Lessons from Harvard’s Arts in Education Program

I have just spent three months as a visiting practitioner at the Harvard Graduate School of Education/Arts in Education (AIE) Program. Steve Seidel, director of AIE, extended an invitation to me to study, teach, and serve as a resource for students during the semester.

So what did I discover after three months of talking and meeting with young people, auditing classes, and attending forums, lectures, and workshops on arts education, education reform, and leadership?

Three takeaways, among many, include:

  1. With changes in the economy, the influence of technology and the expansion of entertainment and leisure options, there is a need for bold ideas and creative leadership in shaping a new vision to move the arts and arts education forward. It is our young leaders who possess many of these ideas. Edward Clapp’s collection of essays from emerging leaders in the field entitled20UNDER40 is quite simply one of the most exciting and hopeful set of ideas for our field that I encountered. I encourage everyone to get your hands on a copy of this book and pass it around to your staff and board members to create an intergenerational dialogue about how to conceive of, program, and sustain the arts and arts education in the future.
  2. I worked with young arts professionals with advanced degrees from Harvard who are earning wages that can barely sustain themselves, not to mention a family. We are a creative field. Why is this happening? Many arts organizations are stagnant. They operate with the same mentality that they have always used. To survive and grow, they must come up with new approaches. I was excited to meet and interact with students from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and hear a wide array of new ideas that will serve the social good. Arts professionals should join with business and social entrepreneurs to figure out ways to create new funding models and program platforms.
  3. We know that participation is the way to excite vast numbers of people and encourage their commitment to the arts. The potential for expanding our partnership with technology in order to maximize participation will increase our reach and deliver greater impact. Check out: Ed Whitacre’s virtual choir and the Inside Out project as two interesting examples that reach thousands around the world in a shared arts experience.

Do these links inspire you to look for and/or create these types of projects or are you unenthusiastic about them?

Can kids be involved in creating their own projects that link to kids around the world?

What projects currently exist that are truly engaging and creative?

There are so many intelligent and committed people to move this work forward.

There are so many ideas.

Let’s go for it!