Arts Spotlight: Community Partnerships Help Make Art Thrive

By Mary Kay Sommers

This year’s NAESP conference offered principals fresh new ways to engage with the arts.

Event: Art in the Summer Changes Everything

Sponsor: Young Audiences Maryland

Key Takeaway: Collaborating with community groups can help bring comprehensive art programming to your school—and with it, creativity, fun, and learning.

When principals arrived at #naesp16, they were greeted with displays and videos on the multimedia exhibit, “Art in the Summer Changes Everything,” curated by Young Audiences/Arts for Learning of Maryland. This interactive project featured student work from Young Audience’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy for Baltimore City Public Schools students.

During the conference, principals were invited to attend an opening reception for the exhibit, which offered an opportunity to connect with colleagues while engaging in varied arts experiences.  The featured event this evening was an interactive learning experience provided by the nonprofit Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts education network. Founded in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally-diverse arts programs.

At the reception, Young Audiences showed principals how to play skinless kettledrums and taught us how to play the song “Monkey Band” within 15 minutes. I was highly impressed with the teaching strategies they used to ensure all principal drummers of all abilities could be successful. I was intrigued with all the holistic aspects of the workshop, such as how the body moves with the different sounds and drum techniques. It was an outstanding demonstration of highly effective teaching that engages its students of all ages.

Another project also challenged principals’ creativity and critical thinking: a fabric art table, with spaces for six sewers to contribute to a fabric piece. Principals were challenged to reflect on key attributes principals needs to be successful and stitch their attribute into an art piece. I could only imagine the many topics that might be addressed in a classroom through this mindful, collaborative, creative process. Principals were also invited to leave ideas on sticky notes and place them on a chart. I wondered how this simple idea could be used to address classroom issues; it stimulates individual creative problem solving.  

Young Audiences presented principals with summer and after-school learning options to address student learning outside of the school day. Young Audiences partners with professional artists and schools throughout Maryland for hands-on arts learning experiences. They presented evidences that summer art activities prevented learning loss. During the school year, art programs and partnerships with arts groups created truly joyful classrooms filled with exploration and curiosity.

This #naesp16 event was proof that though art, principals can learn new skills, share new ideas, be creative, and have fun. We’re never be too old to learn.

Mary Kay Sommers is an educational consultant in Fort Collins, Colorado.