An Education in the Arts
FOR THE ARTS
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
Boston Library Consortium Member Libraries
An Education in the Arts
Cover photo by Nancy Jane Reid
Jane Alexander, Arts Endowment Chairman from 1993 to 1997, and instructor
Christophora Robeers (behind Jane Alexander) with elementary school stu-
dents taking a class at the Hand Workshop. Photo by Talor Dabney.
Lifelong learning in the arts is a journey that begins in infancy. From our very begin-
ning, we can use our powers to reconstruct and construct an endless variety of
images. Our imaginations are boundless. Our minds seem especially tuned to
metaphor and symbol. From the earliest age, we begin to react to the world in signs;
mother's smile is a sign that everything is well, and the infant soon realizes the effect
of mimicry. We later explain the events of our lives in similes: I am as hungry as a
horse; her voice is like butter; it's as hot as an oven in here. Our arguments take the
form of analogies. Our emotions and feelings are expressed in a bouquet of roses or
the highly charged symbolism of a kiss.
The artist seizes on our proclivity to think in metaphors and symbol. The very
act of creating a work of art: a song, a sonnet, a photograph or painting is itself a
symbol of our desire to capture a particular idea or feeling and communicate it with
others. There is a poetry in the power of the mind to create.
Our faith in the creative mind is the foundation for the Federal government's
investment in education. From the beginning, the National Endowment for the Arts
has channeled its resources into programs which benefit arts education. Initially,
schoolchildren received the focus of our attention, but it has become clear that we
continue through our whole life to learn through the arts.
Arts education is central to fulfilling the mission of the National Endowment for
the Arts to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts and to encourage
public participation in the arts. This pamphlet outlines the National Endowment for
the Arts' principles for lifelong learning in the arts and identifies four broad areas
which guide our planning and support:
• P re-Kindergarten to Post-Secondary Arts Education
• Pre-Professional and Professional Development in the Arts
• Avocational Arts Education
• Tradition-Based Learning in the Arts
These principles and characteristics of excellence in arts education can serve as
guidance to arts and education organizations to help them develop and sustain quality
learning experiences in the arts for people of all ages. We believe that a quality educa-
tion in the arts — one that deepens aesthetic appreciation, sparks creativity and imagi-
nation, and brings understanding to the role and value of the arts in each of our lives
and our society — begins in the cradle, must be nurtured by families and schools, and
continues beyond graduation. Our creative life does not stop .it IS or 21 or ever.
Lifelong learning in the arts is a journey of discovery, a metaphor by which we ma)
live our lives most fully.
of Excellence in
Every person deserves the chance to learn about the arts, to test his
imagination, to tap her creativity potential. No matter what age or cul-
tural background or level of education and accomplishment, each per-
son should be able to participate in a lifelong education in the arts.
Educational opportunities are best geared to each individual's particular
needs, through all stages of life and in a variety of settings which
embrace diverse learning systems. Education in the arts includes, but is
not limited to, pre-Kindergarten to grade 12 and post-secondary pro-
grams, career training, apprenticeships, individual study, and culturally
specific traditions of learning.
Statement of Principles
The National Endowment for the Arts maintains that a quality
education in the arts:
• Pursues excellence at its core
• Provides direct involvement with artists and their work
• Heightens experience, perception, and creativity and engages
people through keen observation, discussion, questions, and
reflection on works of art
• Expands understanding of the history, critical theory, and
concepts of the arts
• Recognizes that all peoples contribute to the aesthetic and
cultural fabric of the community
• Empowers people to better explore their creativity; to increase
their knowledge of the arts and artists; and to develop skills of
perception, reflection, interpretation, and communication
• Includes projects and programs that are purposeful — with
clearly stated goals and expectations, and that are supported,
where appropriate, by a commitment to organizational
leadership, skilled staffing, budget, facilities, equipment, plans,
programs, and community involvement.
A lifelong education in the arts for all Americans:
• inspires their lives and improves their connections and
contributions to society
• connects people to their cultural roots
• provides professional growth and direction toward careers in
• develops avocational interests in the arts
• fosters knowledgeable, perceptive, and appreciative audiences.
Philadelphia elementary school children learn
design through the Foundation for Architecture's
in-school programs. Photo by Don Tracy.
Our children start experiencing the arts the moment they recognize the
rhythm of a lullaby or the shape of the mobile above the cradle. It is
crucial that we continue to nurture their natural imagination and cre-
ativity when they begin their formal education and to provide challeng-
ing learning experiences throughout their school years. The arts are a
core subject as defined in the National Education Goals, which call for
all students to achieve competency in challenging subjects. The volun-
tary National Standards for Arts Education serve as a guide to states,
local schools and teacher-preparation programs to develop academic
standards and curricula in the arts.
All students should have access to a comprehensive education in
the arts that:
• Emphasizes the intrinsic value of the knowledge and skills
gained through the arts
• Stresses curriculum-based learning in and out of the classroom
that is linked to national-, state-, and local-level standards and
that meets the developmental needs of all children and young
• Respects varied motivation to study the arts — including
personal fulfillment, knowledge, skills, and career aspirations
• Recognizes the different ways children think and learn, the
ways in which the arts can unlock their learning styles, and
the need for varied learning environments
• Balances instruction in the history, critical theory and ideas of
the arts with creation, production and performance
• Connects the arts across the disciplines and across the
curriculum by integrating learning in and about the arts with
other academic subjects as well as in out-of-school settings
that provide real-world contexts for learning
• Relies upon qualified teachers and is strengthened by regular
engagement with artists, artistic works, and arts institutions to
sustain, expand, and deepen students' understanding of and
competence in the arts
• Supports the professional development of teachers of the arts
so they may improve their knowledge and skills
• Prepares future teachers to be familiar with and confident in
the use of the arts in their classrooms.
