Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If It's Not Boroque, Don't Fix It

The Chicago Chorale is a south side arts organization bringing a compilation of classical music ranging from current composers to composers from the sixteenth century. After conducting an interview with Megan Baldstron, Managing Director, I was previewed to their specific, tailored audience and Megan explained that their target audience was mainly highly educated, European Americans. Her reasoning behind embracing or determining that type of audience was because the Chicago Chorale primarily focuses on and sings compositions in foreign languages, for example Finish, Swedish and Russian.  Receiving praises for their outstanding translations and attention to detail in their articulation of different languages has provided them with a great foundation of accurateness in the classical music realm. Their performances require their audience to have a certain education level and as an organization they currently do not have any future goals to change and accommodate the demographics of the audience that is excluded. Megan mentioned that many people come to their concerts because the have an interest in foreign cultural settings. The Conductor and Artistic Director of the Chicago Chorale, Bruce Tammen, continued to emphasize the importance of education and how it must be attained before an audience can appreciate classical music in general.

Switching focus to the participants or members of the Chicago Chorale, many have taken on a more cultural lifestyle and are quite educated themselves. Megan mentioned how participants in the choir engage in different arts throughout the city and how the majority of them speak a second language. Many of them are interested in literature and both the audience and the participants are active players on FaceBook. The members of the Chicago Chorale are diverse in their professions: physicians, medical surgeons, professional singers, professionals in public policy and economics however, not so diverse in the amount of education completed. Showing how individuals do not just exude education but are the epitome of the American higher education system.  In addition to participating the Chicago Chorale and their day-to-day jobs, Megan and Bruce stated that the majority of members are involved in other choirs as well.

In addition to their set concerts every year the Chicago Chorale hosts information sessions prior to their concerts, to give their audience a chance to learn more about the piece their about to experience – which I thought was extremely interesting because instead of holding educational opportunities for individuals that may not have been exposed to this type of artistic form or expression, the Chicago Chorale is again catering to the already established educated audience. Not saying that is wrong of them however, shouldn’t there be a desire to reach out to the part of their south side community that many deem to be “underprivileged”?

Personally, this correlation between the arts, participation and education becomes problematic. Is the goal to keep high arts alive by fostering and retaining the audience already established or should there be a push from organizations, like the Chicago Chorale, to generate, educate and expose a new audience to a possibly, beautiful, entertaining, historical and traditional art form -- to encourage thought and creativity amongst the many that may not know enough to know what they don’t know? I completely understand how resources and time may cause complication to the creation of a new audience but on the contrary I think that it is troublesome to exclude an audience completely because of their lack of knowledge regarding classical music. One word: Balance. 

Monday, January 28, 2013


“The mission of Artist Village and Public Art Workz (P.A.W.Z.) is to create bold, innovative community redevelopment projects that use the arts, culture, creativity and innovation, as a catalyst for reinventing and revitalizing the communities of Old Redford and Northwest Detroit, Michigan, into a multi discipline, arts, education, entertainment and cultural community.” [1]

            Detroit’s Artist Village and Public Art Workz are non-profit art organizations that partner with other Detroit organizations, local coffee shops and the community of Detroit. Blight Busters is the founding organization that created Artists Village and Public Art Workz. Motor City Blight Busters was established with the vision to help clean up Detroit and create respectable, decent neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades. Their projects involve tearing down old abandoned houses with the intent to rebuild a better community. Blight Busters then believed that the city needed beautifying and established Artists Village and Public Art Workz to bring poetry, spoken word and singing to different coffee shops and murals to the walls and buildings of a run down Detroit. Whether tearing down, building up or fostering creative expression, it is all done with the same goal in mind – to stabilize and revitalize the city of Detroit. Blight Busters was fabricated and successful because they have found people that have to the heart, the talent, spirit and attitude to recreate a better Detroit and Blight Busters empowers volunteers to cultivate their own passions. Empowering volunteers and people of the community to do what they do best, results in getting the best out of them, without having to encourage them everyday because ultimately it is their passion.
One of the projects the Blight Busters has acquired was taking a historic half mile long wall, built during the 1940’s in Detroit’s west side on 8 mile -- a wall that has a racist past but nevertheless, a wall that native’s felt is an important part of Detroit’s history. The wall was created by a white builder to separate a white subdivision from a black neighborhood. Instead of tearing it down locals have advocated to beautify the wall with the hopes of bringing awareness to Detroit’s history and culture, primarily turning something that was negative into a positive; while, healing the community and bringing people together. What makes the Motor City Blight Busters even more amazing is that all of their work is done through donations, volunteers and community involvement.
            Through community involvement and the belief that it takes a village to change and enhance a major city, noticeable transformations have occurred and I think Detroit has the arts to thank for that. These organizations have established a coffee shop culture, sometimes more commonly known as the cafĂ© culture (a lifestyle characterized by individuals that socialize regularly in cafes and subsequently enjoy different artistic expressions) throughout the city of Detroit.  Along with the arts these organizations promote chess and house chess camps in the Artists Village – believing that chess provides strategic thought preparing its players to think ahead. They have established a broader awareness to Detroit’s overall history and instilled a new found sense of pride for the residences of Detroit. Cultivating, nurturing and inspiring art, artistic expression, and art education to rebuild, rejuvenate and restore a quintessential Detroit.  

