7 Leadership Skills Fostered in Arts Education

By Stacey Goodman for Edutopia.org

In my art classes, I have the privilege of working with students who have become fired up and eager to take on urgent issues in their artwork. Whether it’s the literacy rates in this country or their classmates cleaning up after themselves on campus, the students believe that art is a great way to communicate their concerns about the world and their community.

My hope is that my school and schools elsewhere recognize this contribution and also how it demonstrates leadership potential. A question to consider is this: As educators, do we look to the arts as a way of developing student leadership?

Preparing Students for Life and Leadership

I believe that students working in the arts are given a rigorous education for developing a wide range of leadership skills. In addition to skills such as organizing and public speaking, the arts teach other skills that encourage students to take risks and help prepare them for becoming courageous leaders.

Leadership is most needed when facing a complex problem or a new experience that can’t be easily quantified. Students are not exempted from the challenges faced by adults, and in their education, they learn about intractable problems such as economic inequality or global climate change. Young people also have problems that are particular to youth and their generation such as peer pressure and developing new relationships, and those challenges should be on the table as well.

We need people who have the skills and abilities to work well with others, and to step forward and lead with new ideas and initiatives. No matter the subject we teach, it’s important that we support students in developing to be those necessary heroes.

Arts Education: Developing Leaders

What are the opportunities for students to become leaders? Beyond the conventional roles such as student government and team captains, leadership emerges when we encourage our students to take on big issues that have an impact on the world outside the classroom. This type of experiential education is crucial for developing leadership in our students, and it also energizes the classroom and motivates learning.

Once we encourage our students to take on big issues, we need to provide them with the skills to address those issues in a meaningful way.

The arts are a great way to teach students these leadership skills. While science and mathematics seek to quantify the world, and history and language give us the tools to understand the world from a human perspective, these disciplines are all based on rational discourses about the world as it is. We turn to the arts to help us understand and gain perspective on what remains: our emotions, our unanswerable questions, and the general mysteries of being alive.

Here are seven ways that working in the arts can give students the skills to become great leaders:

1. Creativity

While this might appear to be the most obvious skill, we should remind ourselves that creativity is not just about expression and aesthetics, but also about problem solving. While other disciplines encourage creative solutions to solving problems, the arts seek to find solutions beyond our consensual understanding of the problem, pushing against the margins of what might be provable. Artists are pioneers of inventing and testing out new ideas and sensibilities. This quality makes for ideal leadership.

2. Risk Taking

If we expect our students to be truly creative and seek out those new ideas and sensibilities, we must encourage and reward taking risks. One of the most rewarding outcomes of teaching students in the arts is that it gives them the ability and the confidence to do things that are new and unorthodox. Peer pressure doesn’t go away when one becomes an adult. Great leaders, when necessary, will go against the mainstream in terms of thinking, and take the chances of having their ideas and actions ridiculed or criticized.

The arts attract students who are often marginalized because they have already experienced the challenge of being rejected or shunned. They have gone through the storm and have less fear about being different and embracing new ideas.

3. Learning to Be Yourself

One of the great challenges of being a leader is, as the saying goes, “It’s lonely at the top.” Students who are nurtured through the arts must ultimately turn inward and know themselves, face their demons, and ultimately discover their own potential. While we celebrate collaboration and group effort, those approaches are more successful if each person in the collaboration has gone through the solitary process of self-reflection and gaining self-knowledge.

It is easier to make a decision that might not be popular if leaders are willing to take risks and stand on their own — and this is often the very definition of an artist (painter Vincent Van Gogh and dancer Martha Graham come to mind).

4. Understanding the Power of Myth and Symbols

In art classes, we encourage students to work with icons, shapes, and archetypes, giving them the ability to understand how these images affect human culture. Great leaders have an understanding of how myths and symbols shape our understanding of a complex idea or sensibility that is hard to otherwise express.

This ability to tap into myth and symbology is always powerful — and often poetic and beautiful as Martin Luther King, Jr. showed us. (It can be dangerous, too, as Hitler demonstrated.) Artists, poets, and musicians have a strong sense of what moves and shapes us, and being able to tap into this can be powerful for student leaders to learn and master.

