Notes from Three Meetings at the end of 2016

We finished 2016 with a small flurry of meetings. This post will recap the Arts Education Policy Roundtable meeting on November 4 with Donn Harris, the Arts Education Brown Bag Lunch on November 16, and the Roundtable meeting on December 2, where we came up with feedback for Donn Harris and compiled ideas collected at the Brown Bag. 

November 4 Arts Education Policy Roundtable

At the November 4 Arts Education Policy Roundtable, Donn Harris told us all about plans for the SFUSD Arts Center (much of which you can read in his blog post here). He also talked about plans to turn the property at 170 Fell into institute for arts education. The specific activities which will happen at this institute will be decided after input from the community. Harris has not yet informed us about the process for community input or about the task force he has convened, so at the December 2 Roundtable, our members brainstormed some ideas for the arts center (see below).

Harris continued the meeting by answering a range of questions.

Donn Harris reports that the SFUSD has convened a subcommittee on arts integration and created online resources. The committee is pretty large (20 folks), not all from district. If you’re in middle school, there is a 1 in 4 chance that you’re not getting access to arts due to your ELL/SPED/etc, so they plan on using arts integration in ELL classes to get creativity going. There will be lots of issues to work through and Harris doesn't want to "wait for perfect." One role of the art center will be to serve as a HUB for teacher training.


On November 16, the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area was the featured guest at the Arts Education Brown Bag lunch. The Arts Ed brown bag is a bimonthly event held at the main branch of the SF Public Library. Each meeting features a presentation about an arts education program with time for discussion. This time, Todd Berman, Michelle Holdt, and Liz Ozol gave a presentation about AEABA. Since we are a member-driven organization, we used this opportunity to have a little focus group about the needs of the arts education community in the bay area.

We asked “What does a thriving arts education ecosystem look like?” Answers included: “Work across disciplines,” “strong partnerships,” “We need it to be an ecosystem,” “accessibility across class,” “transportation,” and “demanding respect for what art offers.”

We asked about, “How can we preach beyond the choir?” Answers included, “Talk with data and story of impact, spotlighting what happens when there is hi quality arts education.” Share resources like the “Arts is the Root” video with parents and share data with administrations. Some places have funding for art but are not making the most of it - they are just “checking off the art box” and moving on without realizing what art can really do for education. We also learned more about the advocacy work of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts - joining school board committees, using art to address school climate, going to PTA meetings, learning how to get art in a school sites budget.

We finished by asking, “What are the biggest challenges facing arts education organizations?” We didn’t have time left for a full discussion, so attendees each answered on a piece of paper which we collected at the end (see below).

December 2 Arts Education Policy Roundtable

This graph shows how many students have access to the arts in San Francisco public high schools and middle schools. We noticed that some public charter schools have little or no arts available to their students. Click on the image to explore statistics from across the state or for any individual school in California.

On December 2, we had another Policy Roundtable where we reviewed Create/CA's arts education data then split into two groups to discuss the arts education challenges collected at the November 16 brown bag meeting and to brainstorm ideas for the SFUSD arts center.

Our own arts center task force

Since we have yet to learn about the district's task force or public comment process, we went ahead and held our own task force to come up with recommendations for any future arts center. 

As you can see, our members have many ideas for a new arts education center. One idea that received unanimous support is that there should be a, "commitment to starting programming now." It will be years before there's even a chance of breaking ground on new buildings, but the need for more robust arts education in the district is here now. 

Arts Education Challenges

On November 16, we collected lists of the "biggest challenges in arts education," and on December 2, several members mapped those lists for us. The most popular answers are starred:

  • Funding!
  • Shortage of availability of good teaching artists.
  • Elitism and classism in the arts; how do we make all art accessible to all students?
  • Improving arts through data. Look at Ingenuity's efforts in Chicago.

All of the ideas on this list will help the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area set priorities for the new year and beyond.