published Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Focus on Arts: Chattanooga becomes center of national arts forum

Sandra Ruppert

ABOUT THE ARTS EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP

The Arts Education partnership is a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of more than 100 education, arts, business, cultural, government and philanthropic organizations. The coalition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education, along with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. For more information, go to aep-arts.org.

As a child, I remember that every elementary school teacher played the piano, and the arts were just part of the way we learned. We didn’t call it “arts education.” It was just education.

With budget shortfalls and new demands around teaching and learning, times have changed and the arts continue to be squeezed out of the lives of our children.

Since the beginning of time, the arts are what make us uniquely human. They hold the power to transform cities, schools and the lives of young people. They can be a solution to many of the societal and education dilemmas we face.

That’s why the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), a national coalition dedicated to keeping the arts strong in America’s schools, is hosting its National Forum: Arts Learning Without Borders in Chattanooga.

The national forum theme explores the realities of today’s educational landscape — technological advances, new models of learning, educational funding, student assessments — which are all carving out an increasingly critical role for the arts to unleash new ways of thinking, working and learning in America’s classrooms and society.

AEP selected Chattanooga for this national conversation because of its ingenuity, creativity and pure grit in reinventing itself through the arts. Chattanooga’s inspiring renaissance story holds lessons for any educator, artist, business leader, philanthropist or parent who envisions a healthy, vibrant community for their families — one where every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

AEP believes the arts are America’s secret weapon for student success with decades of research showing that students highly involved in the arts outperform students with little or no involvement.

A growing body of knowledge documents that, in addition to academic outcomes, an education in the arts contributes directly to students’ development of:

• Cognitive outcomes such as critical and creative thinking, problem solving and reasoning.

• Personal outcomes such as engagement, persistence and self-confidence.

• Social and civic outcomes such as cross-cultural understanding, collaboration and arts participation.

With this evidence, the solutions are right before our eyes. They require the entire community to embrace, empower and activate a vision to ensure that every child every day has the chance to create, perform, learn about and experience the arts both in and out of school. After all, every child deserves the very best and that’s a complete education that includes the arts.

Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership.

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