5. Observational Skills

Great leaders have the ability to be aware of moods, attitudes, and the world around them. In arts education, we encourage our students to be keen observers. Also, it’s often the case that students who are drawn to the arts are introverted yet also skilled observers. It is imperative for teachers to nurture this gift of observation and further develop it in students when necessary. We must also be able to identify, develop, and productively channel the role of the quiet influencer that our most observant students often play.

6. Project Planning

Project planning is the most pragmatic of the skills taught in arts education. Students are encouraged to consider and commit to projects that might not see fruition until weeks or sometimes months later. In addition to utilizing strategies such as backward design, goal setting, and implementing an effective process, project-planning skills develop character and fortitude in our students who know that they are in it for the long haul.

7. Collaboration and Appropriation

While no other discipline prizes originality more than the arts, our discipline knows that referencing and emulating those who have mastered their craft is part of the learning process. Learning from those who came before you also lends itself to learning and working with those around you. The idea of plagiarism or “copying” becomes less an issue, and students learn that what separates “I” from “you” is blurred if not illusory. This ability to see oneself in others, to learn and work with others, is key to understanding leadership and a skill that we should continue to encourage and build upon in our classrooms.

 

Source: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/7-leadership-skills-fostered-arts-education-stacey-goodman

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Why Children’s Theatre Matters

By Danielle Wood for Education.com

Want to boost literacy? Teach your child to imagine the unimaginable? Cultivate curiosity? Get thee to the theater, and bring your kids.

The children’s theater movement is led by Europe, but the U.S. is not far behind. And we’re not just talking about the bustling theater town of New York. The third largest children’s theater in the world is tucked away in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Other mid-sized cities—from Dallas, to Tempe, to Nashville, are also cooking up kids’ fare in full-time children venues.

With the introduction of No Child Left Behind, many schools that used to round out reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic with a yearly jaunt to see Shakespeare in action, or Jack ascending the beanstalk, have now scrapped these field trips in favor of spending more time preparing for standardized tests and drilling “fundamentals”. The question is, how can you, as a parent, pick up the slack?

No one would argue the importance of literacy or fractions, but study after study has shown that the arts are more than fluff. Longitudinal data of 25,000 students involved in the arts, conducted at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall, shows that consistent participation greatly improves academic performance and significantly bumps up standardized test scores. Students who make time for the arts are also more involved in community service, and less likely to drop out of school. And we’re not just talking about upper middle class kids. These facts remain, regardless of a child’s socio-economic background.

Peter Brosius is the Artistic Director of the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, which serves up to 350,000 young people and families a year. He says you don’t have to believe in the old phrase, “the arts for arts sake”, to find compelling reasons to bring your child to the theater on a regular basis. “When you look at the US and where the growth in the economy is, it’s evident that there’s a need for idea generators. Our country is not necessarily anymore a producer of goods. Our economy thrives because we’re a producer of ideas,” he says. “Facts are just facts and as a society, with a touch of the calculator or a hit of google, kids can find a factual answer. But that can’t teach a mind to be subtle and flexible.”

Linda Hartzell, Artistic Director of the Seattle Children’s Theater agrees. “I taught for 17 years and I’ve seen first hand that theater makes for smarter, braver, human beings. Theater helps connect the head to the heart,” she says.

Theater also connects to the importance of reading. A play has the ability to jump a story off the page and bring it to life. This can be a revelation to regular bookworms, but also a real boon to reluctant readers. “Part of it is that what’s happening on stage is very similar, in a way, to the play acting and role playing all children do. It’s live, and good plays are just a little bit ‘incomplete’, if you will—they need the audience to complete them, and they change slightly with the audience. Films, of course, are static,” says Kim Peter Kovac, President of Theatre For Young Audiences/USA (TYA/USA), a national organization for professional children’s theaters.

While plays work to jumpstart the imagination, they also lengthen the attention span. At first, Hartzell says, sitting still in a darkened room may not feel natural for children. But that’s precisely why it’s important. Because TV is such a popular form of entertainment, she says, kids aren’t used to focusing for an hour or an hour and a half. “Kids today see a new image every 3-4 seconds. They’re used to constant change. And they don’t listen as well,” she says.

