“Experience showed that serious art-making and reflection on those processes engaged students, gave teachers new tools, transferred interest from one subject to another, enlivened the school day, and kept students in school,” said President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell. Ellen gave the keynote address at a summit titled “Envisioning Arts Education in Vermont,” hosted by the Vermont Arts Council (VAC) on September 11, at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.
This VAC summit gathered 100 leaders in the arts, education, and business communities, with the goal of identifying a series of priorities and strategies to ensure that Vermont students have the opportunity to develop their creative abilities and critical thinking. This conversation comes at a crucial time when Vermont has experienced several key developments, including a new secretary of education, new Common Core Standards, a set of National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, and other changes. The summit of key stakeholders produced a shared call to action and identified priorities that the state can work towards achieving in an intentional way.
In her keynote address, Ellen related some of her own experiences proposing and promoting arts policy in Vermont and nationally. These included working for VAC fresh out of college, founding the Governor’s Institutes, which began with the arts, directing President Clinton’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and of course leading a liberal arts college. She also gave a timeline of several other milestones in the development of arts education, from Lyndon Johnson’s signing the National Endowment for the Arts into law in 1965 to recent studies critiquing the effects of No Child Left Behind on the arts.
“Think of the potential of each child and ask yourself: why haven’t we acted on this overwhelming and eloquent evidence? No one should be deprived of the means for an expressive life,” said Ellen. “The gifts of imagination, of empathy, and stretching beyond ourselves, may be the greatest gifts we can give our children.”