Interview brainstorming (Week of Oct 24)

This week I focused on continuing my research into local arts organizations, specifically the Carrboro Arts Center and the Durham Arts Council. I wanted to further delve into their programs, scholarships, faculty, and volunteers. Since these are the two organizations I focused my previous research on, I wanted to interview experts who worked with these programs as dance teachers. As I researched more into the Carrboro Arts Center and brainstormed with Ms. McDonald about conducting interviews, I decided I wanted to interview a dancer and educator named Heather Tatreau who works with the Arts Center as a dance teacher. Ms. McDonald went to school and danced with Ms. Tatreau, so she was able to give me her contact information. I reached out to her to ask for an interview and while I wait I am doing research on her role at the Carrboro Arts Center as well as her other projects she’s been involved in.

Quarter 1 Reflection (Week of Oct. 17)

In this post I will be evaluating my progress in this study through the first quarter. During quarter 1, I have been focusing my research on the broad issue of arts inequality and its causes as well as learning about existing local programs aiming to combat these barriers to dance access. I have been consulting various research papers and scholarly articles, as well as data sources and local program websites. Mrs. Spruill has been especially helpful in helping me to locate information about arts inequality in the Triangle because there is not a ton of information out there about this topic on the local level. It has been interesting to read about all of the different variables that contribute to arts inequality, such as transportation, cost of classes, and time commitment. I hope to continue learning about issues at the local level and current solutions to them this month. 

I have been pleasantly surprised by my ability to stay motivated and on top of my research and blog posts. I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep myself on track, but I have been able to more than I thought I would. Of course there are still times when I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time as I would’ve liked to my study because of college applications; however, overall I am pleased with how I am managing my time. My meetings with my content advisor, Mrs. McDonald have been very helpful because she reviews my blog posts or current research and gives me suggestions about how I should proceed and specific topics I should look into. She is also very knowledgeable about the local dance scene and programs since she owns a dance studio herself. This has been particularly helpful this month since I am focusing on local programs that combat arts inequality. She has been able to recommend specific programs to research, as well as referring me to colleagues she knows in the industry that I could interview.

I am excited to continue my research into quarter two and see where it takes me!

More local programs (Week of Oct. 10)

This week I focused on researching two local programs working to combat arts inequality in my community: North Carolina Arts in Action (NC AIA) and Kidznotes.

NC AIA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “empower children in elementary schools statewide through dance and live music programs accessible to all students regardless of abilities and socio-economic status”. This program was originally founded in New York by former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Jaques d’Amboise, and later branched out to North Carolina. This program provides integrated dance classes to elementary schoolers in North Carolina public schools. These programs aim to provide exposure to various dance styles and the opportunity to participate in classes and performances. NC AIA works to bridge racial and socioeconomic gaps in the dance community so that every child is able to learn dance regardless of their background.

Kidznotes is a similar local program that focuses on bringing musical education to underserved communities. They state that their mission is to “catalyz[e] social change by providing comprehensive music education, leadership opportunities, and character-building experiences to children with the fewest resources and the greatest need”. Kidznotes aims to empower communities around musical collaboration and overcome economic barriers. 

Both NC AIA and Kidznotes have conducted research and found that participation in dance and music improves students’ academic performance, motivation to learn, and collaboration among other things. These findings demonstrate how opportunities to participate in the arts are not only beneficial to students’ artistic education, but are also essential to their academic education and their developments as people. These programs are paving the way for more inclusive arts education in my community, and I am excited to learn more about them, as well as about other similar programs.

Local programs + strategies to improve arts accessibility (week of Oct. 3)

This week I focused on local research. Specifically, I researched local arts organizations dedicated to reducing inequalities and supporting the arts. The main organization I researched was the Raleigh Arts Plan. Here, I found goals as well as strategies to fulfill said goals of expanding arts access. I appreciated their focus on making the arts more inclusive and accessible for all members of the community. This is the information I obtained from my research into the Raleigh Arts Plan:

Their creative life plan goals:

  1. Promote an active arts and culture life throughout the community
  2. Expand youth arts participation
  3. Ensure equity, access, and inclusion in all cultural programming
  4. Support the work of Raleigh’s artists and arts and cultural organizations
  5. Enhance the vitality of Releigh’s neighborhoods and districts through thoughtful placemaking
  6. Enhance arts leadership and governance
  7. Strengthen marketing, promotion, and valuing of the arts
  8. Create a system of sustainable arts funding

Their culture in community strategies:

1.1 Develop a Community-Initiated Projects program by inviting proposals for grassroots arts or cultural projects from individual artists, individual community members and/or unincorporated groups. Create a funding category that provides modest grants to contribute to the cost of these projects. 

