Educating Educators: A Review of the Face to Face 2012 Arts in Education Conference

Last month, Arts For All attended Face to Face– a conference organized by the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. The two day event, held February 22nd and 23rd at the renowned Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, was a spectacular meeting of some of New York’s best minds in arts education. Arts administrators, teaching artists, school personnel, and parents all came together to share their knowledge of best practices and policies in education as well as to address ongoing issues including quality, assessment, sustainability, and professional development.

More than thirty informative sessions were offered covering everything from how to address autism with art therapy to the use of social media in education to the use of hip hop in the classroom! Arts For All teaching artist Robin Cannon attended that session and later spontaneously incorporated hip hop into her own teaching practices. 5th graders enrolled in The Step Right Up theatre program at PS 15 took an excerpt from their own script and turned it into a rap, and Robin was able to capture this awesome recording!

A wonderful keynote address was given by Gigi Antoni, the President and CEO of Big Thought in Dallas, focusing on how the non-profit organization is bringing together a wealth of different resources in a collaborative effort to enrich learning and engage students in the home, classroom, and community. Antoni highlighted the importance of making the arts accessible by saying that “learning can take place everywhere, and everyone can be a teacher.” The importance of working together- as teachers, parents, and contributing members of the community- holds true everywhere; and by doing so, we can create a much more significant impact on education. Read more about Big Thought and how they are changing the way Dallas’s kids experience creative learning by clicking here!

Participants were also lucky enough to sit in on a panel featuring art educators from Venezuela, Scotland, and Finland. These three countries are global leaders in creative learning and are revolutionizing how the arts and mainstream education are incorporated. In Venezuela, a classical music program called El Sistema has captured the world’s attention by absorbing hundreds of thousands of youths of all socioeconomic backgrounds into professional caliber orchestras and ensembles. (A wonderful New York Times article on El Sistema can be found here.) Educators in Finland have been praised for creating an intensive and comprehensive curriculum of general educational objectives. And what makes these programs truly special is that education for every student is funded by the government through the university level!! (Click here for an insightful Huffington Post interview with Face to Face panelist and Finnish National Board of Education Counselor Dr. Eija Kauppinen.)

Arts For All teaching artist Shawn Shafner summed up the conference very well when asked what his overall impression of Face to Face 2012 had been. “My favorite thing about Face to Face is the camaraderie. It’s very easy to feel like the challenges we encounter every day as teaching artists are ours alone to bear. I love that yearly reminder that there are hundreds of people in this city all doing this work, and that we’re all working towards common goals of a better, more creative, more effective education for our kids.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! Face to Face 2012 was informative, enlightening, and most of all was a great time. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!

– The Arts For All Team

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
~B.B. King

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