What makes a great arts educator?

I’m blogging tonight from Washington, DC, as I’m in town for a roundtable discussion with some exceptional arts educators whose students have been named Presidential Scholars in the Arts for 2011. These students are nominated after receiving recognition through YoungArts, the signature program of National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. I have consulted for this organization for a few years now, and I’m excited by the work that happens and the young people that gain recognition through the YoungArts program.

Tomorrow’s roundtable meets at the Hirshhorn Museum, the Smithsonian’s museum of international modern and contemporary art. The arts educators in attendance will be asked to address questions about best practices that they used that have helped to cultivate this year’s cohort of Presidential Scholars in the Arts. We will also ask them to consider what other supports they might need that could help them to expand on their work with young artists.

In this harrowing time of deep budget cuts to educational programs throughout the country, arts education programs will most definitely suffer. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for arts educators to identify our strengths and our powerful positions, rather than wallowing in weakness and despair. If we as arts educators view ourselves as disenfranchised, why should anyone else value what we do? Our belief and conviction creates passion and respect in others, and that’s how we will survive this difficult moment.

So to anyone out there reading this blog who is an arts educator or has benefitted from arts education or has children who have benefitted from arts education, what do you think about those questions that we’re asking on Monday? How have you been successful and why? What are your strengths as an arts educator? What strengths have you seen in your children’s teachers? What do arts educators need to make their work even stronger? And let’s take the dialogue beyond money and time. Those are givens for all of us, and we have to stop using them as self-imposed obstacles. Comment directly on this blog post, as it would be great to get a dialogue going. And I’ll do my best to share your thoughts with my colleagues at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.

Following the roundtable, I’ll be attending A Salute to the 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholars at the Kennedy Center. The event will live stream at 8:00pm at www.youngarts.org, so check it out.

To see a video of the YoungArts Out of the Studio performance that I directed in April, click here, and then you will see a video for Out of the Studio. I served as the Assistant Creative Director and focused on creating this piece with these 12 talented young people from all over the U.S. (in about 15 hours!) while the Creative Director, JLove Calderon, created facilitation experiences where the young artists became embassadors for the arts in various communities in NYC. It was a great experience for all of us! And four of them became Presidential Scholars, so I’m thrilled and honored to be able to see them perform at the Kennedy Center!

I look forward to your responses to the questions and ideas above.