[1] Davis, Becks. "The Colorful Artist Village in Detroit - Detroit Moxie - ." Detroit Moxie - . Curve Detroit, 15 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. <>.

Monday, January 21, 2013


          Recently, there has been a great debate around the creation and implementation of an online platform that allows high school students to take classes and obtain their degrees. Advocating for children to stay in their own four walls and study the necessary subjects one would need to obtain a degree – a degree that is clearly not holistic and cannot equate to being in a high school atmosphere.  One example of this system in our society is, Memphis, Tennessee.  They require its students to take an online course to graduate. It is understandable why policy makers, teachers and parents are promoting this system – the educational atmosphere is no longer a safe environment and the ever-increasing budget cuts. Online classes still may not be the best solution to the problem and seems like a cop out resolution. I am not dismissing the great strides and efforts to reduce bullying and gun violence don’t think they should go unnoticed but it does leave many with questions like: Are those the sole reasons for an online high school degree? Are those reasons sufficient? How are educators and parents going to ensure the “typical high school experience”? Are online courses comparatively cheaper? All great questions to consider, however not the questions that I want to focus on in this post; the question that I will be discussing is how does obtaining a high school degree from the internet effect the arts and how/if a child receives art education.
          The transition from a conventional high school education to online classes can be extremely problematic. It removes half of a child’s education, the humanistic aspects and simply reduces it to reading, writing and arithmetic. The arts & crafts component of school has been eliminated. Are children going to have an online application for painting, sculpture and pottery? I don’t believe that is possible and would not be hands-on and interactive. I often here my father and his friends talking about their “home ec” classes, learning to cook apple pie or fix a flat tire but all skills transferable to the real world – real life competency.  These home ec courses taught high school students how to care for a life-like baby doll, manage money, reading an apartment lease and attain car insurance. Contrary to practical, hands-on examples, there are also disciplines that focus on the human condition and foster critical, innovative thinking. Fine arts, performing arts, literature, philosophy, religion and history are examples of humanistic study, subjects that require students to use core skills (reading, writing and arithmetic) as a tool and foundation that enables innovation. An educator can teach a student that 1+1=2 but if that student doesn’t know what 2 means or the different components that went into creating that 2, how can anyone expect that student to effectively and efficient use that 2? In other words, learning that 1+1=2 is a success but how can an individual take that 2 and make it a significance?

Monday, January 14, 2013


          Remember the moment when your preschool teacher instructed you to dip your finger or smoosh your whole palm into the plate on the table filled with paint and subsequently onto the white canvas spread out in front of you? Remembering those squiggles and doodles, thinking strategically about how this paint on your hands could create a thing of beauty? It was almost as invigorating as playing with your food! The gooey, sliminess of the paint going throughout your fingers and under your fingernails, a messy experience but unforgettable at the same time -- an experience that most adults secretly recreate in their spare time. When looked at on the surface, it seems like an activity just for play and for fun but is actually an occurrence that is extremely important to the overall development of children. Contrary to popular belief, finger painting and art and crafts is used as a tool to engage and inspire youth, to develop skills in communication, problem solving, social, emotional, and motor. Art is an enabler – healthy activities lead to healthy choices, resulting in positive lifestyle changes.
In 2011 during the unveiling of the iPad 2, Steve jobs stated: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” Steve Jobs was a huge advocate for arts education, showing how the combination of business and innovation is essential in the creation of a successful business – a model and platform that should be adopted by all.  Some argue that America was built from citizen’s innovative spirits – being able to create something new, something useful, something utilitarian and ingenious. Innovation does not directly come from learning times tables and addition but generating a synthesis of heuristic abilities and intellect.
My hopes are that through this blog there will be a greater awareness and higher level of support for the arts. To carefully contemplate some of the greater debates revolving around this topic and sift through the ways in which arts education is beneficial. I hope to discuss areas – city, states, nations – that are already successful in providing art education courses and finding out how those courses correlate with the success of their youth. It will be paramount to look at the way in which these areas were able to sustain and accomplish the creation of an arts education program in its school system. 
We, Americans, often forget that we are more than machines, more than profit seekers and should concern our lives with humanistic characteristics, attributes that seem to have been forgotten about and thus, are not fostered and developed through coaching and instruction. We’ve also forgotten how important it is for kids to be kids and play. It should be our goal as citizens to create balance, realizing that there isn't an opportunity cost for children. Americans have also forgotten about the political implications and advantages of art education in the long run: art and culture legitimizes a country, proven through history. With this first post, topics and themes have been discussed on a macro level, going forward will consist of taking a more micro look at these topics. Ultimately answering: Why is art education important?