Friday, October 29, 2010

Remember that presentation I was doing?

Well, yesterday I presented it at the ICFAD conference here in Sunny Sarasota.  Aside from one blustery Dean from an unnamed school, it was very well received!  There is a growing sense that the way we've been designing curricula in the the Higher Ed Arts is becoming less and less relevant, and that we've got to come up with ways to develop the following skills- This is the skill set I came up with during my research.  Here's my full presentation (You may need to download it and open it with Adobe.  Google docs is experiencing a bit of the snark tonight)

Here's the conclusion I reached:

Based on this research and recent news items, we need to turn out
artists with the following skill set:
 The ability to make their art connect with today’s adult ticket buyer
 Critical Thinking skills to evaluate how and why to make the arts relevant to today’s
 Speaking Skills to articulate why they are passionate enough to dedicate their life
to their art
 Writing Skills to communicate via internet and social media to their current and
potential audiences
 The ability to communicate visually. (Museums’ attendance is up! People like ideas
communicated visually)
 Entrepreneurial skills
 Community Engagement Skills to embed art in every part of our society
 Business skills to run and/or participate in a start up Chamber Ensemble/Theatre
Company/Artist Collective/Dance Company (501c3, or hybrid other)
 The ability to translate their highly skilled art form into something an amateur can
understand and appreciate
 The ability to teach adult learners
 The ability to research and advocate for their art
 Cultural Sensitivity to understand how the arts fits into different cultures in the US

I then provided 6 curricula in undergraduate music performance to show that there WAS room for more course work and that some schools ARE doing just that: Cornish, Longy and Berklee.  Some are not.

But I got some GREAT ideas-  How can we incorporate and teach these skills in OUR CURRENT classes?  We do NOT have to reinvent the wheel, but we do have to teach our students skills that will help them thrive in the current arts environment and create the future.  We cannot continue to teach only what we WERE taught, because faculty do not want to change or because this stuff is hard.  It SHOULD be hard.  If it weren't everyone would do it.

There are some terrific solutions to this issue out there.  Cross listing courses with different schools in the university to open up arts for business majors and business for arts majors.  Some schools (UConn, Case Western) have begun partnerships with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and are having Business students produce the concerts of student led orchestras as an exercise in marketing and branding.

There is a very real sense here at this conference that we are poised as deans and Asst/Assoc deans of arts schools to do this work, that we are uniquely suited to taking this on.  I agree, but we may need some help getting out of our own way first.

1 comment:

Paul Botts said...

Your first three items, and a couple of others, actually sum up into the entrepreneurial-skills category. Any venture capitalist who makes a living deciding which new-business ideas to invest in would say the same.

The one item on there that actually I don't particularly agree with is the "business skills" one, since the really relevant aspects of that catch-all are already covered. (The ones I just referenced above.) A performing artist who can think critically, connect with customers and communicate well can do great in the real world without wasting class time on stuff like business administration. There's actually nothing mystical about the actual mechanics of running and enterprise (for-profit or not-for-profit).

In place of "business skills" I might list something like "comfort with numbers", which absolutely is a critical core competency in the real world.

All that said, if conservatories were teaching the things you describe then they would be, and could convince tuition-paying parents that they were, teaching truly transferable skills. Parents might then respond like the minority parents of aspiring young naturalists do: when they think the proposed summer internship is all about hugging trees, mom and dad roll their eyes and resist. When it's explained that the internship explores all the aspects of the modern professionalized conservation movement -- the lawyering and the marketing and the researching and the administering as well as the field ecology -- they get much more enthused about Junior pursuing that path.