard Deasey and Robert Lynch, among others.

It's $99 (hardback) or $24.95 (paperback) from Oxford University Press.

I'll be reading.

Related: Eric Booth's Teaching Artist Guidelines (PDF)

Unrelated: Monty Python