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Once we step outside of the frenzied dance party that is the field of arts education and get on the balcony to gain perspective on our domain, we are able to identify our core assumptions—the underlying truths that have us. If we can hold those assumptions as object—to have them—then we can test their validity, question their reason for being, and adapt them to better serve our purposes.
Equipped with our new vision, we then need to figure out how to return to the dance party and affect change. Sure, any one individual can have insight, alter his or her practice, and then get back down there and start grooving in a whole other way. But how can we alter our arts education practice more broadly? How can we teach the entire room—the entire field of arts education—a new dance?
In order to fully gain perspective on the field, to assess what the broadest swath of individuals assume to be true, we must include as many diverse voices as possible in the dialogue around our field’s foundational beliefs. Deferring to our traditional field leaders to reassess our core assumptions will not suffice. We must instead incorporate the perspectives of a new generation of young professionals. Bringing fresh, innovative, 21st Century ideologies into dialogue with the field’s original pioneers and most respected leaders is the key to keeping pace with our changing cultural surround. It is only through such an inter-generational exchange that the field of arts education may genuinely see itself, evaluate itself, re-strategize for the future—and then get back down to the party and start a new groove.
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APPENDIX A: A Short-List of Changes Affecting the Field of Arts Education
Audiences are changing
• Museums and performing arts institutions are struggling to attract and retain new audiences who are no longer accustomed to being “sit and listen” observers of the arts (Saunders, 2007; Cameron 2007), but are instead eager to be co-creators of their arts experiences (Cameron, 2007).
• As a result of our shifting demographics, more people are seeking to pursue adult arts education experiences at different stages of their lives. Many institutions that provide such services are now charged to develop adult arts education programs that simultaneously fulfill the needs and interests of adult learners ranging in age from being in their early twenties to those in their sixties, seventies, eighties and older (La Senna, in press).
Artistic expression is changing
• Children and young adults raised on digital technology are utilizing electronic media as a means to express their creativity in a manner that goes beyond the traditional arts disciplines offered through schools, after-school programs, community arts organizations, and university arts departments.
• Many arts education programs continue to place an emphasis on traditional visual arts, theatre, music, and dance educators and teaching artists, rather than look to non-traditional arts makers working with contemporary mediums more attuned to 21st Century students’ interests.
• Even given a re-orientation of arts educations towards digital media, because of the pace of digital technology, pedagogy cannot keep pace with the invention and adoption of these new art forms.
Artistry is being challenged as authorship is redefined
• In our digital remix world, what it means to be an artist who authors original work is in question. As copy, cut, and paste have become the primary artistic skills of the Internet, one can argue that the traditional emphasis on original thought through artistic expression is being replaced by the ability to mix and match extant material in an aesthetic manner (Lynch, in press).
• The ability to digitally remix works of art has increasingly compromised the notion of artistic intellectual property. To what degree does digital remix exhibit artistic expression, and to what degree is it an act of copyright infringement and/or electronic artistic plagiarism?
Arts assessment is changing
• Given the push towards standards-based assessment throughout the United States, how to assess, document, and quantify quality teaching and learning in the arts remains a mystery of great concern for in-school and out-of-school arts service providers.
Arts administration and funding is changing • As a result of our tightened economy and shifting public attitudes towards the arts, upper level administrators of arts education organizations are finding themselves spending more time on issues of development and fundraising. This shift away from programming both distracts the field’s most accomplished professionals from issues of pedagogy and program design, while at the same time discouraging the field’s most talented young professionals from pursuing executive director or senior staff level positions (Solomon & Sandahl, 2007).