Pre-K to 12:
Summer Creative Writing Seminars for
Teachers — Associated Writing Programs
and Ohio Arts Council
"School's out!" is a cry, repeated late
every spring across the country, that no
doubt sounds as agreeable to many
teachers as it does to most students.
After nine months of the daily educa-
tional routine, the prospect of three
months off is a remarkably attractive
one. Yet not all teachers elect to leave
the classroom. Some of them return to
school, as do the 24 junior high and
high school English teachers in Virginia
and Ohio every year who participate in
summer creative writing seminars — not
as teachers on this occasion, but rather
Sponsored each year by Associated
Writing Programs (AWP) of Fairfax, VA,
and by the Ohio Arts Council, the semi-
nars combine committed teachers, com-
petitively chosen, with accomplished
writers who share their writing and
teaching techniques, and who visit the
participating teachers' schools the fol-
lowing year to work with their students.
Additionally, the program also provides
funds for books by contemporary writers for classroom use. The goal, observes
Roxanne French Thornhill, who coordinates the program for AWP at Virginia
Commonwealth University each summer, is two-fold: "to help create writers and life-
long readers of contemporary literature." By bringing writers into the classroom, and
building contemporary American poetry and fiction into the literature curriculum, the
program has achieved that "staying power" that's rarely produced by more fleeting,
one-shot efforts to introduce students to the art of their own time. The participating
teachers, in turn, gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence that permit them to con-
tinue to engage students in the creative writing process.
The program administered by the Ohio Arts Council is called Change Course!,
and it's held at Wright State University in Dayton for five weeks every summer. But
the program, which combines intensive writing workshops with nationally known
writers, sessions with visiting writers from around the region, and classes on portfolio
CHANGE COURSE! Staff and participants in front
of the restored home of Paul Lawrence Dunbar,
Poet Toi Berricotte at a book signing, Wright
State University, June 1994 as part of CHANGE
assessment and curriculum development,
does not end with the five-week session.
Participants attend ten follow-up meet-
ings on Saturdays throughout the regular
school year, host visiting writers at their
own schools, visit the schools of other
participants to work on new teaching
methodologies, and take part in local,
state, regional, and national meetings.
The teachers also receive 12 hours of
tuition-paid graduate school credit for
their efforts, credit that does not come
easily. "I'll tell you, we worked 12 hours
a day for that credit," recalls Mary Ellen
Grunder of Dayton. "It was like a boot
camp for writing," adds Stephanie
Corcoran, also of Dayton. "We ate and
drank and slept writing."
The program is designed to encour-
age teachers to think in new ways about
incorporating creative writing into the language-arts curriculum. The theory behind
Change Course!, explains OAC project coordinator Bob Fox, is that the most effec-
tive teachers are both readers and writers, that in coming to terms with the writing
process themselves, teachers "better understand their students' struggles and achieve-
ments." The most effective teachers, moreover, are "professional educators," accord-
ing to Fox, "classroom researchers who contribute to the professional conversation
about current teaching methodology and philosophy." In addition to underscoring
these theoretical aspects of education, the Change Course! program also reinforces the
notion that all writing, "from poems to term papers, is creative, equally deserving of
Theory is one thing, practice quite another, most educators would agree, but the
summer creative writing seminars appear to be scoring highly in both areas. At least
they're passing the toughest test of all, building excitement among young people for
both reading and writing. "As a writer, now I learn from reading books," wrote one
of Ohio teacher Jody Morton's junior high school students. "Reading really gives me
an idea of how to write. The more I read the better my techniques of writing grow."
"My skills in writing have improved from none to some," wrote another. "I can write
now and not find it the most boring thing in the world...." There's still a lot of
progress to be made, clearly, and national literacy statistics — 25-27 million functional-
ly illiterate adults in the U.S., with another 45 million adults only marginally profi-
cient — are not encouraging. But for a small and growing number of educators in
Virginia and Ohio, who are improving writing skills and building new interest in con-
temporary literature in the process, the picture is definitely improving.
Pre-K to 12:
Foundation for Architecture
When one thinks of elementary and secondary education in America, from the tradi-
tional 3Rs to the countless innovations that have been added over the years, it's
unlikely that the subject of architecture comes readily to mind. On the one hand, it's
a topic we tend to take for granted: students live in houses designed by someone,
attend school in a building designed by someone else, and travel between those two
destinations through a built environment that is the work of many hands. At the
same time, architecture as a field of study is generally regarded as an area of special-
ization reserved for college classes and professional schools. That combination of
ubiquity and professionalization has combined to keep architecture beyond the reach
of most K-12 students, but Philadelphia's Foundation for Architecture is determined
to change that.
Since 1981, the Foundation for Architecture has undertaken a unique program
designed to find a home for architecture in the K-12 classroom. The effort is built
around three-person teams — a teacher, a design professional, and a graduate stu-
dent — that plan and implement the integration of architecture, landscape architecture,
planning, and historic preservation projects into the teacher's basic lesson plans. The
goal is not to train young architects or urban planners, but rather to develop, through
hands-on activities, the perceptual, social, and technological skills that can be applied
across the K-12 curriculum. The Architecture in Education program, in other words,
offers opportunities not only for teaching about the built environment, but for devel-
oping the fundamental skills that will enhance the students' powers of observation,
analysis, problem-solving, and self-expression, serving them well throughout their
school years and beyond.
"Through this program," explains Pamela Carunchio, the Foundation's director
of education, "students gain an increased understanding of the dynamics of the neigh-
borhood and the city around them, and of other civilizations and cultures, while mas-
tering the processes and skills in a variety of disciplines. Students also experience the
need for responsible design, planning, and decision making as individuals and in
cooperation with others." The lessons learned are not limited to architecture and
design, however. Through planning sessions with the classroom teachers, various ele-
ments of the design arts are woven into other aspects of the curriculum, from science
and math to social studies and history.
