Studio to School

Partner Swap x 5

  • Were you able to make progress regarding the principles you selected? If so, how would you describe that progress? (Hint: the rubric may be helpful here). If not, what got in the way?

The quick answer to this question is no and then yes. Let me explain the hard times and then the exciting and helpful growth we made this year.

The no answer belongs to the one partner we had in mind when we selected the principal: Foster mutual commitment and responsibility in collaborations between arts organizations and schools. When we selected this principal, we (members from our school and members from the art center) had each other in mind as the “art organization”. Originally the first Executive Director (ED) at the art center, Denise, who applied for the S2S grant, had youth based arts education in the core of her heart. Denise got the project running strong for the first three years. Our relationship was thriving at the committment level, but it is probably safe to say it was deepening at the mutal responsibility level as Denise honestly carried the bulk of the work as the Project Lead. Then Denise moved onto other career opportunities and left the art center. This was the start of a new chapter for the collaboration between the art center and AMS. Unfortunately, the next two ED’s who took over, jumped in whole heartedly in the beginning, but eventually did not understand the rationale of why they were doing all the accounting work as it truly seemed to be a one-way street. The art center was not getting much of a benefit from this relationship. Although both entities wanted the project to be benefited mutually, we have really struggled to connect in a natural relationship. In the end, it feels we have learned that the art center and the middle school are both strong organizations, they just have different missions in arts education and we are not needing to rely on each other to survive. Our relationship has sat at emerging for the last several years in mutual responsibility and commitment.

And now onto the celebrations and “Ah-Ha” moments. During the mid-year individual reflections, the arts teachers at the middle school made a huge “Yes” discovery to this principal. Once we realized we read the principal wrong, we got a different answer. It is asking what art organizations (yes plural) foster commitment with our programs. We realized that our multi-faceted programing (band, orchestra, visual arts, digital media arts, and culinary arts) is not a one size fits all when it comes to working with one art organization. This may be one of the strongest moments in growth from this experience for us. Here are some specifics of what organization are fostering mutual responsibility and commitment with the diverse individual AMS Art Programs.

Digital Media: Several embedding and thriving relationships are off and running for our Digital Media Program. The Ashland Independent Film Festival offers two annual opportunities for students; the student Film Festival and Teen Press. Students have engaged in advanced screenings of films as well as opportunities to interview the filmmakers. Due to this, our students are now regular contributors to the festival and conducting their own interviews with filmmakers. In addition, a new collaboration between SOU Media Lab (our local university) is stemming and seems to be a solid organization that will continue to embed into our middle school program.

Band and Orchestra: Currently, both Band and the Orchestra programs are embedding their relationship with the Rogue Symphany and SOU Music Program. Our students have benefited from having these local professional musicians coach our students in small ensembles. This has been a huge benefit for our students to associate their progress with these local community members who are committed with their regular attendance in teaching small ensembles.

Visual Arts: Our visual arts program has busted out of the classroom door and is integrating into the community. Emerging relationships occurred this year at our local Ashland Public Library and the Ashland Arts Center. Both organizations allowed student art to be displayed. In addition, two art shows were hosted on campus during evening events. Although the work fell on our art teacher’s shoulders to pull off these art shows, it was a step forward in getting student work displayed in the community.

Culinary Arts: Our after-school Culinary program is embedded and thriving at this point. We have found a strong community member who is the mentor/professional in working with our students for three months in the spring. For the last five years, he has committed to teaching weekly lessons, catering jobs with our students, fundraising with food, and more. This program just keeps getting better every year.

Finally, the most current celebration is the emerging relationship with AHAA (Ashland High School Arts Advocates). This is a non-profit organization that has existed for over 40 years. In the past, they have put all their focus at the high school level, but conversations and collaborations this spring are suggesting a future relationship and expansion to the middle school level. The hope is the middle school will start their own chapter to this organization. This will be a solid commitment with our community members as we are hoping this is where parent volunteers will carry mutal responsibility and comittment for both the middle and high school years, by comitting their time and resources to help sustain the rigor our programs currently offer. In addition, this organization is already giving our programs small “gift monies” and are offering to help write grants for us. Yeah! It is not the fix all to our financial needs, however, it is an organization that has history and a desire to focus on arts education for our Ashland youth.

Lastly, we do have one more organization that we will be deepening our relationship with. The Ashland School Foundation is another local organization that teachers can apply for small impact grants twice a year. They as well have always been there, however, we never really worked closely with them. This spring, we have invited the ED to some of our sustainability meetings, and Ashland Schools Foundation has agreed to manage the sustainability funds we made over the last five years for us.

In conclusion, as you can see, in the beginning we put all our eggs in one basket. We expected one arts organization to carry the load in commitment and responsibility. We are very grateful the Ashland Arts Center committed to be the accounting partner for the Studio to Schools grant, however, we hope we will be able to grow the relationship in the future. It really is parallel in that they teach art classes as well but with a professional level focus perhaps.

Finally, we have a lot of relationships to celebrate. There is a desire to work with our middle school programs from these organizations. In addition, small grants are possible to help pay for some of the integration of professionals into our programs. But more importantly there is hope and excitement that we will continue to move forward with these community level commitments and mutual responsibilities.

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