For parents still recovering from their own experiences with theater for kids—slapdash unprofessional productions that lasted way too long, take heart. This is not the children’s theater of yesteryear. In fact, it’s not even called children’s theater anymore, it’s called “theater for young audiences.” Sure, many of these theaters still do fairy tales and classics, but they’re also pushing the boundaries—offering stories about the Holocaust, a musical about teen alienation, or a modernized version of Antigone. Brosius says this vibrant retelling of history makes learning come alive. “When they connect with a play about a particular time period, they’re hungry to learn, they’re driven to learn,” he says.

When should you get your kids started? The sooner the better, says Kovac. “There have long been a lots of shows for 5-years old and up. More and more companies are experiementing with shows for ages 3 and up”. In Europe, companies are creating shows for kids as young as 1 ½ or 2.

Brosius says there are definite advantages to starting young. If you inspire a love of theater early on, there’s a better chance that your child will develop creative gifts, and maintain a lifelong appreciation for the performing arts. “Kids brains are being hardwired and parents can help spark those neural pathways of creativity,” he says.

The good news is, the number of children’s theaters in America seems to be increasing, rather than shrinking. And the quality is better than ever because in recent years, companies that produce theater for young audiences have been getting something they’ve been struggling with for years: respect. In 2003, the Children’s Theatre Company, based in Minneapolis, became the first ever children’s troupe to win a Regional Tony award.

 

It’s My Favorite Thing To Do And My Favorite Place To Be!

A huge thank you to Christina Angelicola, who worked as our Public Relation/Development Intern this summer! With her innovative approach, she was extremely successful in helping with our outreach and social media efforts. Below is Christina’s final blog post.

The Square Foot Theatre is home to many talented and artistic people. These actors range in ages from as young as five years old, to middle aged adults. Amongst all the talent, I met two actors whose love and passion for theatre and SFT can be seen through their dedication and devotion.

FullSizeRenderI first interviewed Joey Rebeschi, an 11 year-old who knew from a very young age that he was meant to be involved in theatre and acting. “It all started on a rainy day in the fall of 2008. I saw an ad in the paper for theatre and decided I was going to take a class”, said Joey. When asked what his favorite part of the theatre, his response was automatic, “There’s so much! But acting, of course!” He then added, “SFT has been so much fun. It’s my favorite thing to do and favorite place to be.” Joey’s confidence can be seen beyond his many roles that he’s played throughout the years. He explained that he has developed a handful of friendships from the theatre, which is not hard to believe because of his outgoing and charismatic personality. Aside from his talent of acting, Joey also plays the violin. His ambition will continue to grow and blossom; he is beyond his years.

Following Joey, I interviewed Matt Pagliaro, who is an adult cast member. Matt has no issue finding the time for the theatre, even with his hectic schedule. I first started the interview with a simple question: How did you get involved with SFT? Matt replied with a smile. “My friend Mark did Les Mes. He said they were going to do Rent so I decided to audition. One show turned into three and here I am today.”

IMG_2805I found his answer to be intriguing, so I then continued with this: What do you love most about theatre? “I love theatre; I have no better answer. I’m much more well versed back stage, I like to direct and work with the crew. Acting was always something I wanted to do when I was young, and now I get to pursue that dream. It’s important to have this in a community.” He quoted an alumni of the university he attended, stating, “Everyone sees Broadway as the top- it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make anywhere you are Broadway, it’s all about your love and passion.”

The Ten Best Reasons to Support the Arts

Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2015

Posted by Randy Cohen, Mar 13, 2015

With the arts advocacy season fully upon us, the following is my updated “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Changes this year include updating #3 with the BEA’s new Arts in the GDP research, #8 to include a statement about the benefits of the arts in the military, and #10 includes the new Creative Industries data (now current as of January 2015).

This is just one of many arrows to include in your arts advocacy quiver. While it’s a helpful one, we know there are many more reasons to support the arts. What are yours? Please share your #11 (and more!) in the comments section below. What a great collection we can build together.

Please feel to share and post this as you like. You can download a handy 1-pager here.