Students at the Alexander McClure Elementary School in Philadelphia, for
example, built architectural models of their vision for a vacant block in their neigh-
borhood. In place of weeds and broken bottles, the children offered cardboard minia-
tures of what they saw as essential to a thriving neighborhood: an apartment com-
plex, supermarket, bakery, flower shop, beauty parlor, church, and, because this was a
children's plan, after all, a video arcade. Not lacking for detail, the students' model
block included trees and plants, streetlights, and other amenities. They had discov-
ered, in other words, that cities consist of more than concrete and asphalt, and began
to look at their own surroundings accordingly. And the learning process works both
ways, with the experts gaining new insights from their pupils. "The first thing I
learned," recalled architect Edward Paliscoc, who worked with a kindergarten class at
an inner-city Philadelphia school, "is never to underestimate the intelligence of chil-
dren, especially kindergartners. They were quick to grasp the concepts. The children
wound up being very much teachers as well as students."
Each year, the Architecture in
Education program directly reaches
about 5,000 students in public,
parochial, and independent schools
throughout Philadelphia and the greater
Delaware Valley, and nearly 2,000 edu-
cators nationally. In addition to the core
eight-week in-classroom program, AIE
also offers workshops for students on
timely themes, in-service teacher-training
seminars, and collaborative projects with
community groups, universities, and cul-
tural organizations. The Foundation's
1986 publication, Architecture in
Education: A Resource of Imaginative
Ideas and Tested Activities, an illustrated
compilation of over 200 hands-on activi-
ties, has been distributed to educators and design professionals throughout the US and
in 20 foreign countries. The Foundation also maintains a resource center, a collection
of some 1,000 books, 3,000 slides, and related educational materials, which is avail-
able to AIE alumni.
"This was a golden experience!" exclaimed fourth-grade teacher Lucille Keyes,
describing her eight-week session with the Architecture in Education Program.
"Without a doubt, if I were not working with AIE, I would not have attempted to do
the wonderful project we offered the children this year. Certainly when students
believe they are creating something which is original, useful and long lasting, they
remain highly motivated and learn a great deal. Students were proud to learn techni-
cal terms and wanted to use them as they problem-solved."
One of the fourth-grade students expressed her feelings about the program in
simpler, but no less enthusiastic, terms: "We didn't learn by reading or listening,"
explained Amy Coslett, "we learned by doing things." That's the kind of endorsement
that the Foundation for Architecture hears often, a tribute to a unique educational
program that manages, by placing the tools of the architect in the hands of children.
to give them a new sense of their surroundings — and a new vision of the future — in
Building bridges in the 5th grade.
Illinois Institute of Technology
"Design" is one of those words, like "art" or "excellence," that means so many
things to so many people, that sometimes it appears not to mean very much at all. It
is a word, Professor John Heskett of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of
Technology has written, "that has become fashionable but is widely misused or limit-
ed to convenient commercial slogans. Even at levels in industry, commerce, the media
and public life, where its particular contribution to the quantitative concerns of eco-
nomic success and the qualitative concerns of life-values should be evident, there is
Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology
use interactive media to develop design curricula
linked to cultural changes of the past two cen-
turies. Photo by Robert Drea.
Such misunderstanding is especially troubling to design professionals and to edu-
cators like Heskett, who are charged both with preparing the next generation of prac-
titioners and with helping to foster a greater appreciation of the importance of design
to our lives, not only among specialists but among all Americans. "All too often
design is synonymous with fashionable names or surface decoration," Heskett
observes. "Yet beyond such superficial limitations, it is an activity that affects every
aspect of daily life, at home, at work and play, on the street and in forms of transport.
Moreover, decisions affecting the quality of design in products, communications, and
environments are made at a variety of political and professional levels."
Recognizing that there is no quick fix to a problem whose roots lie in nine-
teenth-century industrialization and whose branches extend to twentieth-century
mass media, the Institute of Design has proposed a long-term solution, developing a
cross-disciplinary undergraduate course, "Design, Technology and Culture," intended
to help freshmen and sophomores in the sciences, humanities, and arts understand
design as an interdependent field related to cultural, economic, and technological
forces in society. Targeting students at the undergraduate level, students whose "minds
are still open to a broad range of influences," according to Heskett, the course is
intended to "provide an experience and understanding of design to an audience likely
at subsequent stages of their life to hold positions of responsibility in which they can
influence, for better or worse, how design affects living, working and public
Drawing on key documents and illustrations from nineteenth- and twentieth-
century America, the course focuses on the development of design in the modern
world from three perspectives, which Heskett summarizes as "the concept, context
and consequences of design." It's a necessarily broad-based, long-range view, but one
that Heskett is convinced gives students the historical grounding they need to under-
stand the full impact of design on modern life. Thus students are treated to ( 1 ) a
review of the history and growth of design practice and organization as a response to
social, economic, and technological change; (2) an examination of structures and poli-
cies in industry, commerce, and government within which design activity is defined;
and (3) a survey of some of the social and cultural implications of the application and
influence of design in contemporary life.
Operating in a field as underserved as this one, the Illinois Institute of
Technology's approach is an evolving one, a continuing dialogue with the field, and
one that may soon extend well beyond the reach of the Chicago campus itself. For
along with developing the course and collecting illustrative material for in-class dis-
play, Heskett and his assistants are putting together a self-contained, interactive ver-
sion of the course that eventually, through CD-ROM or communications networks,
may reach a national or even international audience.
