What does it mean for us to think of art as education?

Of education as an art?

How does this reframing shift our priorities, our strategies as teachers and administrators, and the way we relate to students/young artists?


Hi, I’m Eliot Feenstra. I work with the Studio to School program in the Illinois Valley as an in-school teacher for the Arts Integration classes, and with the sequential/afterschool Art Novas and Everstars groups. Just to introduce myself a bit, though I’d guess anyone reading this probably knows that much.

I’ll try to post a bit more in the coming days, as there are always new questions and discoveries in these creative explorations. We are delving into recording and documenting with the Everstars, in particular, as we are devising pieces about ancestry, lineage, place, and environment for the May Cavetown show.

For the moment, I wanted to share this other resource/project I discovered, “Art is Education” (mostly Bay-area arts integration teachers, and lots of resources and write-up about the efficacy of this kind of approach…they even have a K-5 school taught entirely through dance!)…inspiring to our work here. And as a rural teacher and artist, I am always trying to stay connected to related conversations and projects happening in other places.

There was also a great article in the Huffington Post recently about arts integration. Here’s a little taste:

“The research has shown that youth ‘at risk’ benefit the most from arts-integrated
programming. Young people living in challenging circumstances tend to be creatives
because they need so much flexibility, creativity and improvisation to survive challenging circumstances. Their assets are typically enormous and under-recognized. The arts can be life-saving and life-affirming for young people who have been discarded by the culture.
This perspective on the importance and increased efficacy of arts-based learning for at-risk/struggling youth is consistent with my experience with students in our school district. Many, even most, of these youth have challenging family situations–the statistics of youth in foster care, ‘broken’ families, forced relocation or housing challenges, domestic violence, sexual assault, and food shortage are, I think, higher than average. One teacher I worked with referred to this as ‘a culture of generational poverty’–which tends to be orally based (knowledge is primarily transmitted orally rather than through writing/reading). On the other hand, as I learned during our unit on Gandhi, many of these youth have immense skills and knowledge around subsistence/self-sufficiency and related skills…hunting, sewing, growing food, building, working with animals, etc. I think that these “enormous and under-recognized skills”–not to mention emotional skills and great resilience–can be increasingly recognized and affirmed in the classroom, and particularly emerge through arts-based learning where students have the opportunity to bring more of their whole selves into the room.

“Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days
each week through at least one full year are:

• 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
• 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
• 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
• 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
• 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem

Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to:

• Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently
• Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently
• Read for pleasure nearly twice as often
• Perform community service more than four times as often
(Living the Arts through Language + Learning: A Report on Community-based
Youth Organizations, Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie
Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts
Monograph, November 1998)”


Okay, that’s all for now. Thanks!

– Eliot