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"Indianapolis Center for Arts Education and Innovation” emerging at Butler University

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"Indianapolis Center for Arts Education and Innovation” emerging at Butler University
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Undertaking a huge initiative is best served with an accomplishable small project, says Dr. Lisa Brooks, Dean of Butler University’s Jordan College of the Arts, as she walks me through a timeline she is undertaking over the two next years.  

The small project now in process is a 2-part workshop. Part One: “Laying a Foundation for Successful Movement in Any Learning Environment,” presented by Kennedy Center National Dance Teaching Artist Kimberli Boyd, took place Oct. 1 at Butler. 

Kimberli Boyd returns to Butler on Nov. 21, 4:30-7:30 p.m., with Part Two. “Moving Hearts, Minds & Bodies through Dance Integration” focuses on art-based social/emotional learning strategies to engage students in grades K-8 and to strengthen the culture of classrooms across greater Indianapolis. Everyone is invited to participate. Learn more and register here: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?pli=1#search/drund%40butler.edu/FMfcgxwDrRMvVtDcdwTPNTMbNvkrTBKj?projector=1&messagePartId=0.2 

See Clowes Hall 2019-2020 school programs here: https://butlerartscenter.org/events/genres/education

Donna Rund, Butler Arts Center education manager, is the point person here, as she has been with Clowes Memorial Hall programming for schools.  

Lisa Brooks is leading the development of The Indianapolis Center for Arts Education and Innovation to broaden and deepen Butler’s connection with the greater Indianapolis community’s arts programming already in place under the auspices of multiple non-profits. 

Brooks says the goal of The Center will be to “function as the backbone organization for a collective impact approach to arts education.” In her lexicon, “arts education” is a rainbow of activities focused on: integrating all the arts with all subject matter, and implementing arts-based learning with in-school artist performances, after school and other out-of-school programs including private and group lessons and classes, performance opportunities for learners at all levels; facilitating school field trips for students and professional development programs for teachers, principals, administrators and teaching artists. 

Situating Butler University as the “nexus of connectivity for arts education in Indianapolis” was at the fulcrum point of Brooks’ bid to serve as dean of the Jordan College of the Arts when a national search took place in 2017. 

“During the interview, when I was asked, ‘What is your vision as dean,’ I countered with, ‘Why hasn’t Butler been more in leadership with the community for a collective arts impact?’” said Brooks, when we talked at her office on Oct. 31, 2019. 

Clowes has been a presenting organization for road companies with theatre programming. As such, Clowes is one of many school field trip destinations for live performances and talkback sessions with actors. It’s not so much in competition with other similar opportunities as it simply has not been not looking at the gestalt of how best to interface with everything else being offered. That’s what Brooks and Rund want to change. 

The need, say Brooks and Rund, is to bring Butler into a leadership position, so on-campus resources benefit the entire community. “Collective Impact” is Brooks’ vision in a nutshell. “We must be an organizing force to pool arts education resources on all levels.” 

Rund wants to assure the opportunities are in place for the very youngest to have access to participation in all the arts. It’s building a way of life that makes a personal, family, and community commitment to the arts as central to all we do. Positing ’Why now?’ she rhetorically points out that making all the arts part of our life has to start with children at their earliest, in homes and neighborhoods, along with schools. “The workshops presented by Kimberli Boyd are Butler’s first step toward making this happen in a unified way.”

All this takes me back to the summer of 2000, when VSA Arts of Indiana, Arts Council of Indianapolis, Clowes Memorial Hall, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Dance Kaleidoscope, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis Opera, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Young Audiences of Indiana partnered with working artists in fields “to redefine [the] art[s] to encompass every act of being, be it a child’s crayon drawing, a corporate presentation, or a flawlessly presented dinner party.”  

“Indiana’s Everyday Work of Art” convened at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Mayor Bart Peterson kicked off the initiative. Eric Booth, then “one of the nation’s leading consultants and speakers about national cultural trends.” was the presenter for an immersive experience. Other programs followed. I still have 3-ring binders and a shelf of books on how to make a living ‘an everyday work of art.’ 