The concept of design may remain a slippery one for many people, but in initiat-
ing discussions such as this one, working with students who will be continuing the
dialog in years to come, Heskett and his colleagues arc helping to make sure that our
grasp of design, and of the many ways it affects us, will only become more secure.
in the Arts
Alvin Ailey American Dance Center students Yaa
Yaa Whaley, Eugene Rhodes, Apryl Webb, Harlan
Blaike. Junior Division, Ballet Class. Photo by
People who aspire to careers in the arts need specialized education and
training. Aspiring artists and administrators might develop their talents
through trial and effort in their art forms or through interaction with
qualified instructors or mentors.
Pre-Professional development may occur in a variety of settings,
from the classroom to the studio, but ideally it should:
• Provide education as well as training
• Acquaint emerging arts professionals with career possibilities
• Develop aesthetic sensitivity along with technical and
cognitive skills that make it easier to find work
• Foster mentor and apprentice relationships.
Arts professionals often continue to study and learn throughout
their careers, in order to augment their professional qualifications or
abilities. This training may take place through sabbaticals, field experi-
ments, commissioning, or residencies, and it may involve interaction
with peers and instructing others in a variety of educational settings.
In all cases, professional development in the arts should:
• Enable artists to discover new techniques and approaches
which lead to the creation of new works
• Equip arts administrators with the skills necessary to promote
and sustain excellent art through their organizations
• Nurture the expertise necessary for arts professionals to build
and maintain audiences and advocates for the arts.
and Professional Development:
Alvin Alley American Dance Center
Mention the name Alvin Ailey to a dance aficionado — even to a casual observer of the
art — and the discussion inevitably turns to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,
internationally acclaimed as one of the leading dance ensembles. Less well known,
perhaps, but equally important to the late choreographer's vision when he founded
the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in Brooklyn in 1969, is the dance school that
is at the heart of that operation. Ailey was always more than just a creator and per-
former of dance, profound as his accomplishments in those areas may have been.
He was also a teacher, convinced of the importance of imparting the movement and
magic of dance to young people.
One hundred and twenty-five students enrolled in Ailey's school in its initial
year, but that was only the beginning. Firm in his belief that dance instruction should
be available to all who seek it, Ailey joined forces with choreographer Pearl Lang
in 1970 to establish the American Dance Center in Manhattan. Today, under the
direction of Denise Jefferson, the school trains approximately 3,000 students annu-
ally, with classes from beginning through professional levels for dancers three years
From the start, Ailey had four
broad educational objectives in mind.
First, he wanted to make dance accessi-
ble to young people and adults through
dance training and innovative communi-
ty arts-in-education programs. "From
the very beginning," Jefferson explains,
"our founder, Mr. Ailey, felt that dance
comes from the people and needs to be
given back to them. In his own experi-
ence, his first exposure to dance came as
a junior high school student in
California, when his English teacher
took his class to see the Ballet Russe de
Monte Carlo. The next year another
teacher took them to see Katherine
Dunham, and that experience, especially
seeing an African American dance pio-
neer like Dunham, convinced him of the importance of making dance accessible to
young people. More generally, Mr. Ailey also came to see himself as a link to all ages,
all races, since dance is — or rather should be — a natural part of everyone's life."
Young dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance
Center First Steps program. Photo by Marbeth.
Upper Division students of the Alvin Ailey
American Dance Center. Photo by Beatriz Schiller.
Alley's second objective is to offer
students the opportunity to follow a cur-
riculum of diversified dance training of
the highest professional caliber, a goal
that Jefferson also traces to the school's
founder. "Mr. Ailey always thought that
the perfect dancer has ballet feet and
legs and a modern dance torso,"
Jefferson recalls, "and Pearl Lang, who
was highly trained in the Graham tech-
nique, felt the same way. We've main-
tained that dual focus over the years,
and expanded it, adding Dunham and West African, East Indian and Spanish, yoga
and jazz — a vast range of forms and influences, since dancers today have to be pre-
pared to perform a variety of roles in a variety of settings."
The Ailey Dance Center's third objective — to maintain a professional faculty of
exceptional teachers, musicians, and guest artists — is something of which Jefferson is
especially proud. "We have a huge faculty here," Jefferson notes, "and we try to get
teachers who are specialists in the technique they teach, rather than having general-
ists. We also bring in choreographers to do repertory workshops — the full range, from
classical ballet to cutting edge."
The school's fourth objective, to train outstanding students as professional
dancers and provide them with tuition assistance, Federal financial aid, and other sup-
port services, goes well beyond monetary support alone (although there's a lot of that,
with some 50 to 60 scholarship students each year). "We also offer career, personal,
and nutritional counseling, and we've instituted a program of student peer advisors
and student representatives who meet regularly with staff, all in an effort to create the
best environment for learning dance."
Recognizing the difficulty of making the transition from formal training to a
professional career, Ailey established a second company — the Alvin Ailey Repertory
Ensemble — which serves as a bridge between the academic and professional worlds.
Members of the ensemble have completed advanced degrees at the Dance Center,
refining their skills while acquiring invaluable experience touring and performing
around the United States, and having opportunities to conduct classes and lecture-
demonstrations in schools and community centers. Many graduates make their wa\
into one or both of the Ailey companies, while others have pursued successful careers
as choreographers, teachers, and performers in film, television, and theater.
Of course, most of the thousands of students who pass through the Alvin Ailc\
American Dance Center, young and old alike, never perform professionally. Yet these
students also reap the benefits of study, struggling individually and collectively to train
their bodies to conform to the lines and movements set by others. "First, they learn to
have a new respect for their own bodies," Jefferson observes, "and they learn to
respect authority. They also learn new ways to communicate, new \\a\s <>t working
together, lessons that will benefit them in so many other aspects of their lues."
