Involvement in Programing is Advocacy
- Kathleen Sweet, AEI President
Traveling across the state last year I encountered several of AEI’s outstanding programs: Youth Art Month (YAM), Emerging Excellence, and All State. The talent displayed by both our teachers and students blew me away. I am proud to consider myself part of the talented group of people associated with the Art Educators of Iowa.
After seeing all this talent at work, I realized that what I was really seeing was art educators advocating for their students and their programs. Recently, my district colleagues and I focused our attention on Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW). Value Beyond School, one of the standards associated with AIW, encourages teachers to consider how students apply what they have learned to the real world. Teaching in such a rural part of the state, I have found this standard to be particularly challenging. Outside of the school setting, my students rarely encounter opportunities to explore the visual arts. The programs presented by AEI offer a perfect opportunity to meet the Value Beyond School standard. Visual art is meant to be viewed and these programs offer some of my students the chance to engage their community as artists.
Participation in these AEI sponsored programs not only benefits our students, but also offers an avenue to advocate for the arts and our arts programs. Talking with teachers across the state, I have encountered a good amount of midwestern humility. Many of us feel uncomfortable celebrating and promoting our own accomplishments, the successes of our students, and the importance of art in curriculum. We’re afraid others will think we’re “tooting our own horn.” Given that the arts continue to be taken less seriously than other subject areas--e.g. dwindling budgets, diminishing instructional time--the importance of celebrating our accomplishments is more important than ever. One simple way to get our ourselves and our programs noticed is to participate in one of AEI’s programs. These programs help students realize their potential as artists by exposing them to fellow student-artists as well as a broader viewing community. The experience of attending Youth Art Month, Emerging Excellence, or All State moves our students, as well as their friends and families who also attend these events, beyond the classroom. Students and their families remember these special opportunities long after they are over. Put simply, they will become the advocates we need in our local communities.
I am challenging each of you, as art education advocates, to participate in these programs. Get your students beyond the classroom and embrace the chance to shine the spotlight on your program. Be an advocate. Create advocates. Toot your own horn!