“What the arts teach is innovation and the ability to combine things that are otherwise disparate. And that’s the stuff of genius.” John Frohnmayer, Former Chair of the NEA
On November 9th, the Wednesday morning after the election, I walked in to observe one of my mentees teach his 6th grade drama class. I went to shake his hand but he hugged me and started crying. He was at a loss for what to teach. He asked me to help. So I led a process drama through the lens of patriotism. Students explored concepts, did the mannequin challenge in pairs and then developed scenes. The scenes needed to have one moment of conflict. By going through this process, the students were able to express their emotions about election night and then find a solution as a group to help navigate their frustrations. Students left the room more open and ready to talk. They also left the room with ideas of how they can make a difference in their school, community, and city. They began writing plays, designing posters, and sharing speeches about human rights.
This happened because the arts awakened a sense of belonging and a sense of power in the minds of young people. We need art now, more than ever. Our young people are directly impacted by the current political climate and many are experiencing fear and frustration. They need avenues for self-exploration and a sense of ownership and power over their own education. As the new Executive Director of Arts Corps, I pledge to continue to work diligently with young people in their schools, school districts, and communities. I pledge to continue to unlock the creative power of youth and embrace arts education as a medium for social change. Our Creative Schools Initiative increases growth mindset and academic performance for students in the Highline School district. Our Hip Hop Artist Residency provides pathways to music production and vocal production for teens throughout Seattle. Our Youth Speaks Seattle program empowers young people to find their voice, take action and stand up for their beliefs.
Arts Corps knows the arts will bring us the next generation of leaders. Leaders that will help shape a future that is more equitable and just for all students. Arts Corps knows the power of the arts. We believe it. We see it. We need it.
No matter what, we gonna Make Art Anyway.
James Miles is the Executive Director of Arts Corps. A Master Teaching Artist who has worked in arts education for 20 years, he has facilitated workshops and designed curriculum for the New Victory Theater, Roundabout Theatre, Disney Theatrical Group, Theatre for a New Audience, Center of Arts Education, Lincoln Center Education, and (Out)Laws & Justice. He is on the Board of Directors for the Association of Teaching Artists and the Teaching Artist Journal. He has worked as an actor, an accountant, comedian, and a model. He can be frequently found on Twitter, as @fresh_professor, writing about arts education, educational policy, and academic inequity.