CTA-support-the-arts110 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points higher on the verbal and math portions of their SATs than students with just one-half year of arts or music.

3. Arts strengthen the economy. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector is a $699 billion industry, which represents 4.3 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation and agriculture. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences) that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

5. Arts drive tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown steadily since 2003 (18 to 28 percent). The share attending concerts and theater performances has grown from 14 to 18 percent since 2003.

6. Arts are an export industry. U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) grew to $75 billion in 2012, while imports were just $27 billion—a $47 billion arts trade surplus.

7. Arts spark creativity and innovation. The Conference Board reports that creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “The arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd” Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than average scientists.

8. Arts have social impact. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower crime and poverty rates. The arts are used by the U.S. Military to promote troop force and family readiness, resilience, retention and for the successful reintegration of veterans into family and community life.

9. Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

10. Arts mean business. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. A 2015 analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 702,771 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 2.9 million people—representing 3.9 percent of all businesses and 1.9 percent of all employees.

“They get it, they get each other” – Why Youth Theatre Is Important

Why Youth Theatre Is Important

By: Kerry Hishon

I’ve read lots of articles on the topic of youth theatre and its importance, but a lot of them tend to be really wordy and quite highfalutin’, with lots of fancy theories and big words. This article talks about the importance of children’s theatre, but that’s a different topic altogether — children’s theatre tends to lean towards adults performing FOR children, versus theatre performed BY youth.

I think that an arts education is extremely important and beneficial for young people… and, in simple terms, here are just a few of the reasons why.

It’s a creative outlet — and a challenging one at that.

Kids need a way to be able to express themselves and their thoughts and views on the world. What better way than through theatre? It challenges them to open their minds, explore different worlds through scripts and scores and characters, and to be able to tell a story in a variety of ways — through words, song, mime, tableau, puppetry… the list goes on and on.

They’re learning a huge host of skills.

Very few kids who participate in youth theatre (community, school or otherwise) go on to become professional actors. It’s a ridiculously hard industry to break into. But there are so many other important skills that they’re learning that can be used in their everyday lives, no matter what profession they decide to pursue in the future, such as…

  • Reading and reciting from scripts, which increases their verbal and literacy skills.
  • Working with a director/musical director/choreographer, which increases their listening skills.
  • Many theatre companies offer volunteer opportunities, such as being a stage manager, technical operator, or usher, which gives actual job skills training that can be used towards careers behind the scenes or in the business side of theatre.
  • When they’re practicing for an audition, they’re learning research and preparation skills, and learning how to take steps into achieving a goal.
    When they perform in front of their peers or an audience, they’re learning self-confidence and bravery.
  • When they get cast in a plum role, they’re learning how to accept their achievements with grace.
  • When they don’t get the part they want (or get cast in the show at all), they’re learning to deal with disappointment.
  • When they’re practicing their lines and rehearsing their choreography at home, they’re learning about the importance of giving your best effort and not letting down your teammates.
  • When they’re learning dances and stage combat, they’re practicing hand/eye coordination.
  • When they’re cast in a show with kids they don’t know or don’t like, they’re learning how to deal with others.
  • When they realize that they have a project due in class the day before off-book day, they’re learning about time management.
  • When something goes wrong onstage (which it inevitably does in the theatre!), they’re learning how to deal with the unexpected, how to stay cool in an emergency, how to roll with the punches and keep the show going on!

Friendship.

Being in a cast together creates incredibly strong bonds over a very short period of time. When you’re working together with a group of like-minded people to create a cohesive piece of work, it’s kind of inevitable. Theatre people don’t always fit in with people outside of the theatre. We’re thought of as eccentric, dramatic, odd, spacey, airy-fairy. Some people don’t understand the long hours spent at the theatre (“I can’t, I have rehearsal” is a common phrase uttered by theatre people) and the many hours of work required outside of rehearsal. But a big group of kids all obsessed with the latest Broadway offering who randomly breaks into song and dance in the middle of the sidewalk? They get it, and they get each other. Insta-friends.

I’m so proud to have met and worked with so many extraordinary young people at Original Kids Theatre Company. I have seen kids grow from shy “itty-bitties” into confident, capable young men and women, who are going to go on to do great things. So what are you waiting for? Join a theatre company today.

