Editor’s note: The following post was written by Michael D. Nolan and was sent to me by the Community Arts and Murals Blog. This is something I strongly believe in as a teacher and artists, and I love the idea of a Green Arts Corps.
The National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools
By Michael D. Nolan
Some of our nation’s greatest artists will join Barack Obama on center stage for the historic presidential Inaugural on January 20. Yo-Yo Ma, Aretha Franklin, Itzhak Perlman and poet Elizabeth Alexander will lend their exceptional creative talents to an event financed to a large degree by Hollywood artists like Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Sharon Stone and Steven Spielberg.
Ironically, these great artists grew up in environments which fostered the arts in the schools.
Today, when it comes to national policy and Congressional appropriations, artists are relegated offstage. Just about every major civilized country has a Ministry of Culture functioning at a Cabinet level. Our small National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities are lucky each budget cycle if they can survive decimation or demise.
Now artists and arts educators are rising up to declare that their “Inaugural Moment” should be a year-round production. We have mobilized the National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools in an effort to convince our new President and the 111th Congress to dedicate a portion of the multibillion-dollar economic stimulus to put artists to work in schools and community centers.
Trained artists working alongside professional teachers in schools can advance educational improvement while putting a significant underemployed sector to work. Hiring artists can be a critical infrastructural investment that also contributes to social reform. Art forms like music, theater, dance, mural painting and poetry have demonstrated their ability to inspire students to delight in learning, while serving to bring children of diverse economic and racial backgrounds onto collaborative common ground. Unlike usual public works projects, artist jobs can employ women as well as men, older and younger workers, and people with disabilities.
The Campaign also embraces the concept of a National Green Arts Corps to provide neighborhoods and community-based artists with the resources, training and skills to use the arts to help communities express identity, build community life and create green jobs. Artists have a great deal to contribute to the design, building and animation of community projects. They can help design and animate elements of parks, plazas and public buildings; offer classes and workshops; collaboratively create works of public art; and assist in the development of green businesses.
A public service employment program for artists can reach into the major urban centers, towns and rural areas in all 50 states, promote local cultural activities and craft industries, invigorate our schools, and pass the wisdom and talents of an older generation of artists to a new one eager to learn and participate in the economic revival of their home communities. The CETA Arts Program during the recession of the mid-70s demonstrated success in transitioning many artists into full-time private sector employment in the theater, fashion, graphic design, film, animation and entertainment industries.
Through arts education students can also learn to combine their creative skills with technology, harnessing the power of the internet and the new Web 2.0 modalities of blogs, video, wikis and the social networks to develop collaborative learning projects and hone professional marketable skills.
The Obama Campaign tapped into the deepest yearnings of Americans for change, hope and the release of human imagination to solve tough social and economic problems. Artists all over our country are allies in that cause and uniquely equipped to help make those ambitious goals a reality.
Like Yo-Yo Ma, we have our “cellos in the ground” and are ready to go to work.
Michael Nolan, a performing arts producer and public affairs consultant in San Francisco, is leading the National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. More Campaign information is available at www.nchaws.org and at the Facebook group by the full Campaign name..
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