Blog: Maud Lyon

Our guest blogger for this week is Maud Lyon. Maud is the founding director of the Cultural Alliance, and a consultant for numerous nonprofit organizations.

Check back here each week day to read Maud's thoughts on the state of arts and culture in Michigan.

Cultural Education

Arts education is essential to create well-rounded, capable, creative individuals.  Programs in music, drama, visual arts, dance, and other creative expressions help students to be motivated to learn – not just in school, but in life.  

But arts education is being driven out by school budget cuts – and by the demands of standardized tests.  Teachers must justify every field trip and activity in terms of measurable results for specific learning objectives, leaving little room for experiences than enrich life and nurture possibility.  As a result, most cultural institutions have experienced a significant drop in school attendance.

To put art back in student lives, the Cultural Alliance has two approaches.  The first is collaborative marketing to make it easier for teachers to connect with and take advantage of arts programming in cultural institutions.  We will create synergistic packages of educational programs from multiple arts organizations – for example, a seventh grade science program, or fourth grade community history.  Instead of competing for teacher attention, we will pool arts education staff time to reach out to more teachers more effectively.

In 2008 we hope to launch a Cultural Education website.  Teachers will be able to use a searchable database of field trips, curriculum, outreach programs, and other arts activities, with “one stop shopping” to connect them to a broad array of the wonderful arts programs that are available.

The second approach is to expand into new markets – moving arts education from schools to the community at large.  How are the needs of home schoolers or after-school programs different, and what can arts organizations do to meet their needs?  Summer camps, Boy and Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement, and many other youth programs are also good ways to give young people arts experiences.  Our Cultural Education committee is also exploring the needs of seniors and other special audiences.  it is our goal to work with all parts of the community to bring the arts into everyone’s life.

The key is providing easy access to information, and listening to our customers to create arts programming that meets the needs of today’s young people – and all people. 

Almost two-thirds of Americans think arts education should have a high priority.  The Cultural Alliance is working to make that priority actionable, and accessible to all.