Past and present resonate with me simply because ‘making every day a work of art’ and being fully engaged in the arts is how I was brought up, and how I expected my children to grow up, and why I’m an advocate for arts, in all its manifestations, to guide me through the day, every day.

Even though for me it’s been a natural way of life, I’m fully aware that’s not the case for everyone, so I’m right alongside Brooks and Rund in their advocacy “to ensure equity and access to arts education for learners of all ages in the greater Indianapolis area and ultimately serve as the ‘nexus of connectivity’ for arts education in Indianapolis.”

To make that a reality, Brooks outlines the work to be done at and by Butler: “Function as the backbone organization for a collective impact approach to arts education; serve as an organizer and convener for the arts education resources and organizations in Indianapolis, with an eye to identifying deficits, work to expand existing program and develop new programs to address community needs.”

When I asked what is inherent with the ‘Innovation’ rubric, Brooks pointed out that while it’s generally accepted that the arts are motivators in all fields of study, including impetus for life-long learning, the impact of the arts in other areas, such as wellness, social justice, entrepreneurship and technology, is not as globally understood. So adding ‘Innovation’ challenges Butler to bring all of its resources to the table to quantify why and how. Innovation requires full community partnership, not just arts producing and presenting organizations alone, building the concept that the arts are a way of everyday life to uplift us as individuals, families, neighbors. In every walk of life, the arts are essential to being healthier, growing a better community, having successful careers, developing better ways to do what we do for the greater good. 

Rund and Brooks point out how and why early and continuing involvement in and with all the arts impact success in social and emotional learning and foster essential skills in problem-solving, work habits, persistence, creativity, collaboration and communication.

Brooks’ strategy is to gain information for what works in other cities that have a track record of immersion in the arts at the core of living a good life as a contributing member of their larger community. National partnerships are being developed with Young Audiences and Lincoln Center Education, both headquartered in New York City; Kennedy Center and National Endowment for the Arts, both headquartered in Washington, DC, and Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, in Vienna, VA.

By starting with the role of arts in fostering quality education, it will be a natural segue for showing how the arts can empower success in every other aspect of the human condition. The goal is to bring the full scope of The Center to fruition, with full funding, by the Fall of 2021.

The essence is akin to, “It’s time to step up Indianapolis: when one of us rises, everyone rises.”  

The invitation is out for everyone to be a mover in this story, to be in the learning curve and the making of a good life across greater Indianapolis, and by extension throughout Indiana, says Rund.

“The Center basically brings us all together. I want to leave space for other ideas where the arts themselves lead us,” summarizes Brooks. Everyone has a place and a voice at the table.

Prior to her appointment as dean in November 2017, Dr. Brooks has progressed through the ranks since her first appointment with her husband, Davis, as part of Butler’s first tenure-track faculty job share in Fall 1994. This daring, innovative start now is a template for Dean Brooks, from a post as professor of violin to assistant chair of the School of Music and director of the graduate program, to chair of the School of Music to interim dean of the Jordan College of the Arts, and now dean. Throughout all this, Brooks has been a working musician in orchestras and a community educator. This, she asserts, affords her a wide and deep understanding of what can and will work to develop a unified approach for everyday life, to be uplifted with and through the arts, as part of everyone’s life.  

You have to bring your own gold dust to sprinkle on your life, says Brooks. Just starting the day with a song, a few dance steps in the kitchen, smiling at a photograph of a flower shared by a Facebook friend, joy in wearing a handcrafted muffler. The arts surround us. 

Rund offers a Pablo Picasso quote as the ultimate challenge to get involved: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Rund takes the conversation back to what is happening at the workshop on Nov. 21.

“Creative movement provides an opportunity to reach all learners,” she points out, “particularly the kinesthetic learner, in ways that allow them to process and retain information effectively and efficiently while helping to make even the most abstract concepts more concrete. In this interactive workshop, participants examine ways to enhance their teaching and deepen student knowledge and understanding of subject areas such as English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and more through engaging young learners through movement.”  

The Center is exploring “how to involve students in active learning and to support the learners’ social-emotional awareness while helping them develop body awareness, focus, and creativity.”

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