Tag Archives: James Taylor

Arts in Education Week

During a recent episode of “Jeopardy,” the final question required knowledge of both children’s literature and opera. Think Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” meets Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Only one contestant seemed to know much about either — and he walked away with the cash. I’m guessing there’s an art teacher he ought to be thanking back home.

It’s been heartening to see arts and culture play such a pivotal role in 9/11 anniversary ceremonies. Sunday’s event at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial in NYC featured Yo-Yo Ma, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Emi Ferguson, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Opening remarks by Michael Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare, and poetry was prevalent throughout.

The Pushcart Players perform one of five school shows offered by Mesa Arts Center this season

Too often our nation forgets all that has been forged by arts and culture, and fails to appreciate the role they can play in moving us forward. So I’m delighted that Congress passed a bill last year designating the second week of September “National Arts in Education Week.”

For those who love the arts, no explanation of their impact or importance is needed. Art is an instinct, in impulse. An adventure of imagination as necessary as air. For others, they seem a mere nicety at best — perhaps because the joys of art never touched their lives as children.

But those unmoved by art’s aesthetic power should recognize its more tangible benefits. Art creates jobs. Creates cities where people want to live. Creates schools full of innovators and imaginators. Maybe even the “creative class” touted by a presidential candidate in his stump speeches.

Ninety percent of Arizonans believe that arts education is either important or very important, according to results of a public opinion poll conducted by ASU in May 2009 — a poll cited in the background report for this year’s Arizona Town Hall, the first of 98 Arizona Town Halls to focus on Arizona arts and culture. www.aztownhall.org.

The Arizona Arts Education section of the report was authored by Mandy Buscas (then director of arts learning for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, now the arts education outreach coordinator for Mesa Arts Center) and Lynn Tuttle (director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education).

MAC presents Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for grades K-6

Their work considers results of the 2009 Arts Education Census. It also looks at federal, state and local educational policies — noting that state support for arts in education has suffered significant losses of late due to “efforts to close significant stage budget shortfalls.”

Their reporting on the arts census notes that “20% of schools offered no courses in any arts discipline” and that “79% of schools spend less than $1 per year per student for arts instruction.” This despite the fact that U.S. employers rank creativity/innovation among the top five skills growing in importance.

So what can be done to move Arizona forward? A report issued after the Arizona Town Hall on arts and culture says that “Arizona residents need to speak up, stand for what we support, and make that support known at the ballot box at all levels, from the legislature, to the superintendent of public instruction, and to local school boards.”

It sounds rather daunting if you’re not accustomed to advocating for issues with local and stage officials, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started — including Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

The report also urges the arts and culture community to partner with the business community to “lobby for improved arts education” — and calls on nonprofit organizations and arts professionals in our communities to “continue augmenting arts education in the schools.” Think artist residencies, school field trips and such.

There’s plenty we can do as parents. Volunteer to help with art projects in the classroom. Coordinate field trips to places like libraries, performing arts venues, museums and exhibit spaces. Donate art-related supplies to local schools. Urge schools to integrate arts learning into other subjects. Vote art at every opportunity.

MAC presents Native American Song & Dance for grades K-12

Folks who separate art from the other disciplines, orchestrating false dichotomies that pit science and math against music and theater should learn more about artists like Emi Ferguson, a distinguished student of both music and epidemiology. Or scientists like Oliver Sacks.

To learn more about arts and education in Arizona, sign up for the free arts learning newsletter from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. www.azarts.gov.

The latest issue features details on the Poetry Out Loud program, a student art competition, an opportunity to participate in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, Target field trip grants, teacher workshops and more.

As for the “Jeopardy” answer that won the big bucks, it was “Pooh-bah.”

— Lynn

Note: Additional arts in education resources include the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (www.pcah.gov), Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org) and the Arts Education Partnership (www.aep-arts.org). Learn more about Mesa Arts Center arts education programs at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Coming up: Country music meets arts and culture, Art meets airport, Who let the cats out?, Shakespeare meets Sweeney Todd

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Copper rush

Not long after I watched a late-night pundit predict a copper run with possible catastrophic consequences, a copper-related press release crossed my virtual desk.

It described a coin drive that’s engaging students and other citizens in collecting pennies to help fund the renovation of Arizona’s own state capitol building copper dome.

Tempted as I might be to riff on all sorts of issues related to revenue and state capitols, the arts are pulling me — for now — in another direction.

I was grateful last week for the alert that came across my laptop as I watched television news headlines of violent revolution and pirates taking children hostage.

I quickly switched my attention to the live feed of a ceremony taking place at the White House. President Obama was honoring recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts and the 2010 National Humanities Medal.

As he placed a large medallion on a long ribbon over the head of James Taylor, Obama whispered something in Taylor’s left  ear. I imagine it might have been something like “Im a fan.”

It’s easy to understand why Taylor was one of 20 Americans honored. Consider the beautiful images conjured by the simplicity of his “Copperline” lyrics from the “New Moon Shine” album:

Took a fall from a windy height
I only knew how to hold on tight
And pray for love enough to last all night
Down on copperline 

Or another verse from the same song…

One time I saw my daddy dance
Watching him moving like a man in a trance
He brought it back from the war in France
Down on copperline

Closer to home, we’ve got the Copperstar Repertory Company, a community theater that works to “entertain, educate and enrich community members of all ages.”

Copperstar performs at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts in the East Valley. Their next production, the musical “Into the Woods” with book by James Lapine and music/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, runs April 8-16.

I imagine it’ll be refreshing for a change to watch a show where the only feared characters are those who live in fairy tales.

— Lynn

Note: A special “Into the Woods” performance for student groups takes place Thurs, April 14, at 9:45am at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts  (in partnership with Copperstar Repertory Theatre and Higly Community Education). The target audience is grades 4-12 students in language arts and music. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: Field trips with an arts focus, A parent perspective on PBS