Tag Archives: Yo-Yo Ma

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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Bark if you love art

ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” runs a “Person of the Week” piece each Friday evening. Their most recent honoree was Esperanza Spalding, a young jazz musician who captured the “Artist of the Year” award during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Their story shared a bit about Spalding’s background — noting that her decision to make music came at the tender age of five after she saw and heard cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on the PBS television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

It reminded me at first of watching Yo-Yo Ma receive our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, earlier in the week. He looked like a kid who arrived at school one day only to discover it had been transformed into a giant candy factory.

Check out PBS' "Martha Speaks" this week for new episodes with an arts focus

But then I remembered an e-mail that recently came my way — about a PBS television show titled “Martha Speaks.”

It features a talking dog named Martha who’ll be introducing young viewers (and their cats) to a wonderful thing called arts and culture this week (Feb 21-25).

The show is based on the works of New Jersey author and illustrator Susan Meddaugh, for whom “Martha” was once a family pet (of the non-verbal variety).

Apparently Martha has something to say about all sorts of art-related topics — from theater and classical music to Greek myths and opera. I’m all for it, since the show also promotes language development and other skills children will need one day as they journey through a world where myths abound.

The show’s stated “educational goal” is teaching new words to children ages 4 to 7. This is a great relief to those of us who’ve tired of hearing children utter unsavory words gleaned from older sibs or even prime time television offerings.

"Martha Speaks" couples words with art on PBS this week

There are, of course, other means for expanding one’s vocabulary.

Just this evening I learned from a television talk show host that “paralepsis” refers to a rhetorical strategy of raising a point by appearing to pass over it.

Can’t wait to hear Martha use that one in a sentence.

I’m utterly convinced that children learn language best by interacting with others who use language. The “Talking Elmo” doll is a fine start, but word play is really the purview of parents.

I’m glad there’s public television, offering tools for parents and teachers who do society’s most imporant work — assuring literacy for future generations.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the many fun and fascinating characters of “Martha Speaks.”

Coming up: Abe Lincoln meets modern dance

S.O.S. from arts advocates

Love the humanities? Here's a chance to show your support...

A national newscast Monday night tried explaining proposed cuts to the federal budget using a giant pie chart made of pennies.

I’m all for doing the math — but the coins were more distracting than demonstrative.

Not so for an e-mail alert I opened at around the same time, which read as follows…

The House of Representatives will be voting on a bill that would cut the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) appropriation by 7% which would mean a loss of $12 million. The NEH’s current budget is only 1/21,000th of the federal budget and costs about as much as a postage stamp per person. 

We need your help! Today and tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday, February 14th – 15th, the House of Representatives will debate these cuts.

Please show your support for the AHC and NEH by clicking here to send a message to your representative. 

A cut to NEH’s budget will directly impact the federal funds that support the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC). Since the inception of AHC in 1973, our programs and funding of approximately $10 million for public humanities projects have reached approximately 4 million people throughout Arizona.

The e-mail came from Brenda Thomson, executive director for the Arizona Humanities Council. You can click here to learn more about their work.

I can’t tell you whether or how to get involved — only remind you that these issues are often on the horizon, and there are all sorts of ways to register your input.

Additional resources for those interested in arts advocacy are the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. 

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Coming up: King Arthur tales, Stage mom turns audition judge

Photo: www.wvgazette.com

Update: President Obama just awarded the “Presidential Medal of Freedom” to 15 individuals — including four honored for work in the arts and humanities (poet Maya Angelou, artist Jasper Johns, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and VSA founder Jean Kennedy). It’s powerful evidence of the crucial role played by arts and culture in the very fabric of American life.