New York Folklore Society
Give a man a fish, the old saying goes, and he will eat for a day, but teach that man
how to fish, and he will never go hungry. Something of the spirit of that axiom ani-
mates the New York Folklore Society's Mentoring Program for Folklife and
Traditional Arts. The program offers opportunities for technical assistance and profes-
sional training to organizations and individuals engaged in or planning folk arts pro-
grams throughout New York State. Covering a broad range of knowledge, skills, and
methodologies, from fieldwork and documentation to marketing and presentation, the
mentoring program provides a crucial link between artist and audience that is particu-
larly important in the traditional arts, which generally lack the institutional support
of the other arts. "Our intent," observes John Suter, NYFS executive director, "is to
enable folklore professionals and folk artists to develop or improve skills that will
enable them to be more successful in their work." As a kind of portable, post-gradu-
ate training program, the NYFS mentoring effort targets key elements in the creation
and dissemination of the folk and traditional arts.
In the city of Troy, for example, professional photographer Marty Cooper of
New York City conducted a two-day workshop for five upstate folklorists, allowing
them to hone their photographic skills, which are so important to the proper docu-
mentation and presentation of many folk arts. Folk arts professional Pat Wells simi-
larly traveled from Kentucky to Syracuse to conduct a workshop for folk artists to
acquaint them with some of the aspects of professionalization — marketing, contracts,
health insurance, networking, distribution, and the like — that will allow these artists
to reach much larger audiences.
In other cases, the mentoring program has had a stimulating effect on a particu-
lar community, spawning new interest in the traditional arts. In the rural upstate town
of Sodus, for example, a mentoring effort was conducted to serve an African-
American quilting and sewing circle. In the process of meeting with these women,
helping them to preserve and celebrate their craft, the visiting specialists discovered a
rich vein of traditional African-American hairdressing, special techniques that were all
but ignored by the younger members of the community, but which held special mean-
ing to their elders. Upon investigation, it turned out that Patricia Walker is the only
person in rural upstate New York who still uses the marcel hot-iron method, the pre-
decessor of more modern, chemical methods. A new mentoring program enabled Ms.
Walker to conduct a workshop on hot-iron hairdressing, introducing this skill, long
treasured by older African-American women, to their children and grandchildren.
"Our focus," Suter explains, "is on communities that traditionally have been
'outside of the loop,' that is, on some of the underserved areas of folklore." These
include ethnic communities striving to preserve their traditions in a new urban con-
text, recreating El Dia Del Nino festivities on New York City's Lower East Side, for
example, or improving the Chinese Theater Workshop's marketing skills, both of
which have received the attention of the NYFS in recent years. But equally under-
served, ironically are such contemporary forms of expression as hip hop at the
Rhythm Cultural Institute in New York City or the Haitian band Jazz des Jeunes,
forms whose traditional roots are often lost in some of the more commercial manifes-
tations of the culture. Rescuing these traditions from the mill of market-driven enter-
tainment, allowing them to stand out against the clamor of purely commercial fare,
requires both persistence and specialized training of the sort that the NYFS mentoring
program regularly offers.
In both respects, then, working either with folk arts administrators and pro-
grammers or with the artists themselves, the New York Folklore Society offers differ-
ent kinds of professional training that works ultimately toward the same goal: making
more art available to more people, and giving new life to old forms in the process.
Videotaping walking sticks for documentary. "Clod's Mother is the Morning
Star: The Life and Art of Joseph Mender." Peter Bulla and Karen I ux, CO
directors; [van Drnfoyka-Rcstrepo, sound technician. Photo courtes) oi
Family Arts Festival, 1993. The beginnings of a
'nest' shelter created from natural and found mate-
rials. Artist: Linna Muschlitz. Photo by Nancy
Outside the formal school curriculum and beyond the parameters of
the job, many people of all ages take an active interest in the arts. They
deserve access to structured opportunities for avocational arts educa-
tion. The benefits of lifelong learning as an avocation are numerous —
from enhancing recreation and leisure time to engendering civic pride.
Avocational learning in the arts can lead to increased understanding
and appreciation of the arts and the culture of others, greater self-
knowledge, confidence and skills, and a personal investment in the
cultural life of your community.
People find arts classes in a variety of settings, including commu-
nity cultural centers such as museums, libraries, schools and recreation
facilities, hospitals, senior centers, or churches and temples. The instruc-
tion may be exclusively in or about the arts, or it may be offered in
programs designed to improve the general health and welfare of the
participants. In all cases, however, excellent avocational education:
• Maintains high standards of teaching
• Embraces the highest goals of artistic accomplishment
• Encourages creative thinking, understanding the creative act,
and the production of art.
Grass Roots Arts and Community Efforts
"Definitions of the GRACE organization," observes Don Sunseri, founder and artistic
director of Grass Roots Art and Community Effort, "are sometimes as varied as the
blind man's description of an elephant. There is a tendency to describe us by a single
aspect of what we do." More casual observers of GRACE might assume, for example,
that the twenty-year-old organization is strictly a program for elders, since many of its
activities, the workshops and exhibitions in particular, are carried out in nursing
homes and senior citizen centers. Yet that interpretation overlooks the GRACE-in-the-
schools program that targets youngsters, or the many programs directed at develop-
mentally disabled persons of all ages. "The GRACE schedule of events," Sunseri
points out, "clearly shows that we are an organization with many facets — each
reflects light on the others. The whole piece can be seen as a single shape or princi-
ple — wherever we work, with 'whomever' the population, our message to the art
maker is always 'be yourself and do it your own way.' GRACE artists follow no style
but their own, and their art, because it is so personal, has a power to reach out...."
