The 2014 Face To Face Conference

By Arts For All Intern, Julie DeVito

Over the course of two days, over 500 teaching artists, administrators, parents, nonprofits, school teachers, and more gathered at the City College of New York for the annual Face to Face conference hosted by the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña delivered the opening Keynote and was introduced by current Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Brewer has said that “we must commit to adequate funding in the arts, understanding that the arts are a discipline unto themselves that nurtures growth, and self esteem as well as active community participation.”

This conference hosted “two days of dynamic conversation about arts in education, with 36 breakout workshops and presentations” on various approaches to arts education (NYCAIE) designed to introduce participants to various approaches that can be taken in providing arts education. Participants were able to attend five workshops over the course of two days. These included “Shakespeare Education in the Age of the Common Core,” “Fostering Resilience Through the Arts,” “Creative Dance as a Catalyst for High School Choreography,” “Exploring and Addressing Common Core Standards Through Dance,” and “Unpacking and Communicating Arts Values for Special Needs Students.”

All of these workshops serve as examples of the variety currently present in arts education in the public schools of NYC, as ways to adapt to the disparities in education being provided in the schools by the schools and certified arts instructors. One of the common threads throughout the workshops and conference was finding ways to assess and document success in these approaches to arts education, something which is quite prevalent in the other academic fields.

One of my favorite workshops was “Fostering Resilience Through the Arts.” This workshop was hosted by members of Counseling in Schools that included Program Director David Kener, Arts Integration Specialist Christina Newbrand, and Drama Therapist Kristen Brookes. After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, Counseling in Schools brought arts and counseling programming to schools in NYC.  In this workshop, participants were divided into groups and through active participation and arts-based activities learned the six Skills for Psychological Recovery. These skills are gathering and assessing, building problem-solving skills, promoting positive activities, managing reactions, promoting helpful thinking, and rebuilding healthy social connections.

Closing remarks at the end of the conference were given by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, who had released only the week before, a report entitled “State of the Arts: A Plan to Boost Arts Education in New York City Schools. The report showed that 28%  if NYC Public Schools lack a full time certified arts teacher.

“The data is very clear,” Stringer said at the conference. “So the question for us is what do we do now? And how do we take reports, and enthusiasm, and activism, and turn it into something that will result in real fundamental change because we don’t want to keep coming back to the same conference. Imagine a two year old who by the time he gets to public school, there’s no more arts education? There’s no more art rooms, there’s no more creativity, there’s none of that. It gets cut off. And imagine if you live in the South Bronx or you live in Central Brooklyn, you have no chance for a robust arts education because the numbers don’t lie. People who live in certain zip codes have a shot at a real arts education, but so many of our kids don’t have that. We should redirect priorities, because if there’s ever a tale of two cities, or a tale of two neighborhoods, it comes down to this arts education work that has to happen. If you put money into arts education, we will have certified arts teachers and we will have art space in the public schools and if we do that, scores will go up, the economy will be strengthened and all of those children that we love so much will have the full New York education that includes a robust and strong arts curriculum.”

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