Maryland State Arts Council
In 1923, a 48-foot Balsam fir was erected by the District of Columbia Public Schools to the south of the White House. The tree was decorated, lit, and named the “National Christmas Tree.” Though the trees have varied, the National Christmas Tree still stands, 94 years later. Surrounding the National Christmas Tree is the America Celebrates display where smaller evergreen trees are decorated with handmade ornaments to represent the unique history, culture, and heritage of each of the nation’s 56 states and territories.
This year, the Maryland State Arts Council selected YA roster artist Katherine Dilworth to design the ornaments for the Maryland state tree for the America Celebrates display. The artist has been integrating fabrics and felted fibers into her art for more than 20 years. Her work is shown in galleries throughout the U.S. and was included in two books. In her school residencies, Katherine teaches students how to sculpt loose wool into solid shapes and colorful, textured murals. For this project, however, her materials were quite different.
The artist worked with Ewell Elementary School students on Smith Island to make the ornaments for the 2017 Maryland state tree. Smith Island, Maryland’s only inhabited Chesapeake Bay Island, has about 250 residents and can only be reached by boat. Ewell, the largest of the communities on Smith, is home to the island’s sole elementary school (the K-7 Ewell Elementary School serves a total of 11 students).
The Chesapeake Bay is integral to the lives of the island’s inhabitants where watermen collect fish and shellfish, like oysters and Blue crabs from its waters. Katherine chose to craft the ornaments from oyster shells to bring attention to the Bay’s endangered species. “I wanted to highlight the Chesapeake Bay on the Maryland tree, particularly focusing on animals and plants that have been threatened or endangered,” said the artist. She and the students looked at animals like the American Bald Eagle, once threatened by human behavior, but whose populations have since been revitalized.
“I contacted the Ewell Elementary School on Smith Island because the kids there would have an intimate knowledge of life on the bay,” Katherine explained. The students painted the smooth, concave surfaces of the sea creatures’ shells with wildlife native to the region: Baltimore checkerspot butterflies, Blue crabs, Seagulls, Geese, Rockfish, and of course, oysters. The decorated mollusks awash in the blues of the Chesapeake hang proudly on the Maryland State tree this year, reminding us of our relationship with the natural world and representing a way of life only found in Maryland.
The America Celebrates display is free and open to visitors throughout the month. Learn about last year’s ornaments here.
Katherine Dilworth introduces students to the centuries-old art form of felting. Learn how you can bring her programs into your school today by visiting her artist page.
Teaching artists are expertly trained to deliver and coordinate unique, age-appropriate, and high-quality lessons alongside classroom teachers at the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI). The program is a partnership between Young Audiences, the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS), and the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) that turns professional artists into teaching artists and offers experienced teaching artists new strategies for everything from classroom management to designing artist-in-residence lessons.
“You might find yourself ‘shocked’ at how much electricity comes from the marriage of art and education!”
The positive effects of arts-integrated curricula in individual classrooms, and on teachers, students, and families are numerous and extraordinary. Teaching core subjects through the arts can increase student engagement and understanding. It can direct a classroom culture toward tolerance and empathy and it can even rejuvenate teachers and bring joy and anticipation to the faculty!
“Through its audacity, its abstractions, its “aliveness,” art activates parts of the brain that any teacher or employer should want to turn on,” notes Drew Anderson, a veteran school teacher and YA roster artist. “You might find yourself “shocked” at how much electricity comes from the marriage of art and education!”
Teachers, families, and artists of all ages got a small taste of several teaching artists’ lessons during an afternoon at Southwest Baltimore Charter School. Participants spent their time exploring new skills and practicing old ones with: Performing artist and YA roster artist, Drew Anderson; Illustrator and new YA roster artist, Maura Dwyer; Illustrator, animal rescuer and new YA roster artist, Brittany Roger; Actor, Michael Hartwell; Actor, Tori Bertocci; Actor, Dave LaSalle; Actor, Cori Daniel; and Ceramicist and new YA roster artist, Mama Sallah.
They sculpted clay, interpreted music through movement and acting, sketched and learned about reptiles with a live chameleon, created collage utilizing different design elements, and learned awesome animal facts through improvisational theatre. One young participant was overheard telling her friend about Cori Daniel’s acting workshop, “It was so cool! We told stories with Ms. Cori without actually saying any words!” We can’t wait to hear about the wonderful classroom experiences and learning opportunities these teaching artists help to create!
TAI is proud to be helping build a community of artists, teachers, and leaders who are committed to transforming education through the arts. Artists interested in designing lesson plans or teaching artist-in-residence programs should apply to this rigorous and renowned program. There are many things about TAI that make this professional development course unlike any other including mentorship from a designated teacher partner and from a master teaching artist in your art form. Not to mention, graduates of TAI have the opportunity to be considered for both the Maryland State Arts Council Artist in Residence Roster, and the Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Teaching Artist Roster!
For more than 40 years, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) has supported artists and arts organizations in their pursuit of artistic excellence, ensured the accessibility of the arts to all citizens, and promoted statewide awareness of arts resources and opportunities. Due to the MSAC’s support of both regional and statewide arts organizations, the arts community in Maryland is thriving. We are so proud to be a part of this community, and are grateful for the leadership of the MSAC.
As our single largest funder, the MSAC has helped Young Audiences provide high-quality arts experiences to hundreds of thousands of children across the state of Maryland, many of whom otherwise would not have had such experiences. It has also supported our work to offer exceptional artists the employment opportunities and salaries they deserve, and to underwrite costs for schools with limited resources through its Arts in Education Programs. In partnership with Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS) Alliance, the MSAC also supports professional development for teaching artists through the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), Maryland’s only state-wide artist training program that is made possible by the partnership of Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, MSAC, and Young Audiences.