More telling, in any case, than any one-dimensional appraisal of GRACE is the
simple one-line description that adorns the masthead of "G.R.A.C.E. News," the
organization's newsletter: "GRACE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivat-
ing the artistic voices of the region." The region in question is Northern Vermont,
specifically the 3,000-square-mile area known as the "Northeast Kingdom" (although
the organization frequently ventures further afield, including New Hampshire and
Connecticut, and occasionally well beyond New England). And the "artistic voices"
are as varied as the countryside itself,
with its rolling hills, glacial lakes, and
pine and maple forests. "Our mission,"
Sunseri explains, "is to discover, devel-
op, and promote 'native talent' (some-
times called self-taught, indigenous,
naive, outsider, or folk art) in Northern
Vermont." Such talent is found, surpris-
ingly enough, among the "ordinary peo-
ple," retired farmers, housewives, facto-
ry workers, and the like, some of them
with what polite society calls "disabili-
ties," but all of them with a remarkable
ability to translate their lives into visual
media, from simple pencil sketches to
elaborate oil paintings.
GRACE workshop, 1995. Rowan-Court Nursing
Home, Barre, Vermont.
Vermont Respite House, Williston, Vermont.
Lillian Peri, Christine Dannies, Amy Murray,
Quinn Dannies, participants at GRACE
"The depth and authenticity that
is tapped almost effortlessly by the
untrained artist," wrote critic Lucy
Lippard in GRACE'S ten-year retrospec-
tive exhibition catalog, "has long been
a source of fascination, and a thorn in
the flesh, of professional artists." The
GRACE artists themselves, on the other
hand, are apt to view their accomplish-
ments in more unassuming terms.
"Don't put my name in the paper as an
artist," said Roland Rochette, two years
before his death at the age of 99. "Just
say it's an old man trying to help himself. This might get some people to go and help
themselves. In this life, you need the will to help yourself. If you have that, you're all
right. And you need to be a nut."
As the director of hands-on activities for such free-spirited, self-taught individu-
als, Sunseri is decidedly hands-off in his pedagogical style. "My primary task," he
explains, "is to encourage self-expression. A most important message is that each of
us is in possession of a well — a well of experience that deepens as we age. To draw
from that well is to draw from the source of all art. The emphasis is on the process of
art-making as an adventure. We never know where it will lead us. There are no rules
for getting there."
No rules, perhaps, but plenty of encouragement, as GRACE workshops — over
450 a year — are held on-site in settings familiar to the participants, and without the
rigor of a formal class. "There is no systematic instruction in technique or style,"
Sunseri insists. "A variety of materials is offered on tables arranged so that it allows
the participant the choice of working in a small group or alone. Choice is most
important. You choose where you want to sit, your materials, and method. Even
when only making a choice between two colors, in making that choice you are 'the
boss.' The workshops require a comfortable, supportive atmosphere. Coffee, tea, and
cookies are offered along with my advice to 'be yourself.'"
That advice has paid rich dividends for GRACE, which has seen its work fea-
tured in the pages of Smithsonian magazine and on the CNN television network, and
whose artists have achieved celebrity status in the suddenly fashionable world of folk
or "outsider" art. But for all of that success, the essence of GRACT remains more
modest, much closer in sprit to the observation of GRACE staff member Michael
Gray, who dismisses the notion of outsider art. "The art-making process here is a lot
more honest and genuine than some 'inside artists," Cray insists. "It's done purely
for the joy of making something."
Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
Newport, Oregon, is the kind of town — perched on the scenic Pacific coast — that
attracts people seeking an escape from everyday life. Newport's population, well
under 2,000, swells considerably during the long tourist season. Yet like many
American communities, Newport has problems of its own, problems from which there
is no escape. The seasonal restaurant, souvenir shop, and motel jobs produced by the
annual influx of tourists are generally low paying, and certainly no substitute for the
logging and fishing industries that have suffered in recent years. And economic strain
is only one of Newport's problems. Lincoln County, of which Newport is the county
seat, has the highest per capita rate of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, teen suicide,
teenage parents, divorce, single-parent families, and adolescent AIDS in the state. In
the language of the federal government, Lincoln County is "an economically and cul-
turally deprived area."
It is against this grim backdrop that the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
(OCCA) has operated since 1977. If the Newport Performing and Visual Arts Centers
are the most immediately visible of OCCA's varied activities, they are no mere jewel
boxes safely removed from the community's social concerns. On the contrary, the cen-
ters comprise one of the key elements of OCCA's Family Arts Agenda (FAA), a pro-
gram designed to strengthen families and to connect them to the community through
the arts. As Harvard professor Robin Ely observed (on the occasion of OCCA and the
arts center receiving a John F. Kennedy School of Government's Innovation in State
and Local Government Award in 1990), "Whereas most performing arts centers are
developed solely with artistic, economic and perhaps political needs in mind, this
Center.. .grew from the needs of the community and with the involvement of many
diverse segments of the community all along the way."
"The FAA is based on the belief that every human being is intended to be cre-
ative and expressive," explains OCCA director Sharon Morgan, "and once people get
back in touch with their creativity, once they re-open these lines of communication,
they can begin to take control of some of the other aspects of their lives that may be
troubling them." Self-expression builds hope, Morgan is convinced, and that, too, can
translate into other areas of one's life. "The FAA is built around those three things,"
Morgan notes, "creativity, communication, and hopefulness, which, of course, can
affect everything we do."
Among OCCA's partners in carrying out its Family Arts Agenda are Lincoln
County's Human Services, Juvenile Services, and the Extension Service, which work
with OCCA on arts activities that target drug and alcohol addicts, children with emo-
tional disorders, and their families. In one project, for example, a visual artist worked
with recovering alcoholics and drug abusers to teach them to express their feelings
through painting and drawing, as a positive alternative to the destructive behavior
associated with chemical dependency. In another project, a poet helped victims of sex-
ual abuse come to terms with their past by encouraging them to write about that
experience, using art to help them overcome anger and grief. Perhaps the clearest
example of the FAA approach is that of the singer/songwriter who taught young
mothers to sing to their children, a seemingly natural activity that simply had not
been a part of their own experience as children.
