• Jeanne Marie

Florida Alliance for Arts Education surges through pandemic with support, advocacy, and flexibility.

Updated: Mar 27

The Florida Alliance for Arts Education is a non-profit organization that works with communities across the state of Florida and governmental institutions to bring arts advocacy and education to schools, individuals, and their communities, even while the newest surge of Coronavirus cases threatens another shutdown.

The alliance is a state-wide company that acts as an umbrella organization covering four arts education nonprofits operating in Florida: the Florida Association for Theatre Education, The Florida Dance Education Organization, the Florida Music Education Association, and the Florida Art Education Association, explains Leiland Theriot, the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education.

Theriot, who started out working in the business sector before moving into music education and then landing her current role, works to help create opportunities and communication through multiple organizations.

“It’s kind of like a conglomerate of a lot of different things. You have to know the education, but you have to understand the business, and you still have to be able to create an event, so there’s a lot of moving pieces,” says Theriot.

Members of the four discipline-specific organizations work with the FAAE to define the arts education goals the groups would like to work toward in that year based on the alliance’s communication with the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, explains Theriot.

Theriot expounds that the FAAE works on four different projects with the Florida Department of Education:

-Florida Arts Model School Designation. A program to recognize schools with exemplary arts programs.

-Advancing Arts Education Schools. A grant program designed to help one school from each of the north, south, and central regions of Florida to create or enhance their arts program.

-The ACE Collection for CPALMS. An initiative to create art resources and lesson plans specifically for theatre, music, dance, and visual arts education.

-Careers in the Arts. A free workshop that targets middle school students interested in the arts in order to expose them to all the possible careers they could pursue within the arts sector.

Working with the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the alliance focuses more on communities and teaching artist through three other programs, says Theriot:

- An Artist Residency Program that works with four communities who are part of the Rural Economically Disadvantaged Initiative to bring master teaching artists to the area to provide free professional development to community educators in order to help foster a love of reading in preschool-aged children by using arts-integrated lessons, according to the FAAE’s website.

-ACE Coalitions. A pairing of culture organizations with education systems in communities across Florida in order to create a seamless arts and culture experience throughout an individual’s lifetime, tells Theriot.

-A directory of teaching artists in Florida, Theriot mentions.

According to Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, a compilation of studies sponsored by Arts Education Partnership, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment of the Arts, there are a number of positive social and academic outcomes from learning the arts and using the arts to learn.

A few of those outcomes include “sophisticated reading skills/interpretation of text” in relation to the visual arts, “mathematics proficiency” in correlation with learning to play the piano, “SAT verbal scores” in relation to playing an instrument, and “general creative thinking fluency, originality, elaboration, flexibility”, in relation to creative dance, according to the text.

James S. Catterall summarizes the compilation of studies and provides his own expertise in an overview at the end of the work, explaining that there hasn’t been much evidence to support the current structure for continued mental discipline yielding results when children are trying to learn a subject.

However, Catterall writes, “If a musical note can propel and reorient millions of neurons, the arts experiences described in this Compendium clearly impact the cognitive structures of the children and students involved.”

Leading Catterall to conclude that there is evidentiary support for learning the arts and learning using the arts that could have an abundantly positive effect in children being able to apprehend many subjects both art and non-art related.

In order to continue creating these positive outcomes in students by providing and supporting arts education, Theriot explains a couple of different ways individuals can get involved in their communities.

“Become part of the action,” says Theriot.

Becoming a member of the FAAE and reaching out to local arts and cultural alliances present in most communities are the first two suggestions made by Theriot.

She also recommends, when it’s safe, to volunteer at local schools and small arts organizations in the community, such as a dance studio.

Lastly, Theriot suggests simply go and enjoy the arts, citing the creativity of museums, dance companies, orchestras, etc. in developing COVID-19 friendly ways to continue to share their work.

For more information on becoming a member of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, its partner organizations, resources, events, and programs visit: www.faae.org.

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