Annual Report 2007 Support for Arts Education


March, 2008

"Professional development" means "enabling teachers to become more effective in their profession." To improve—and perhaps increase—the teaching of the performing arts in public schools, we continue to expand our support of innovative professional development. Dana grants fund nonprofit organizations that train in-school arts specialists or professional artists brought into schools to teach students. Beyond specific grants, we support this special niche by creating and distributing free publications (including the latest news in arts education) and articles related to the field. We organize public conferences and smaller “grantee gatherings,” where arts-group leaders can share what works for them and the teaching artists they serve. We make available a storehouse of best practices, downloadable materials, and other resources in arts learning, including work by our grantees,  on our Web site.

We fund two sets of grants each year, one for projects that originate within a 50-mile radius of Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC (the “three-city round”), and one for projects in rural areas of the United States (the “rural initiative”). Of course, our online resources are available to all who seek examples of arts education programs that work.

Our grant funding has increased each year since we started our first three-city round in 2001 with nearly $300,000 in grants. As we gained knowledge and contacts among arts groups, applications and funding for this round rapidly increased; in the past three years, the increase has been more gradual. In the 2007 three-city round, we funded $1.1 million in grants.

Our first rural round was in 2005, and it is following the same pattern of rapid early growth, from $245,000 in 2005 to $590,000 in 2007. In this case, the growth may not taper off so soon: “Rural” encompasses much of the territory of the United States, and well-trained teaching artists are in short supply.

Including 2007, in which we awarded $1.71 million to urban and rural grantees, Dana has awarded 153 grants totaling about $6.5 million. Arts education awards and activities, as well as funding to the Dana Center at the University of Texas in Austin for math education, now make up more than 10 percent of the Foundation’s direct grants each year.

Re-creating success

With the help of a Dana grant in 2005, the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts, developed a continuing education program to train an artist-educator in its Curriculum in Motion technique. The artist then led nine sets of classroom teachers and students through the process of choreography to help the children master academic concepts. Jacob's Pillow staffers documented the work, including their five guiding principles for the program, in a video. In 2007, they extended this work, training two rural teaching artists to use the same methods.

In rural North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is building a program that includes training for teaching artists, who develop a plan for an intensive three-day teaching residency in a rural school. After they perform their residency, the artists and their guides meet again to reflect on their experiences and prepare for more teaching. In 2008, 44 teaching artists will go through the program, which the university says will reach about 4,000 students and 340 teachers in 13 targeted schools.

Developed together with the program in North Carolina, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Maryland, is going into the second year of its own teaching-artists institute. This year, in addition to enrolling new teaching artists in the training-residency program, the council will add a set of more-advanced sessions for experienced teachers.

Serving special groups

The Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning in Vienna, Virginia, targets teachers and artists who teach preschool children. These teachers learn and collaborate with Wolf Trap teaching artists to create arts-based lessons for the very youngest of learners. In 2007, Dana funding supported the recruitment and training of 20 new teaching artists and extended the learning of 28 master teaching artists in Washington and across the institute's 16 regional sites nationwide.

Elsewhere, Arts Horizons in New York is starting a training program to help teaching artists who work with "special-needs" students. In addition to basic teacher training and a mentored practicum, the two-year course will include information on creating a safe and nurturing environment for children who have conditions such as autism, emotional problems, and physical disabilities.

Americans for the Arts 

A group of Dana grantees began working in 2007 with Americans for the Arts to create a teaching-artist themed series of events during the national arts promotion group's annual conference in June 2008. Many of our grantees will lecture and hold workshops as part of the series; others have received stipends from us so they can attend.

Symposium: Higher Education's Role

In the same way that great teaching artists are good listeners, those educators who would create more great teaching artists should listen to the current ones.

That theme resonated throughout a Dana-sponsored daylong forum called “Transforming Arts Teaching: The Role of Higher Education,” held in May 2007 in New York City. Some 150 arts leaders, heads of colleges and conservatories, and those who fund and support them listened to one another and to working teaching artists during the event, and everyone found plenty to talk about during the breaks between panels.

The forum, on how teacher education colleges, conservatories, fine arts colleges, and other higher education institutions can better prepare those who teach the arts to young people, was sponsored by the Dana Foundation. Weighing on the participants’ minds were several changes that have occurred in recent years in the teaching of all arts to youngsters.

Most prominent among these changes have been the loss of teaching time for the arts as schools focus on math and reading (so their students can show more progress on standardized tests) and the small percentage of students who receive arts instruction from arts specialists.

Teaching artists learn from their students, with respect to both how they craft their art and how children think about and see the world. Most teaching artists also find that they need to bridge a technology chasm. “The underlying child-development part has not changed,” said Augusta Kappner, Ph.D., of the Bank Street College of Education. “But we need to think about how all the technology affects it,” even as hard research in the area is still sparse. “We can’t change the curriculum fast enough.” Rather than relying on an established syllabus, Kappner said, educators should help student teachers learn where to find the information they need to talk to kids in language that will reach them.

Teachers have always needed to be lifelong learners, said Robert Bucker of the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, but now, with technology and the economics of making art changing so quickly, it may be better to teach teachers how to learn and adapt quickly and where to find the new information they will need than to encourage them to hew to a set curriculum. Such help should not end with the diploma, either, Bucker said: “Absolutely we need to engage alumni, support them. One of the biggest challenges 10 years out is technology. We need to find some way to help them retool” when recording systems and methods of marketing and promotion morph again.

One challenge is how to give student teachers all the things they need in the one year—or in some cases the six to twelve weeks—that they spend in teacher training, said Pedro Noguera of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. Another is to make sure universities have a better understanding of what is happening in local  schools, where the arts are too often regarded as an expendable elective.

Panelists acknowledged that conservatories, universities, and other teaching institutions can’t do everything that is necessary to grow great teaching artists; parents, principals, politicians, and others also are important.

Only 12 percent of K–12 students are taught arts by arts specialists, said Derek Gordon of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge (Louisiana); the rest, if they have arts instruction at all, receive it from general classroom teachers.

“We need to make a much more clear and compelling case for the need of arts for everyone in schools,” said Michael Cohen of Achieve, a Washington, DC–based organization that works with states on academic standards. Then, he said, the push for educating teaching artists would come from parents, principals, and politicians, as well as academics.

Advocating for arts—and artists—in schools may present challenges, but it also is inspiring, Bucker said. “The future is exciting, but it will require guidance—and a proactivity [among educators and advocates that] we haven’t seen in some time.” (see keynote remarks from the conference by Dr. David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University)

back to top