1.2 Develop a Community Arts Training Program for artists and other community members to develop their capacity to utilize the arts in community settings, to support cross-sector uses of the arts, and to foster a network of individuals engaged in community-based arts. 1.3 Expand arts programming in neighborhoods by developing a juried catalogue of artists and groups qualified to provide arts programming in neighborhood settings, and promote their use in CommunityInitiated Projects. 

1.4 Create a Neighborhood Artist Laureate program, appointing artists to serve as artist/leaders in the neighborhood where they live and to carry out arts projects or activities designed to enhance or celebrate that neighborhood. 

1.5 Expand programming in community centers by developing small-scale arts and cultural activities offered at or through community centers, responding to local needs and interests. Provide staff training to support and facilitate these activities. 

1.6 Expand programming at Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers by developing an expanded curriculum based on identified needs, and allow these to inform facility planning and enhancements. This would include enhanced Center staff training and tools to support program expansion. 

1.7 Evaluate the fee structure of City arts classes, including the scholarship program, to ensure that cost does not present a barrier to citizen participation. 

1.8 Promote production and visibility of showcases for avocational artistry such as community theatres, orchestras, and student exhibitions, choral competitions and sound-off spots. 

1.9 Promote Millennial-led projects through the Community-Initiated Projects program. 1.10 Create a biannual Citywide Celebration of Neighborhoods, inviting participation by all neighborhoods and promoting their applications through the Community-Initiated Projects program. 

1.11 Explore development of a self-curated citywide Raleigh Fringe Festival, where arts organizations, arts businesses, artists, community groups and others (e.g., restaurants, farmers markets, design firms) self-produce events throughout the community during a defined festival time period, marketed under the festival brand and perhaps linked by an annual theme. Encourage community groups to develop neighborhood events as part of the festival.

Progress on wordpress (week of Sep. 26)

This week I focused on trying to set up my blog, as it had not been functioning. I had been unable to access, edit, or make posts on my blog for the past 3 weeks, so I made it my priority to fix these issues this week. I tried using different browsers, incognito mode, different logins, and restarting my computer, but none of these actions fixed the problem. Thus, I went to the tech office to try to remedy the problem, which proved to be more complicated than we originally anticipated. I ended up needing to update my computer to the Monterrey IOS update, which presented problems of its own with storage issues, so I had to leave my computer at the tech office overnight so that they could fix it. Thankfully, Mr. Hoyt was able to update the IOS, which allowed me to finally access wordpress. As a result, I am now able to post on my blog, so I uploaded all of the posts I had been writing for the past few weeks and dated them based on the Friday of each week I wrote them.

In addition to working on wordpress bugs, I also met with my faculty advisor, Ms. McDonald to update her on my research thus far and create a meeting schedule for the next couple months. She reviewed the research I had done and made suggestions about what I should research moving forward to add to my understanding. For example, she suggested starting my October research period with learning more about the issue of arts inequality at a more local level. I look forward to continuing my research next month and finding information about both the problems that exist in our community and current solutions to them.

Interim reflection (week of Sep. 19)

In this post I will be evaluating my work on my independent study thus far. I’ve loved being able to research a topic I am passionate about and that I would otherwise not encounter in any core curriculum classes. Furthermore, it has been very exciting to design my own curriculum and have the flexibility to make changes to my plan. One thing that has frustrated me a bit has been navigating wordpress. I’ve never used this platform and I’ve had some difficulty organizing and posting on my website. However, overall my independent study has been going smoothly.

Through conducting my independent study, I’ve learned that successful learning can take multiple forms, not necessarily only traditional classroom learning. I’ve surprised myself with how disciplined I’ve been with time management and using my designated free period to work on my study. I work on my independent study during C period in the quad or assembly hall. I estimate that I’ve been meeting the hour per week workload expectation because I spend every C period working on it as well as 1-2 hours outside of school. I’ve been recording the notes I’ve taken for my research period in a google doc. I anticipate using this material to inform me more about the broad issue of arts inequality and guide me during my next phases of research. I don’t see a need for any major changes to how I am approaching my independent study so far because it is generally matching up to what I envisioned in my proposal. I have been able to successfully complete the research I aimed to do during my September research period, so I am looking forward to my next stage in October. The one thing I would improve is finding a good meeting schedule with my advisor, Ms. McDonald. Thus far, our meetings have been a bit informal, but I’m sure as schedules get more settled we will find a consistent plan.

