Why I Advocate for Arts Education in Culver City
Sara Adelman, Co-Chair of the Culver City Arts Education Advocacy Team and Partner in Vibrant Production Management, guest blogs about why she got involved without a student in the district.
In early 2010, I actively went looking for ways to connect with the arts community in Culver City, my hometown. As an individual member of Arts for LA, I was very attracted to the new Arts Education Advocacy Teams initiative being launched that year as part of the pilot program developed by Arts for LA in partnership with Arts for All, a regional arts education initiative led by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. So I replied to an email and went to a meeting.
I was intrigued by the conversation taking place between community members and parents who were supporting arts education for different reasons. I began to see ways in which I might be able to play a role in advocating for arts education in my community, thereby strengthening the community and creating arts opportunities for students within the Culver City Unified School District. As an arts manager, I know that arts education means jobs for artists and a creative economy. Once I got involved, I was asked to play a leadership role in the group—to bring my organization skills, nonprofit arts management experience and community based leadership to this team.
Before I took on the role of co-chair for the Culver City Arts Education Advocate Team, I had to ask myself an important question: How can I advocate for Arts Education in my community without having children in the school district?
On a personal level, I began to consider my own experiences with arts education. Through my exploration I understood that my arts education experiences in public school gave me the opportunity to create and to be a leader. I fondly remember participating as a fifth grader in an after-school sidewalk painting activity, spearheaded by an extremely passionate art teacher. It seemed like that afternoon the whole school came out to draw on the sidewalk for about half a mile, from the community center to the front door of the school. I was amazed by the colorful artwork and the way everyone’s individual pieces became a part of the whole. Could this have been when I fell in love with art that is by, about, and for a community? In high school, arts education gave me leadership opportunities. I stepped up and found my place because of my enthusiastic and supportive drama teacher. She gave me, a high-school senior, the impossible task of leading the all-male stagecraft class in the completion of the spring musical set. In a safe arts education environment, I was given the opportunity to try to get these boys to build the set. I had to figure out how to manage them, make sure we were all having fun and get the work done. Is this when I became an arts manager?
My professional work at Shakespeare Festival/LA, now The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, on the Will Power to Youth program showed me first-hand how an arts experience could be a life-changing experience. I have seen youths’ lives transformed, as they became an active member of the community creating a Shakespeare production. Through participating in the Will Power to Youth program, students find their voice, empowering them to go to college and become invested in their future. I have seen first-hand artistic experiences strengthen, enhance and broaden the lives of students who are given the opportunity to create.
Through this self-exploration, it became clear that as an arts-minded citizen and in my new role as an arts management consultant and independent theatre producer with Vibrant Production Management, my personal and professional experience compels me to speak out for arts education.
Supporting arts education in Culver City Unified School District, a vanguard district in the Arts for All program, means enabling artistic opportunities, empowering students, stimulating the creative economy and generating jobs for arts professionals and, in the long term, students.
As the co-chair of the advocacy team, parents, teachers and community members ask me: What does it mean to advocate for Arts Education, and what can I do to help? Here’s what I say:
- Become a fan of the Culver City Arts Education Advocates on Facebook.
- Become a fan of Arts for LA on Facebook.
- Within your networks, talk about your personal or your children’s experiences of arts education.
- Share your understanding of the incredible arts education programs of the Culver City Unified School District.
In Culver City we have two programs that I talk about often. The first is the Arts Integration Partnership—a program where 30 elementary and middle school teachers participate in a yearlong partnership with the Music Center. The Arts Integration Partnership embeds arts education and integration across the district through the use of a single poem or piece of literature. Over the summer, the teachers are introduced to the program by attending the Music Center's Summer Institute, a week-long professional development training. During the school year, each teacher will receive 6 to 10 weekly visits from teaching artists to partner on delivering model lessons to their classes. This year, all students will use theatrical techniques to explore the intention and language of a poem. The elementary students use the art form of puppetry while the middle school students will focus on physical movement, going deeper into the poem. The second program, Bells and Beyond, brings professional musicians from the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra into Culver City first grade elementary schools every week. From this program students learn to appreciate, compose and understand music, as well as develop learning skills that translate to other core subjects.
Over the past year, I have learned that it’s easy to be an arts education advocate and I can make an impact in simple ways. Most importantly, it has been come clear to me that you don’t need to have children in your local school district to be an effective voice for arts education in your community!