|Save the date! Thursday, March 24th, is Maine Alliance for Arts Education Advocacy Day! This year’s Advocacy Day coincides with the Maine Arts Commission’s initiative of completing the Arts Education Census begun by MAAE in 2009 to find out the status of arts education in all of the schools in Maine. That includes those that are severely underserved in the arts.The Census work gives a new statewide focus and urgency to our arts education advocacy, not only to help make sure we get all of that information, which is due in April, but that we begin the work of advocating for arts education in those districts that are underserved. We won’t learn exactly which districts those are until next summer, but our work must begin now.MAAE’s Arts Education Advocacy Day at the Capital this year will reflect that new statewide focus. Our goal is to get as many of our state legislators as we can to meet one-on-one with arts lobbyists from their districts, first outside of the senate and house chambers and then at our event in the Hall of Flags.
Our most persuasive arts lobbyists are the students. So this year we are inviting our alliance of adults around the state – that is educators, parents, artists, and leaders of arts organizations – to help us identify those students who would be able and willing to come to Augusta to meet and talk about what the arts have meant to them with their legislators outside the chambers in the morning of March 24th, and to invite the legislators to meet with them and more of their constituents at noon at the tables in the Hall of Flags. The tables will be set up this year by counties, not organizations, so that the Hall itself will reflect the state geographically, with large signs above each table displaying the county names.
As the day gets closer we will be asking you to register, so that we can keep track of which legislative districts our lobbyists represent, and which remain to be covered. In the meantime, we hope that you can set the day aside to come to Augusta and also find some student advocates to join you! If you can’t take the day off, perhaps you can find a parent or other adult to bring the students.
If you have questions feel free to contact me by email email@example.com or phone 207 439-3169
We look forward to seeing you on the 24th!
The Every Student Succeeds Act, which has amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, gives states and local education agencies greater autonomy in setting curricula and standards. The National Association of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) has pointed out the positives for the arts in the new legislation, including its encouragement to integrate the arts into STEM programs. But in eliminating the eight Core Academic Subjects, one of which was the arts, the new law has eliminated an important basis for requiring the arts to be included in school during the school day… not as extra-curricular.The legislation, which eliminates all “Core Academic Subjects,” in their place creates a definition for a “well-rounded education” as “courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.” (bolding mine).
As included in the subjects listed in a well-rounded education the arts are eligible for Title I funds, which are the largest pool of federal resources dedicated to ensuring equitable access to a complete education for all students. However, the states can now choose among those allowable subjects.
Our advocacy for arts education is more important than ever. We hope you can join us in Augusta for Arts Education Advocacy Day on March 24th.
Stay tuned for more details.
Two English classes in Piscataquis Community Secondary School in Guilford and one English class and one drama class in Penquis Valley High School in Milo created theater pieces during Building Community Through the Arts residencies (see our most recent website post) and performed their works at the Center Theatre in Dover Foxcroft on October 27th and November 3rd. Parents and members of the community also attended, and all had an opportunity to watch compelling works of original theater, each exploring social themes that the students had chosen.
Teacher Joseph Hennessey’s two senior English classes from PCSS in Guilford, working with theater artist Jeri Pitcher, had each selected a different theme in the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, to relate to a social issue in their own lives. One class chose the theme of the “demon child” from the novel, and in a piece that included powerful theatrical group chanting effects, showed the “demon child” as a high school student who is socially ostracized. The other PCSS class addressed the novel’s theme of a hoped for “week of peace” that never materializes because “things fall apart.” Using the structure of a television newscast, the students showed the incidents that would be Guilford’s version of “things falling apart.”
Penquis HS teacher Chad Emery’s two classes worked with artist Beverly Mann. Mr. Emery’s College Prep 10 English class, discussing the issue of socio-economic disparity in The Great Gatsby, created a powerful play about poverty’s social stigma in their own community. The plot focused on what happens when a student spreads a negative rumor about another student’s family, but the fact that the rumor is that the student’s family is poor shows how poverty affects youth socially in the community.
Beverly Mann brings her specialty of mask theater to her residencies, and the students in Mr. Emery’s drama class wore half masks in the piece they created about the interplay of parent child relationships and the safety risks young people are willing to take. In this case the strict rules imposed by a mother not sensitive to her daughter’s anguish at feeling unpopular, becomes the impetus for the daughter breaking rules and injuring herself… an outcome that ultimately brings a realization by both mother and daughter about how much each means to the other.
For the three English classes this was the students’ first time on a stage, and even for the drama class it was the students’ first attempt at creating theater. The students in all four classes talked about the program’s creative process through group improvisation as giving them a new sense of closeness with one another. Teacher Chad Emery spoke about his admiration for the students’ work and about the combined impact of the program: “The program helps bring students closer together as evolving 21st century problem solvers…. teachers are able to witness these future leaders’ dynamic flexibility, creativity, and innate inspiration. In seeing our students on stage, we see ourselves and all that the future has in store.”
Building Community Through the Arts in Piscataquis County was supported by funding from the Piscataquis County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine Arts Commission.