Dance access disparities (week of Sep. 12)

This week I focused on reading a second study entitled The Arts, Social Inclusions and Social Class: The Case of Dance by Patricia Sanderson. This study investigated the lack of dance opportunities provided to many students of low socioeconomic status in Britain. The study found that the arts are predominantly pursued by members of the middle and upper classes: “Vervey (1989) shows that in Britain attendance at ballet and other ‘high arts’ venues declines with social class, while Dimaggio and Useem (1982) report comparable figures from the USA, Canada, France and the Netherlands for ballet, modern dance and other art forms”. Furthermore, there was hardly any variation of social class within the data even between different art forms including dance, art, music, and literary or media fields. 

Researchers suspect that this disparity can be attributed to the many barriers low income students face to receiving an arts education, such as cost of classes, transportation, and time commitment. However, they also point out how the public education system has failed to implement sufficient arts programs, especially dance related ones: “The arts within the National Curriculum remain minority subjects at all levels for most children, and therefore despite the various government-funded arts initiatives, the limited experience of the arts in schools is likely to contribute to the social exclusion of some pupils: in effect they are being denied the opportunity to benefit fully from a range of cultural forms. The latter include the various styles and types of dance flourishing in Britain and are not limited to those currently accorded high legitimacy in society (Bourdieu, 1984)”. The study found that arts programs in public education were particularly lacking at the primary school level. In primary school, dance is designated as a constituent of physical education but not adequately practiced in PE curriculums. Public schools lack resources and funding for dance programs, while also lacking qualified dance teachers. Furthermore, teachers felt pressure to downgrade the importance of the arts in favor of other subjects like mathematics or reading. 

Consequently, “Harland et al. (1995) report that the numbers studying dance during school years are very small (between 1% and 7%). Harland et al. (2000) found that dance was offered by just 32% of secondary schools for 11-13-year-olds and 23% for the 14-16 age group, in 22 secondary schools surveyed; comparable figures for art and music were 91% and 100%, and for drama 64% and 68%”. As the researchers stated, “a major implication of the research is that dance should be more widely available in schools so that all children and young people are able to benefit from participation as creators, performers, and informed observers. It is argued that the absence of a strong representation of the arts in general, and dance in particular, within the National Curriculum may be contributing to the social and educational exclusion of some young people”. This study provided comprehensive data to demonstrate how lower class communities are underserved by arts programs, particularly in regards to dance.

History of art and class (week of Sep. 5)

I have been starting my independent study with a research period during September. My goal has been to learn more about the issue of inequality within the arts, especially within dance. Specifically, I have been reading about how some communities have less access to arts education and they have historically been excluded from fine arts. The first resource I consulted was a study entitled Social Inequality and the Arts by Judith R. Blau. This study compared 125 of the largest American metropolitan places to study arts equality. Researchers measured the proportion of residents in each area who participated in the arts and compared them based on their social differentiation: “Social structure is conceptualized in terms of the various aspects of social differentiation– that is, the differences among people in group affiliation (like religion) or hierarchical status (like income)”. The study found that “inequality in education… is inversely related to the number of artists, which suggests that art flourishes in cities where most people are well educated and have cultural orientations that, though diverse, compose fairly large taste subcultures”. This supports my inference that lower socioeconomic status correlates with lower participation in the arts, likely members of lower socioeconomic status may not have the means to pay for the expenses associated with arts classes or the opportunities to engage with the arts in their communities. 

This study also provided information on the history of arts and class and how it pertains to their relationship today. According to Blau, “historically, artists depended on wealthy and powerful patrons. In medieval Europe, during the Renaissance, and in many countries such as France until the 19th century, primarily members of the nobility and the church had sufficient resources to support artists and the leisure to cultivate an interest in the arts”. Nowadays, “only the very rich have the resources to create and maintain major art institutions, such as operas or museums, or invest in major commercial art ventures… American art depends on the contributions of the capitalist elite, and more recent empirical studies confirm [this] conclusion by showing the significant role that rich donors play in establishing and sustaining major arts institutions”. Consequently, “high income increases the chances of partaking in popular as well as classical art… Affluent people are more likely than poor ones to have the resources to exert substantial influence on the demand for lowbrow and highbrow art, which implies that economic inequality continues to exert an influence on cultural life”. This resource has been very helpful because it provided the necessary background information and context regarding the variation in arts access and participation based on class.