A monthly guide to art education

tennessee roundup

By Ann Talbott Brown Director of Arts Education, Tennessee Arts Commission

Collaboration is a term that we know well in the arts. Duet, harmony, ensemble, and juxtaposition are words that evoke a sense of association or togetherness. Musicians perform in a group as they play chamber music. Dancers explore intricate partner work in modern dance choreography. Each artist represents a specific part to make the cohesive whole.

We see it in arts education too. Teachers foster learning environments that allow for collaboration, one of the 21st-century learning skills important for career readiness. Students work in teams behind the scenes and on stage to carry out a theatre production. Classmates complete a large-scale mural as part of a service learning project, all contributing to the visual arts work. Take one look at arts education curriculum standards and collaboration is woven throughout the performance indicators.

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Attendees analyze the work of professional artists through an arts experience session

Both in the creation and education of the arts, collaboration is often vital to innovative practice and successful outcomes. Arts managers and teachers understand collaboration in their own practice as well when executive and artistic directors manage an arts organization or classroom teachers and teaching artists partner together for arts integration lessons.

But what is beyond collaboration? What do efforts look like when partners move past meeting their own objectives and strive to achieve broader community goals? Where do the arts fit into this? What is the role of artists, administrators, and educators beyond the institution, classroom, or school?

We will explore these questions and others at the Tennessee Arts Commission’s statewide arts conference, Collective Impact: Arts Administrators, Educators and Artists Together as Community Change Agents, June 7–10, at Bradley Integrated Arts Academy and Patterson Park Community Center in Murfreesboro.

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Arts leaders and educators participate in an interactive plenary conversation

According to John Kania and Mark Kramer, authors of the article “Collective Impact” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the answer to these questions might be collective impact or “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Unlike most collaborations, collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and backbone organization.”

The Commission recognizes that this group of important “actors” can be those involved in the arts, because they are uniquely positioned to be the drivers of wider community progress as the arts can challenge, connect, and inspire. With an “unconference” approach, this participant-driven gathering will explore a common agenda to address community issues through the arts. Attendees will identify opportunities and challenges, share and gather expertise from the field, and walk away with tools and strategies to be a part of the solution for lasting change in their communities.

Register to be a part of this change at www.tnartscommission.org/statewide-conference.

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