As I stated initially, my primary goal with this blog is to make it easier for a motivated person to connect a school with its arts community. If I can provide a trail map, maybe more people will explore the territory.
Do you have a respect for the artist as an inspired creator, an appreciation of the value of the arts in our culture and community, and an enthusiasm for bringing people together? Are you a problem solver? When given a task do you pursue it like a terrier chasing after a thrown stick? Do you? Then you too could be an arts liaison.
There are other job titles one can use–Arts Enrichment Coordinator, Arts Outreach Chair, Arts Inclusion Facilitator–but I prefer Arts Liaison. A liaison acts as a link to assist communication or cooperation between groups of people for the mutual benefit of all involved. You don’t just add, you connect.
Talented and inspiring artists are out there aplenty. Organizations such as ArtEd Washington and Arts Corps exist to support and promote the arts in education. School districts have data showing arts inclusion affects performance and graduation rates. Even presidents and their wives say we need to keep the arts in schools.
What I perceive from my vantage point is that there is no one on the ground to do the work. Principals have too many items on their plates to contact arts organizations. Teachers are busy teaching, grading, developing lesson plans, going to staff meetings, responding to parent’s emails and familiarizing themselves with what is required to meet Washington State’s Common Core Standards and Seattle Public Schools Curriculum Alignment decree, among other things. If a teacher wants to add some element of the arts to their instruction they have to come up with the extra time and energy it takes to make it happen. So most of the time it doesn’t happen.
As a timely example, today One World Taiko came to the Center School campus for an all-school assembly followed by a workshop for about 45 of Center’s 9/10 Humanities students who are currently learning about Asian history and culture. Kristin Storey, the teacher who originally contacted me about bringing a Taiko drumming group in to the school, thanked me from the stage afterwards, saying she wouldn’t have followed through with the arrangements if she had had to do it all herself.
It must be said here that the degree to which the arts are present at a given school depends on the focus the school’s directorship has chosen. At the Center School, where integrating the arts into all subjects is the stated mission, we have an arts integration specialist. But even if your school is not seeking to be fully arts integrated, there are still many things that can be done to enrich the K-12 learning experience through the arts.
In working with my daughters’ schools I’ve helped arrange for workshops, field trips, assemblies, artist-in-residence projects, and partnerships that bring artists and arts practices into contact with students. At Center I discuss options and opportunities with school staff, research possible integrative art ideas and resources and make contacts. I help organize fundraising efforts and I speak on behalf of the arts at school social events and CSCA meetings. I keep a record of the engagements the school has had with various artists and arts organizations each year and maintain those connections.
In the next series of posts, I plan to cover all the aspects of being an arts liaison that I can think of. This list includes, but is not limited to: advocating and educating, finding artists and making connections, budgeting and payment negotiation, fundraising, evaluations and reviews, and record keeping and resources.
Another goal of mine is to have this blog become a forum for people who care about the arts in education, so please share your experience, your ideas and your knowledge along the way.