Arts Essential to Learning

By Ann Brown, Director of Arts Education

1zalyphotographyThe Tennessee Arts Commission recently spent 18 months gathering feedback from Tennesseans about the role of the arts in their communities, schools and lives for the basis of a new five-year strategic plan. The new plan includes a goal solely devoted to arts education: Arts Essential to Learning.

We learned from constituents about their successes and challenges in arts education. We learned how the Tennessee Arts Commission could support their access, work, and opportunities to learning and teaching in the arts. We heard from many educators about the value of teaching in, through and about the arts. And we heard how many individuals, schools and organizations make this possible throughout Tennessee.

Arts Essential to Learning realizes the belief that the arts are a vital part to a life of discovery and self-actualization. We plan to make this possible through:

  • Fostering arts education for all Tennessee children and youth.
  • Increasing capacity of educators and artists to engage the arts to boost student outcomes.
  • Facilitate innovative community arts learning for life-long learners, PK-12 out-of-school time and underserved populations.

For the past several years, the Commission has focused on arts integration where standards and objectives of arts and non-arts subjects are seamlessly connected to strengthen understanding in multiple content areas. We aligned grant programs, implemented innovative initiatives—Arts360 and Value Plus Schools programs, and facilitated the Create Conference—providing 1,600 teachers in four years with strategies to enrich the education of 100,000 students annually through arts integration.

The Tennessee Arts Commission continues to believe that arts integration is an effective method of teaching and a primary pathway to learning. All seven of the Commission’s Arts Education Grant Programs will maintain support for arts integration projects. The Arts360 and Value Plus Schools continue to serve as model sites for how the arts can be at the forefront of benefitting whole school culture. Important to the success of arts integration is high quality professional development for educators. During our planning research, we experienced the work of several organizations delivering arts education and arts integration professional development. These include but are not limited to:

  • ArtsBuild in Chattanooga
  • Friends of the Appalachian Center for Craft of Tennessee in Smithville
  • Global Education Center in Nashville
  • Johnson City Area Arts Council in Johnson City
  • Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis
  • Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission in Nashville
  • Orpheum Theatre in Memphis
  • Southeast Center for Education in the Arts at UTC in Chattanooga
  • Tennessee Art Education Association
  • Tennessee Arts Academy in Nashville
  • Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville
  • Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville

Moving forward, the Commission will continue to support and recognize the professional development conferences and workshops carried out by constituents through grants. With the variety and quality of arts integration professional development available, we will not be holding the Create Conference in 2015. Instead, we will use the feedback we received as insight into new opportunities for supporting arts education in Tennessee. 

We are currently planning new initiatives and examining existing programs to highlight the successes and address the challenges we heard from you. These plans will include convening, partnerships, and strategies that bring together educators, artists and citizens to ensure the arts are a part of learning for all Tennesseans.