Cheerleading for the Art Team
The Benefits of Advocacy
Suggested Activities for Advocacy.

Cheerleading for the Art Team

The role of the art teacher has become more demanding than ever before. A comprehensive, sequential approach to art education requires knowledge and expertise in directing and coordinating activities in art production, art history, criticism and aesthetics. Changing demographics and societal attitudes have resulted in a call for increased awareness and study of works of art from diverse cultures. Budget cuts have reduced programs, staff, and resources while increasing class size. In addition, we still have plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions about art education to overcome: art does not utilize learned concepts or higher level thinking, academic subjects should be scheduled first, art is not beneficial for future careers, art is not a "serious" subject or as "necessary" as math and science, sequence of instruction is unimportant. These common stereotypes and misconceptions need to be overcome.

To meet these increasing demands and counter misconceptions of contemporary art education, art teachers must be passionately committed to the value of our profession. That commitment also requires us to become outspoken advocates for quality art education - to become "cheerleaders for the art team." Art teachers have a professional responsibility to communicate the value of art in education to students, teachers, administrators, parents, politicians, and the community.

Advocacy efforts require determination and active participation, but the benefits for art education can be attained in no other way. Even the best teacher in the world cannot limit his or her efforts only to the classroom and still expect to escape the problems and demands on art teachers from outside the classroom. We cannot remain silent, hidden away in our classrooms, expecting someone else to promote and publicize our programs. No one else will do it for us - the necessity, and the resulting benefits, of advocacy remain our responsibility.

The Benefits of Advocacy

Each of us must actively demonstrate our personal belief in the value of our chosen discipline. Through advocacy, we can emphasize the value of art education as essential and fundamental for all students, contribute to increased recognition of art as a respected discipline within the schools and encourage administrative, parental and public support for quality art programs. Advocacy efforts can also aid in student recruitment within the school and promote the expansion of staff, facilities and budget.

Suggested Activities for Advocacy

Advocacy begins in the classroom and spirals out through the school into the community. Ensure that your art program is highly visible. Don't hide your students' work in the classroom; exhibit work anywhere and as often as you can. In the school, put up displays in halls, office, cafeteria, or library; in the community, ask for exhibit space in galleries, banks, libraries, hospitals and malls. The most beneficial exhibits are educational, with accompanying descriptive panels that provide background information and explain objectives, rationales and methods. Identify the school and students, include both written work and works of art, and present it all in a professional manner.

What else can you do? Sponsor an art club, work with students to develop and complete a collaborative project such as a mural in the school, present slide talks on the art program to your parent-teacher organization or community groups. Send press releases about the activities of your art program to local newspapers and television stations. Write articles for art education publications and letters to the editor of your newspaper. Participate in art exchange programs with schools in other parts of the country. If your school is connected to the Internet, create a web site for your art classes and use it to share and exchange student work, writing, and ideas about art.

These suggestions are presented to help you develop a personal approach to advocacy. Whatever methods you adopt, the advocacy efforts you undertake are necessary and beneficial for maintenance, support, and expansion of the art program in your school. Your visible commitment and belief in the value of art education will make a difference - for your students, your school, your community and for you.

Links of Interest
National PTA

by Nancy Walkup; adaptation reprinted with permission from the April 1993 issue of Arts & Activities, 591 Camino de la Reina, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92108.