From Talking Points to Data Points: Creating a Vivid Future for Michigan

By Heather Vaughan-Southard

For over a decade, MAEIA has been a national leader through the development of the MAEIA resources: Michigan Blueprint for Quality Arts Education, an accompanying Program Review Tool which allows districts or schools to self-assess where they land in comparison to the gold standard outlined in the blueprint, and 360 performance assessments in Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts. These assessments help teachers determine what students know in the way that they have come to know it, by demonstrating their knowledge through the performance, creative, and analytical acts of their disciplines.

At MAEIA we’ve been committed to the four disciplines for which Michigan has content standards with aspirations that one day Media Arts will be included as well.

Included as well….

Included…as well….

Upon reflection, I notice this is a phrase that is pervasive in my arts education experience whether we are discussing policy, implementation, classroom practice, or all the people involved in making school, and education, good for kids. In my roles as educator, artist, and community arts provider, the arts have often been considered as an add-on, or the icing on the cake. Rather than persuading people to see the arts the way I do, now, I want them to see what the arts deliver relative to our shared vision of a thriving state.

Over the last two years, MAEIA has been convening multiple types of groups:

MI Arts Ed Coalition: representatives from the Michigan Assessment Consortium, the parent organization of the MAEIA project, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Arts and Culture Council, and the Michigan Education Association.

MAEIA Partners and Affiliates: representatives of statewide arts associations and regional leaders deeply engaged in collective impact.

Regional Arts Education Networks: emerging statewide work which, at its fullest, assembles K-12 arts educators, community practitioners and teaching artists, ISD and District personnel.

With the dissolution of two significant entities that served arts education, Creative Many Michigan and Michigan Youth Arts, MAEIA has become the connective tissue that not only convenes these groups but is now guiding a new effort called MI Creative Potential. In the world of collective impact, this organizational leadership is known as the backbone, or the spine, of the work.

The arts contribute significantly to the outcomes Michigan leaders envision for our state, which are seeded in arts classrooms:

  • fostering vibrant communities,
  • building our best workforce,
  • fueling our creative economy, and
  • supporting health and wellness.

The purpose of MI Creative Potential is to advance access to quality arts education for all of Michigan’s students. We see arts education as a vehicle for greater prosperity as students grown into adult citizens and lifelong learners. An overview of this project is available here. The strategies for achieving this purpose are data collection, implementation of resources, and strategic statewide and regional partnerships, outlined in the MI Creative Potential logic model. The outcome will be the story of alignment and integration from policy, to implementation, to support for the people all along the way.

Our mission, therefore, shifts the following from talking points to data points. We advance from the aspirational to the measurable outcomes for students, and the role of the arts within education, such as:

  • the arts are a critical component of a well-rounded education,
  • equity for students leverages the upward mobility fostered through the arts,
  • support for educators features relevant professional learning for arts educators,
  • sustainable resources allocated for arts programs, and
  • effective policy that authentically supports the whole child.

As we advance into our second decade, MAEIA serves as the spine that supports the collective vision, turning aspirations into an action agenda. We help connect dots, fill gaps, and align efforts to avoid duplication, encourage transparency, and integrate our partnerships so we can all do better with each other and for each other, guiding the work in such a way that the advocacy cycle gets completed and public, private, and philanthropic sectors are invested.

When it comes to creating a vivid future for our students and our state, MAEIA is stepping forward to ensure the arts aren’t just . . . included as well.


Heather Vaughan-Southard serves as the MAEIA Professional Learning Director, aligning activity and deliverables of the MAEIA project, including MI Creative Potential.

 Author photo provided by Heather Vaughan-Southard.

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