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Increasing arts demand through better arts learning

July 15, 201015 July 2010

Arts education and participation

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This brief fact sheet argues that, in addition to building new audiences through marketing campaigns, program offerings, price and convenience, “increasing the quality and access of arts learning opportunities deserves much more attention as a way of lifting arts demand in the long run”. With increased competition for leisure time, the fact sheet indicates that “the key to lifting demand for the arts may well lie in reversing the 30-year-long decline in arts learning, both in and out of schools”.

The fact sheet points out that “building arts appreciation involves giving people the skills and knowledge they need to have rich encounters with art that keep them coming back for more”, including:

· The ability to see, hear and feel what art has to offer.

· Opportunities to create art.

· An understanding of the historical and cultural context of artworks.

· An ability to interpret and draw meaning from works of art.

The fact sheet cites a survey on instructional time in elementary schools that found that a number of American school districts have cut back on time spent in art and music over the past decade. However, some cities have attempted to improve their arts learning offerings, with both schools and other local organizations playing an important role. Synthesizing a number of local initiatives to improve arts learning opportunities, the fact sheet notes that a key to success has been establishing networks between schools, arts organizations, other community organizations, government agencies and funders. Coordination efforts require leadership, shared goals and clear outcomes, a feasible plan, and solid communication efforts to develop and sustain public support.

Eight strategies have been used in some cities to improve arts learning quality and access:

· Gathering key information about the situation of arts learning.

· Establishing a goal of equitable access to arts learning.

· Planning effectively.

· Constructing a case and building a compelling argument.

· Attracting and leveraging resources.

· Hiring an arts education coordinator who is highly placed within the school district’s administrative structure.

· Building individual and organizational capacity.

· Effective and ongoing advocacy.

Challenges abound, including policy and political changes, conflicts among providers and ideas, as well as leadership turnover.

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