Why is youth theatre important to you?
Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

A “New” Kind of Acceptance

This past weekend was different than most of the time I’ve spent at the Square Foot Theatre Company.  I worked directly with the cast and crew during the production of Shrek: The Musical.  From calling the show, to coordinating the volunteers, and assisting the production team, I learned quite a bit in that short amount of time. BFullSizeRenderut there was something much more important and valuable that I learned during that first production: The love and passion that lies behind the curtains.  The cast and crew find such immense joy from being where they are.  They share a bond greater than most; they have formed more than a community, but a family.  And I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the Square Foot Theatre Family with open arms.  I shared laughs and memorable moments with some of the most talented and kind people I’ve ever encountered, and for that, I am truly grateful.

IMG_1887I was introduced to a “New” kind of acceptance when I entered through the doors of SFT.  Community Theatre is much more than a place for people to bond over a common interest or hobby.  This is a place where it is acceptable to grow as the individual you wish to be.  There is nothing but love, support and encouragement practiced at this theatre.

Think About This..

How would you explain theatre to somebody who’s never been?

By Lyn Gardner for The Guardian 

Manchester’s welcoming new art space Home wants to attract unseasoned audiences. But how does it describe to them the unique pleasures it can offer?

Pressing buttons … The Funfair by Simon Stephens is the first play staged at Home, a new venue in Manchester.
 Pressing buttons … The Funfair by Simon Stephens is the first play staged at Home, a new venue in Manchester offering the joys of live theatre. Photograph: Graeme Cooper

In Manchester last Saturday lunchtime I walked past Home, the city’s wonderful new arts centre. Two elderly women were standing outside, and one was reading out loud to the other the offer written on the glass exterior: “Five cinemas, two theatres, a gallery space.” She turned to her friend and asked “What is there for us?” It’s a good question: what is the offer that the arts are making to those – and there are many – who never step inside a theatre or gallery space and think it’s not for them?

Half an hour later, I walked back and the same two women were sitting happily in Home deckchairs outside the building in the sunshine, glasses in hand. No, they weren’t yet in the theatre, but they had at least felt welcome enough to get through the door and buy their drinks and, who knows, maybe they popped their heads in the free gallery space on the way. It’s a start. Home is trying hard to be welcoming to everybody. Leading up to the venue’s opening weekend, 22% of tickets had been sold to students with £5 offers.

There’s been lots of talk recently around the idea that theatre sometimes feels too much like an exclusive club for those who are in the know. Questions are being asked about why so many people think that it’s not for them – something I touched upon in a blog earlier this year. Figures from the Warwick Commission make worrying reading: the wealthiest, best educated and least ethnically diverse 8% of society make up nearly half of live music audiences and a third of theatregoers and gallery visitors.

Night at the Theatre at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
 At home on the stage … A Night at the Theatre at the Royal Exchange, Manchester

Perhaps what we don’t talk about enough is the pleasure of theatre, how it makes us feel, and why those of us who go frequently love it so much. One of the wonderful things about the Royal Exchange’s A Night at the Theatre sleepover event was hearing both young and old people talk about their emotional attachment to theatregoing. One of the things that came up again and again was that they had moments in the theatre when it felt as if what was taking place on stage was happening just for them, as if it had been written and staged with them in mind. I’ve experienced exactly that myself: the feeling that a piece of art has been made just for me, and that somehow the artist has glimpsed inside my head and heart. I love that.

Other questions were posed at the Royal Exchange’s event, about who theatre is for and who gets access to it. One of the most direct and intriguing was very simple: how would you describe theatre to someone who had never been? When I tweeted the question, a number of answers came back. @AlexPMcClarensuggested that “good theatre recaptures the feeling you had as a child when grownups who you didn’t know well would really PLAY with you.” @TouchthePlay said: “Imagine telling great stories with friends for a good evening with some of the best storytellers you can ever imagine!” @Oddsockstweets thought it was “like wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, or at times like being at a party without having to make small talk.” I reckon it’s like dreaming with your eyes open. So how would you describe theatre to someone who has never been?