Maine Art Education Association names art advocate
On Saturday, March 8 at the opening of the 20th annual Youth Art Month exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, Catherine Ring shared the following message as she accepted the Advocate of the Year award. Catherine truly “walks the walk” of an advocate – She helped establish the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI), serves as a member of the leadership team for the MAAI, and is the executive director of the New England Institute for Teacher Education. CONGRATULATIONS Catherine!
Catherine receiving her award from MAEA president Heidi O’Donnell
Hello, I want to tell you some stories that really made me mad. But it’s not a bad thing. Because if you are an advocate, you can turn something you’re mad about into something good. And because I’m an advocate of the arts, I like to think I can turn MAD into MADD, which stands for Music Art Dance and Drama. All of the arts.
The first is a true story that happened to me when I was in kindergarten. The teacher rolled out some big paper on the floor and had all of us get down on the floor with some crayons and draw a picture of ourselves and our houses. I drew a picture of myself with wild purple curly hair and my house was a log cabin. The teacher came over and yelled at me and said, “No! Not like that. Do it like this!” and she moved me next to another girl, who drew a picture of herself with yellow hair, and a regular house with little curtains in the windows. I remember that day, because something in me told me that this wasn’t right. Why couldn’t I live in a log cabin and have purple hair? Why did I have to do it just like the teacher said? Just like the other little girl? I was mad. I think it was that day that I decided that I would be an art teacher when I grew up.
When that little voice inside me told me that the teacher was wrong, it made me mad. When I did eventually become an art teacher, I was determined to make sure my students grew to love art and I would encourage them to be as creative as possible. That voice in my head led to action and I turned something I was mad about into something good.
Here are some other things that make me mad:
Not every kid thinks they are creative. We’ve all heard people say, ! • “Oh, I can’t draw. I’m not an artist. I can’t sing. I’m not creative.” Where did they get this idea? Aren’t all children born creative? There are many of us who believe they are. In fact, Sir Ken Robinson, who has written many books on the subject and who has spoken to audiences all around the world, believes all children are born creative, and that schools are killing creativity. He believes that we don’t grow into creativity, we are educated out of it. If that is true, that makes me mad.
If you are in a school that inspires your creativity, be very glad. But here are some realities in Maine:
- Not every student in Maine gets Art.
- Students don’t all get taught by qualified arts teachers.
- Art and Music are often the first things that get cut out of school budgets.
Even though the research shows, irrefutably, that students with lots of exposure to the arts do better in all subject areas. Even though the research shows that test scores go up. Even though we know that the arts teach kids to be creative and critical thinkers, to be problem solvers and collaborators, to communicate and innovate. These are exactly the skills that are being sought after in the 21st century. So why would school leaders cut music or art? This doesn’t make sense. This makes me mad.
So what do we do? How can we make a difference in our schools? How can we make people understand and support the arts in our schools? How do we help them understand that the arts are not something that’s just nice to have, or a frill, or just for fun? That the arts are absolutely essential for every child? In fact, that they are just as important as reading or math? How do we turn something that makes us mad into something good? We can get MADD.
There are a lot of things being done in Maine right now, I’m happy to say. We still have a lot of work to do, but music and art and drama and dance teachers all across Maine are making a difference through the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative. The arts teachers are making a difference in their communities through workshops in their school districts, and communities. They are making a difference by talking to their principals and parents and school boards. Arts teachers are making a difference. They are using their voices to express what they know is right, and change is beginning to happen.
So what can you do? How can you use your voice to make a difference? How can you be an advocate for more good quality arts education in our state? In every school? For every child? How do we go from being mad to being MADD? Well, here’s one way.
Because I am the Advocate of the Year, I am being asked to talk to a lot of people about how they can make a difference. I’ll be going to the state house and many other places throughout the year to advocate for the arts. I will also be writing for newsletters and other publications. But I could really use your help.
I created a new email account. firstname.lastname@example.org. If you agree that the arts are essential for every child, in every school, please email me at this address and let me know. So, again, here’s the question:
Why is it important to have the arts in every school?
If you are a student, please write your name, your age and what school you go to. If you are an adult or a student, please send me your stories that I can then share with others. I will take all of your answers and stories to the Statehouse, and to schools and organizations around Maine. I will write about the importance of the arts in education in publications throughout the year. Our voices together will be stronger. Together we can make a difference. Let’s help everyone get MADD about art!
“We don’t need to save the arts. Instead we can save the world with the arts.”
~ John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design