“The MSAC has chosen to partner with Young Audiences,” writes Theresa M. Colvin, Executive Director, “as they are uniquely qualified to carry out this important work because of their unwavering commitment to artistic excellence, their long-standing reputation across the state, and their tireless commitment to securing funding for underserved communities.”
The MSAC’s partnership with Young Audiences spans decades, and the impact is astounding. In the past 10 years, the MSAC has doubled its support, allowing Young Audiences to expand its number of services from 1,798 in 2004 to 12,509 in 2014–a 596% increase! We are proud to share the MSAC’s goal of investing in the arts across the state of Maryland, and are grateful for its continued support.
Student access to regular arts instruction and enrichment has greatly declined in the last 10 years. Help us change this by becoming an advocate for the arts today!
Help us keep Maryland’s arts community as vibrant as possible by becoming an advocate for the arts today! The MSAC not only supports Young Audiences in bringing the arts to thousands of students each year, but also ensures that the arts are accessible to all citizens in Maryland.
In a recent blog post for the Washington Post, Alvin Crawford, CEO of Knowledge Delivery Systems, addresses fundamental issues with the current professional development offerings for educators. He cites a 2009 report which found that “when asked about their experience in professional development, ‘most teachers reported that it was totally useless.’” The substantial financial investment the U.S. makes in teacher development ($2.5 billion in 2012 according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) is not meeting the needs of many teachers, or in turn, students.
The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), did not set out to be a teacher professional development program, but as the program starts its eighth year this fall, it is clear that it is succeeding where many traditional professional development workshops are not. TAI also has gained attention for how it provides teachers with creative and natural tools for implementing Maryland’s Common Core College and Career-Ready Standards through the arts.
TAI is a statewide program made possible through the partnership of the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, the Maryland State Arts Council, and Young Audiences/Arts for Learning. It was founded to train teaching artists to create curriculum-aligned arts programs for classrooms. Since its start in 2007, the program has graduated more than 110 artists and has repositioned the role of artists in education in Maryland. Teaching artists were once perceived as performers—able to entertain, and perhaps share another culture with students—but they were a distraction from the school day, a break from the classroom. Through TAI, artists have demonstrated the value they bring to the classroom as educators.
TAI-trained artists are critical partners to teachers of any subject, using their art form to creatively address the ever-changing curriculum and standards to which teachers are held accountable. TAI fosters partnerships between teaching artists and teachers, requiring artists to collaboratively plan and teach with an assigned teacher. Through this collaboration, teachers experience the gifts a teaching artist brings to the classroom and learn how the arts can be used to engage children in learning. While TAI was not created for teachers, teachers report it improves their own practice of arts integration and reinvigorates their passion for teaching.
In his post, Mr. Crawford shares what teacher professional development needs to entail to be effective for teachers and to positively impact student achievement:
Teacher development studies…have shown over and over again that simply exposing a teacher to a new concept or skill has little to no classroom impact because most professional development opportunities for educators are still lecture style – telling, showing, and explaining how something can be done.
And when the “learning” is finished, we push teachers back into the choppy waters of their classrooms without so much as a life preserver; they’re given very little or ineffective ongoing support from their district.
To be transformative, strategic professional development needs to be 50 hours or more plus less formal and ongoing interaction and peer engagement to refine skills and model successes. It must also be tailored by subject, grade level and type of student.
By developing an effective training program for artists, TAI has also grown to offer a professional development opportunity for teachers which fits Mr. Crawford’s definition of “transformative.” The 70-hour TAI Seminar begins with a three-day workshop, which includes sessions led by master teaching artists and opportunities for participants to develop and share their knowledge in small groups. Pairs of artists and teachers then work independently during the course of several months to co-create an arts residency program which integrates the artist’s expertise with the curriculum and to test and refine their new program by piloting it with students in the teacher’s classroom.
While TAI was not designed to address the teaching practice of educators, it continues to build a community of impassioned artists and teachers who want to work together to transform teaching and learning through the arts.
Learn more about the TAI program and see photos from the 2014-2015 TAI Seminar. Listen and read recent reporting by WYPR, Maryland’s public radio station, on how TAI teacher and artist participants are creatively addressing Common Core through the arts: Meshing Common Core and Arts Standards and Arts and Common Core—a Natural Fit.
By Danyett Tucker, Young Audiences illustrator and Artist Associate
During my recent mural residency program at Hamilton Elementary/Middle, students celebrated their community by remodeling Main Street and adding their own businesses. Social awareness symbols are sprinkled throughout their fantasy blueprint which now proudly covers their lunchroom wall.
I began by taking photos of well-known businesses in the area so that students could work on designs to upgrade their neighborhood. They decided what businesses they would like to add and represented those with related symbols. In class, we listened to a socially-conscious soundtrack and used some of the lyrics as inspiration to include messages that would uplift the community.
The students created all of the drawings and then I collaged their individual efforts together to create the scene. Together, we painted for days on end! During the course of six more workshops with me, and several additional sessions led by my teacher partner Ms. Friedman, this mural came to life. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade art classes all contributed to the piece.
Ms. Friedman worked tirelessly on the mural panels outside of our workshops in the classroom. Since Ms. Friedman is retiring at the end of this school year, we included a student drawing of her in the finished mural.
Ms. Freidman shared: “I love, love, love the mural! Everywhere I look, I see something new! Students and parents went down to see the finished piece after a recent school concert and the building’s custodians finally had to chase them out because they were so caught up in it.”
It was an awesome experience!
This residency was made possible through a Maryland State Arts Council Arts in Education Artist-in-Residence Grant. Learn more about how Young Audiences can assist your school or community organization in applying for this and other grant funding opportunities online.