Ten Years of MAEIA Voices: Behind the Scenes

By Joni Starr

Editor’s Note: Happy 10th Anniversary Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project! This post is part of a continuing series that celebrates the 10 year milestone. We are highlighting a variety of individual voices telling their stories of MAEIA participation during the ten years and we will look ahead to the next exciting 10 years.

Managing the daily work of MAEIA takes a team of committed individuals that tend to the small and the large with both passion and professionalism. This blog provides a peek behind the scenes and shares some of the voices of the dedicated MAEIA team.

~ Joni Starr, Editor


As the website describes, “Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) is a leading state and national resource for arts education, working to ensure that every student in Michigan receives high-quality arts learning as part of a well-rounded education. MAEIA helps K-12 educators:

  • Improve the quality of arts education programs.
  • Monitor and improve student learning in the arts.
  • Support professional practice and improve teaching.
  • Advance arts as a key element of a well-rounded education.”

To manage each of these points with quality achievement takes a committed team of professionals dedicated to their daily tasks of the work of MAEIA. Let’s check in to see what is happening behind the scenes to ensure success that we don’t necessarily witness.

What is happening behind the scenes that we can’t see that supports the MAEIA work?

“There is a great deal of time spent situating MAEIA within the current landscape of arts education as perceived by national and state arts/education organizations. We serve on the Advisory Council for the Arts Education Partnership and on the Arts Education Commission for the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. We are connectors for people and organizations who benefit from working together and who may not otherwise meet, let alone see how their work may intersect,” shares Heather Vaughan-Southard, Professional Learning Director and Website Support.

Linda Wacyk, Director of Communications, points out that “A team of creative web designers, content editors, and graphic artists ensure that MAEIA always puts its ‘best look forward,’ which is important when it comes to representing the arts and communicating to people who care about beauty.” She continues, “Our team is also vigilant in ensuring we use only art products that we have legally obtained the rights to use, and we maintain meticulous records to make sure we never take advantage of the artists whose works we enjoy.”

As Director of Communications, Linda also values how she and others serve as Data Guardians. She describes the work of “keeping careful records of each and every person who downloads resources from the MAEIA website or attends a MAEIA event to ensure they receive news and updates that could help them in their work. We do our best to find and reach out to all of the arts educators and program administrators in Michigan’s K-12 schools so that they are aware of the rich library of resources MAEIA offers.”

Partners Coordinator, Barb Whitney states, “Our team is engaging statewide stakeholders in the interest of equitable access to arts education for all youth in Michigan. That means we’re celebrating stories of success and supporting our MAEIA partners in overcoming obstacles. We’re also eager changemakers toward a positive narrative about how the arts change children’s lives and foster parental engagement in schools. As we grow our network of arts education advocates, we are engaging with many stakeholders on the value of arts education, creating a ripple effect of understanding from students to parents and from administrators to legislative leaders.”

Barb best describes these important connections as she tells of a recent Arts Education Partnership gathering in Baltimore, Maryland. She says, “Our MAEIA team shined brightly, and our network continued to grow. We met new colleagues and cultivated deeper connections with statewide and national leaders who are raising visibility for arts education through data, research, and advocacy. We represented Michigan’s investment in arts education and gratefully learned about new initiatives and models we can implement right here in our own state.”

Kathy Humphrey, Media/Website Director and PRT Coordinator says, “So much creativity and hard work goes on “behind the curtain” to continually improve and expand MAEIA professional learning and resources, foster partnerships, and secure funding for the project. Educators who use the MAEIA resources may not realize that there is a tenacious group of people leveraging its diverse talents to keep MAEIA flourishing.”

“Every day I learn something new as I support the project teams and their work,” says Executive Assistant, Karrie LaFave.  With a background in special education Karrie recognizes “how the team has woven in Social Emotional Learning over the past year. This is such an important area and the MAEIA team has done such a great job keeping it present.”

 What does it mean to you to work in the arts education sector?

Choosing work in the arts education sector can be a highly satisfying experience. Karrie notes, “The MAEIA work is so rewarding. The dedication from not only the project management team, but the fellows and the partners, is stunning. Every person that interacts with the MAEIA work brings so much passion for the arts, and specifically arts education.”

“The arts have provided me with critical experiences for both my personal and professional lives. Working in the arts education sector allows me to promote opportunities for students to benefit from the same kind of tools that have been essential to my own health and well-being,” explains Heather.

Kathy says, “I feel honored to work on the MAEIA project and to experience the richness of the K-12 arts education world. I have learned so much from MAEIA colleagues about the value of arts education for K-12 students beyond the arts themselves—the ways in which the arts improve learning in other subjects and help build students’ social-emotional skills and resilience. I never realized how much the arts increase capacities within students that are vital for success and happiness in life.”

Linda adds, “As a life-long supporter of the arts, I’m thrilled to play even a background role in ensuring arts education remains a vibrant and vital part of a quality K-12 education. My own 4 children have benefited in countless ways from public school arts programming; and now my grandchildren are participating in high quality music programs in mid-Michigan. I want to pay that forward to future generations.”

“I believe arts education is a fundamental right for youth in the United States, so much so that I wrote my Master’s thesis on the topic,” states Barb. “Continuing to lead statewide and national efforts as an arts education advocate and champion means the world to me. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with our partners to isolate trends and influences, as well as to move our work forward together toward quality arts education for all youth.”

The MAEIA team holds true to their work, day in and day out, as Karrie sums it up, “The need for support for arts educators in our schools is apparent daily. By providing the many tools and resources that MAEIA has to offer, we hope to leave a positive impact on all arts educators.”

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