Recognizing Achievement as Advocacy

By Barb Whitney

More than half a year has passed since the state’s declaration of emergency, and despite the global pandemic, economic crisis, and ongoing struggles against racial inequity, at MAEIA we’ve been working diligently to support and inspire our arts education colleagues statewide and nationally to address many of our current challenges. Recently, I revisited author Austin Kleon’s advocacy work that was shared at the RE-Ignite gathering last June and found it inspiring and motivating.

At that virtual meeting arts education stakeholders were encouraged to become advocates of excellent work by sharing their successes. The beginning of the school year has no doubt been rocky, but focusing on achievements, no matter their size, is one way to advocate for our students and ourselves at this crazy recalibration of teaching and learning.

Leaning into the creative work of Austin Kleon, I have pondered some worthy questions:

  • How can you share your inspiration and inspire others?
  • What arts education success stories resonate with you?
  • How might students share their own success stories?

Austin Kleon inspires creativity in others and encourages the practice of celebrating successes as a tool for professional growth. Inspired by his ideas, here is an Arts Education Advocacy Toolkit. We hope it motivates you to celebrate and share the good work. And remember, here at MAEIA we continue to support and celebrate you as you navigate through the current changing world of education.

Arts Education Advocacy Toolkit

Map Your Own Ecosystem: Define what role you want creativity and the arts to play in your own teaching and learning experience. Seek out opportunities to engage with and educate: students, artists, teachers, parents, community members, businesses, administrators, and elected officials. Who do you know that you want to collaborate with? What creative act is currently calling to you?

Create Opportunities for Student Voice: Give students the agency to tell their own stories of success and simultaneously enhance their self-confidence. Use MAEIA performance assessments to benefit students: keep kids creating, honor the content area AND the child, and support student voice. Could you create a blog for your students, offer opportunities for them to exhibit or perform externally, or publish their work?

Demonstrate Your Effectiveness: In the shifting landscape of education, become empowered by demonstrating your effectiveness. Educate, inform, and share successes by connecting to scoring/reporting data needed to understand and share efficacy. Through data, could you tell your story of student successes to your colleagues and principal, who then becomes your champion for additional connections and resources?

Network with Your Peers: Benefit from arts education networking via cross-promotion, learning, collaboration, and more. Use collaborative scoring through MAEIA to intrinsically support the value proposition of arts education: prove merit via metrics and data. Use this as a vehicle for storytelling. Could you build your own support network of colleagues to inspire and learn from outside of your district?

Think Bigger: Consider possible relationships, collaborations, and calls to action for allies outside your classroom. How can you collaborate with professional artists, fellow teachers, or arts and cultural agencies? Could you cross-promote to parents with teachers in your school? Could you develop support from a local business to showcase student successes?

Become an Advocate for Change: Enlist your networks to tell student success stories by sharing them via word-of-mouth, in online spaces, and in your community. Actively advocate for the value of the arts with administrators and school colleagues. Could you represent the arts by becoming involved in your school’s budget, scheduling, or curriculum meetings?

Join the Movement Statewide and Nationally: Create connections and influence by becoming involved at the state and national levels. Stay connected and informed on a national level at Americans for the Arts. On a state level check out the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Are you part of your statewide or national arts education association? Could you join advocacy day at the state or national level to speak with your elected officials, and bring this skill set back to your local community?

Barb Whitney serves as Executive Director for the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, on the faculty in two departments at Michigan State University, and as a MAEIA Leadership Associate.


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