Arts educators try broad brush. Some 150 groups rally to bolster arts' role in schools

SPEAKING in rare unison, some 150 national arts education organizations today called for creation of a national arts education alliance under the combined auspices of the American Council on the Arts, based in New York City, and the Music Educators National Conference of Reston, Va. The alliance hopes to bring the arts at least even with other disciplines experiencing reform. Last winter, after two decades of internal dissent and consequent stalemate at the national level, leaders in the field declared what amounted to a truce. Their statement has come to be known as the ``Philadelphia Resolution.''

Today's agreement sets forth specific recommendations to energize and enrich arts learning in the nation's schools at all grade levels. Emphasis is placed on accomplishing this by locality, at the encouragement and discretion of local coalitions.

This alliance was an outgrowth of a recent symposium that drew representatives from the 150 groups to Interlochen, Mich., for a four-day retreat. (Interlochen Center for the Arts is a remote but humming cultural facility that includes an arts college-preparatory boarding school, a summer music camp, and an international concert series.)

Most participants reported attending out of a shared concern for the field, but few seemed to expect the final, dramatic vote to unite.

``Our hope,'' said Dr. John McLaughlin, a symposium coordinator with the American Council on the Arts, ``was to bring together as broad a representation as possible, to examine how as a united front we can affect the improvement of arts education in local communities. Trust in an advocacy organization will be a major step toward improvement.''

The report calls for ``American schools, K-12, to provide arts education for all students every day. Instruction in the arts should encompass visual arts, music, dance, theater, and creative writing. It should be accorded resources of time, money, and personnel equivalent to other basic subject areas, and the same level of expertise. Every school should have an in-school sequential arts program that serves all the children.''

The groups at Interlochen included the National Assembly of Arts Agencies; Young Audiences (a clearinghouse that arranges professional performances in schools across the United States); Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., which is currently researching creativity and learning; national associations for each arts discipline; an array of successful local initiatives; and the US Department of Education.

Speaking for the department, policy analyst Lonna Jones told those gathered that a National Endowment for the Arts report will be submitted to Congress Jan. 20, substantiating the importance of the arts in a full, balanced education.

Addressing a concern heard repeatedly, that arts education suffers disproportionately as a result of local budget restraints, she advised, ``If a community demands that the arts are in education, the arts will be there.''

A national coalition - ``to serve as umbrella spokesman for arts education'' - is called for in the report. Functions of the organization would include establishing a five-year plan to expand arts education; conducting national symposiums on arts education to better inform non-arts education constituents; and ``providing leadership in bringing together arts education leaders at national, state, and local levels.''

Members of the national coalition would include professional arts education associations, museums, and cultural institutions, elected government officials, artist unions, teacher unions, arts-related industries, print and broadcast media, colleagues in the humanities and sciences, ``constituencies becoming more influential as demographics change, including multicultural populations and older Americans,'' parents, students, and artists.

Copies of the document may be obtained by writing the American Council for the Arts, 1285 Avenue of the Americas, Area M, New York, NY 10019.

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