The FAA also involves local youth councils, Girl Scouts, YMCAs, parks and
recreation departments, and the Job Corps in enhancing the lives of area residents,
particularly children. With an $85,000
grant from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, for example, OCCA worked
with the Lincoln County Extension
Service to establish the "Kid
Konnection," an innovative project that
teams at-risk youth between the ages of
seven and eleven with older teenagers
and adults (many of whom have experi-
enced the same problems as their
younger partners) to work on circus per-
formance skills. Whole families get
involved, 136 of them in the most recent
session, with a variety of after-school
activities, summer day camps for chil-
dren, and in some years, when the bud-
get permits, a summer retreat for the
entire family. "For some of these fami-
lies," Morgan points out, "this is the
only vacation they ever get, so it's espe-
But whv a circus? "We wanted to
do something unique," Morgan explains. "We already had theater programs for kids,
and music, writing, and dance programs. We wanted to get at some of the underlying
factors that affect children today, beyond poverty and abuse, things like disabilities of
all kinds, learning disorders, anything, really, that robs one of self-esteem and that
feeling of prestige in some area that we all need to function effectively. And circus-
based skills are remarkably varied, with juggling helping to build eye-hand coordina-
tion, and tumbling dealing with large motor skills." And then there are all of the cog-
nitive and social skills — thinking through problems and working together — that
putting on a circus performance entails.
But the point of the Kid Konnection is not really the public performances that
are held every year, although these are a source of great community entertainment.
Rather, it is the increased self-confidence, the new communication skills, and the spirit
of creativity, developed in children and families that were sorely lacking in all three
areas, that is at the heart of the Kid Konnection. "We've seen a rise in school perfor-
mance and attendance among the children who participated in the program," Morgan
declares. "We're starting to track their parents' interactions with schools and with the
community, and that, too, is showing signs of improvement. So the program appears
to be working all the way around."
Artist Elizabeth Rose demonstrates papermaking to a teen
mother for a "Mom & Me" handbound book project. Photo
by Nancy Jane Reid.
Tr adition-B as ed
in the Arts
San Rafael Mission church, La Cueva, New
Mexico. 1991. The community of La Cueva has
been working with CORNERSTONES,
Community partnerships since 1990 on the
restoration of this gothic adobe church — one of
New Mexico's architectural treasures.
Long before there were schools, people learned about the arts. Every
culture has developed systematic approaches and methods of passing on
aesthetics, artistic knowledge and the special skills and techniques of
creating art. Those old ways continue to this day and are kept vibrant
by peoples linked by a common heritage. Appalachian fiddlers,
Japanese bon dancers, Navajo weavers, African American blues musi-
cians, Puerto Rican santeros, and countless other traditional artists
learn their skills at the knee of their elders. In informal home and com-
munity gatherings, tradition-based learning in the arts deserves our
respect and support.
Excellent tradition-based learning:
• Provides access to the best artistic models within a particular
• Links the educational experience with the cultural knowledge
and values that underlie and are expressed in the art form
• Recognizes the importance of traditional systems and methods
of teaching and learning, such as one-to-one
• Values the cultural occasions and social customs that are the
contexts of traditional learning.
Cornerstones, Community Partnerships
Much has been written about the disin-
tegration of spiritual values in America,
statements that range from sincere
expressions of concern for our future, to
patently self-serving campaigns designed
more to raise funds than to elevate the
level of debate. Residents of New
Mexico, however, face the specter of dis-
integration of another sort, not unrelat-
ed to spirituality, but with more pressing
real-world implications that demand
immediate attention. The historic
churches of the state, more than 1,500
of them, are literally returning to the
earth from which they came. Built of
earthen materials by Hispanic and
Indian villagers in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, these historically
important edifices now face severe
threats, both from the natural elements
of wind and rain, and also from the well intentioned but improper use of cement plas-
ter, which can admit hidden moisture, further weakening the adobe and actually has-
tening the deterioration of the structures.
In response to this problem, a very real threat to the major Hispanic contribu-
tion to our nation's vernacular architecture, the New Mexico Community Foundation
launched in 1985 an ambitious program called "Churches: Symbols of Community."
Although targeting the buildings themselves — some 800 historic religious structures
included in an annotated survey sponsored earlier by the National Endowment for the
Arts — the project is rooted firmly in the communities where these historic structures
are located, communities that have much more to gain, through training and collabo-
ration, than the reclamation of the old churches alone.
"These buildings are sources of pride not only for Hispanic Americans, but for
all Americans," points out Sam Baca, program coordinator of Cornerstones,
Community Partnerships, the nonprofit organization that emerged out of the original
Symbols of Community project in 1994. "They are internationally recognized bridges
between epochs, cultures, nations, and faiths. They bridge generations by maintaining
those values of sharing and cooperation, artistic genius and faith, which first raised
them from the earth."
Members of the community of Ojo Caliente restor-
ing their historic Santa Cruz Church (c.1790) with
assistance from CORNERSTONES, Community
Partnerships. The church is now fully restored.
Photo by Steve Peart.
These days in New Mexico, most of the day-to-day church maintenance is car-
ried out by community members themselves, often under the direction of mayordo-
mos, who are community members elected to serve as church caretakers. In the
absence of adequate training in proper adobe preservation techniques, however, the
existing system was inefficient at best, deleterious at worst. It was for this reason that
the Symbols of Community project established its elaborate training program, devel-
oping preservation skills among members of the community (with over 100 communi-
ties served thus far), who in turn pass on these skills to other community members.
