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New Teaching Artist Institute Launched by San Diego Young Audiences

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Starting August 7, a San Diego Young Audiences program, called the Teaching Artist Institute, will offer "a comprehensive, 20-week opportunity, which includes access to quality instruction from curriculum specialists renowned in their field, one-on-one coaching with mentor teaching artists and practical teaching experience in the classroom."

According to Jennifer Oliver, Education Director of Young Audiences San Diego, the training is open to students too, so long as they are "practicing artists" with some teaching experience. (Full and Partial Scholarships are available).

Art integration or teaching all disciplines through the arts, is gaining credibility in San Diego, and the Young Audiences effort here portends yet another victory for those advocating more art integration in the schools.

The San Diego Affiliate counts the County Office of Education Visual and Performing Arts Department, San Diego State University,and the Museum of Contemporary Art among its allies.Last year the San Diego chapter "served over 53,000 students with 3,500 programs at 168 schools." With the new institute, according to Ms.Oliver, they are "better positioned to offer a more comprehensive and economical program for professional artists of all genres to learn the skills necessary" to become teaching artists. Assuming the program grows as hoped, the Institute will expand the vital artist-teacher collaboration programs in all K-12 schools.

Young Audiences, as its name implies, is committed to kids ... and the arts.

According to its history, "The idea for Young Audiences began in 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland, when famed violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, played and talked with a group of children in the home of Mrs. Charles W. Collier." Mrs. Collier soon "realized other children might be drawn to similar experiences where they could meet and talk to musicians and hear them play. Shortly thereafter, she arranged for 22 chamber music concerts to take place in Baltimore elementary schools."

Today, there are 30 Young Audience affiliates in cities across the country, with 100,000 arts-in-education programs in music, theater, visual and design arts, dance, and the literary arts, with professional teaching artists in 7,000 schools and community centers annually.

There are "several network projects (involving the affiliates) that address the needs of the children and teachers in their communities" but one that seems to be developing the most as the need for teacher retraining is gathering momentum is called, "The Arts for Learning Lessons project." This effort is "designed to significantly increase student literacy by developing arts-based instructional strategies for use by elementary school teachers, grades K through 8."

Like arts integration programs popping up around the country, the key is teacher retraining, and with Young Audiences "a series of arts-integrated lessons are being created to enhance students' reading comprehension and writing to help teachers meet local and state standards. The Lessons are designed for implementation by classroom teachers and are augmented by extended residencies led by performing and visual artists."

As the Northeastern University of Illinois puts it, "It is about a methodology and a philosophical approach to education that creates a level of personal connection and added depth in the classroom through a creative inquiry-based process of teaching and learning."

This program is having remarkable success in Oregon through The Right Brian Initiative, part of the Regional Art and Culture Council, and Big Thought in Dallas Texas, which in turn helped shape Thriving Minds, a collaboration engaging the larger community in rethinking about the importance of arts and culture to foster creativity and innovation.

These and similar programs in Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Virginia, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut -- almost everywhere Young Audiences affiliates exist -- are not expensive but do require teacher retraining ... a small cost to give our kids the kind of instruction they need.