Passed on as well, Baca is convinced, is a sense of tradition and communal spirit that
reflects the central role that the church once played in the region. "The church was
not only the physical and spiritual center of the community," Baca points out, "but
the social center as well. With this project, training individuals and encouraging them
to pass on their training to others, we're beginning to recapture that communal spirit
here in New Mexico. And it's not just the skills that are passed on, but equally impor-
tant, a sense of tradition and the spirit of working together that are transmitted as
well, to everyone's benefit." Or, as Father Tim Martinez of the St. Gertrude Parish in
Mora, New Mexico, so succinctly put it, "When we repair a crack in a wall, we take
steps toward repairing the divisions that exist among us."
So successful has the church restoration project been that Cornerstones has
extended the concept to embrace cultural preservation more generally. The organiza-
tion has been especially active at Zuni Pueblo and Dona Ana, where it has trained
tribal youth in traditional stone quarrying and masonry techniques. Here again, more
than the past is being preserved in the Zuni and Hopi youth training program. For
along with a vivid education in some of
the traditions of their ancestors, the trib-
al youth who participate in the
Cornerstones education program also
receive GED training, counseling, and,
ultimately, marketable skills that will
translate into a much brighter future for
themselves and their families.
Local Dona Ana youth learn marketable skills in
historic building practices at the Neustra Seriora de
la Candelaria church. Photo by Kd Crocker.
For members of the dance company known as Zivili, education isn't merely an option.
The learning process begins, in fact, as soon as the company's name is mentioned.
Nor is it simply a matter of explaining what that name means. (It's a Croatian toast,
"To Life!") Rather, the lesson involves what the Columbus, Ohio-based company is,
and what it is not. "Zivili is not a folk dance company," insists its dance and execu-
tive director, Melissa Pintar Obenauf, writing in an essay she includes in the compa-
ny's K-12 study guide. "We are an ethnic dance company; we have a specific, very
technical terminology; we perform in a traditional style; and we have defined our own
school of instruction. In having built the preceding foundation, we have gone a step
beyond what is generally referred to as 'folk dancing,' and have presented folk dances
on stage. Because we have taken folk dances to the stage, there are some changes in
the dances that are made." Those changes, always involving a great deal of research
on the part of Obenauf and co-director Pamela Lacko Kelley, include the length of a
work, the nature of the musical accompaniment, and, invariably, the location of the
performance itself. "The minute a dance is removed from its natural environs and per-
formed for an audience, rather than solely for the purpose for which it was intended,"
Obenauf continues, "it ceases to be 'folk dancing' and we now call it 'ethnic dance.'"
The lesson of Zivili does not end with the distinction between folk and ethnic
performance, however. For Zivili is not simply a generic ethnic dance company,
delighting American audiences with Old World favorites, but rather one that collects,
preserves, and celebrates the culture of a very specific region, the Southern Slavic
nations. Perhaps more than any other spot on the globe, the warring factions of this
region are in dire need of the kind of
special attention that Zivili offers.
"We're the only company anywhere
doing what we're doing," Obenauf
points out. "And our mission has
become even more important, since the
works we're trying to preserve are daily
being lost. Obviously the people of that
area can't be concerned with preserving
culture right now — they're struggling
simply to survive — and thus our preser-
vation efforts are even more important."
Members of the Slavic dance troupe Zivili. Photo
by Jeffrey A. Rycus.
Founded in 1973 by three women
of Croatian descent, the 30-member
troupe offers a full slate of in-school per-
"informances," and master classes every
year, reaching some 200,000 children in
the process. The benefits of these out-
reach efforts are both practical and
philosophical, according to Obenauf.
"They mean more paid employment for
the dancers," she explains, "but they
also help keep the community informed
of our activities, so the educational resi-
dencies are doubly beneficial. The young
people bring the excitement of dance
home to their parents, many of whom
get involved in our community events."
Throughout its performance activi-
ties, both in schools and in communities,
Zivili maintains a firm policy of present-
ing a full sampling of the complex
Southern Slavic heritage. "Often Croatian-Americans won't want to see Serbian
dancers, or vice versa, and neither group wants to see Bosnian work. But we precede
each performance with a statement that it is Zivili's mission to preserve what's good
about people — regardless of their ethnic background — and that seems to diffuse much
of the animosity."
Zivili's lesson, then, extends far behind the narrow slice of Slavic culture in
which it specializes, inviting all who see the troupe to share in its message of hope
and renewal. "What the company is celebrating," points out dance critic Dale Harris
in the Wall Street Journal, "is an unrecoverable past. In doing so, however, it is at the
same time celebrating the virtues of the U.S. — its hospitality and curiosity, and its
belief in diversity, the opportunities it offers for self-renewal. Zivili's animating spirit
may be an ethnically specific national pride, but no American, whatever his or her
heritage, is likely to feel excluded from participation in the troupe's festive spirit."
Zivili: the next generation. Photo by Jeffrey A.
In keeping with the Endowment's belief that all Americans
should have opportunities to experience the arts as lifelong
learners, Education & Access is one of four major grant
categories supported by the agency. To receive a copy
of the Endowment's funding guidelines, contact the Office of
Communications at the National Endowment for the Arts.
Written and researched by Gary O. Larson
Published by the
Office of Communications
National Endowment for the Arts
Cherie Simon, Director
Katherine Wood, Managing Editor
Virginia Cohen, Editor
Designed by Bryce Ambo, Arlington MA
People with learning or visual impairments may obtain a
cassette recording of this publication through the Office of
AccessAbility. Phone: 202/682-5532. Voice/TT: 202/682-5496.
Second Edition, 1998.
First Edition, 1996.
An on-line catalogue of Arts Endowment publications is
available on the World Wide Web at http://arts.endow.gov.
FOR THE ARTS
National Endowment for the Arts
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20506-0001