Tag Archives: Arts Integration

Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011) and the Merits of Artistic Expression

I recall watching Amy Winehouse perform during the GRAMMY awards in 2008, and I watched her get showered with awards and accolades shortly thereafter (5 GRAMMYS that evening). There were 2 things that were plainly obvious to those inside and outside of the recording industry that night: 1) This is an immensely talented performer with enormous upside potential 2) Winehouse was on a dangerous path and perhaps the tip of a downward spiral, given her problems with addiction and the underlying emotional issues that all too often derail the careers of emerging artists. I couldn’t help think that there was something terribly afoul and enabling with the idea of heaping praise on a woman in such peril after she declared in song, “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no, no.”

We speak of the power and merits of artistic expression in this forum a great deal, but the story of Amy Winehouse is a cautionary tale. Exposing children to music and the arts provides a valuable outlet for their emotions, and is a tool in teaching them to live productive and healthy lives – but it’s just a start. It’s important to realize and acknowledge its limitations as well. I’m no expert, but I think it’s safe to say that Winehouse’s underlying issues could not be resolved by a piano, guitar, or microphone.

I’ve spoken to music therapy experts, and they’ve echoed these sentiments as well. We must be realistic and practical in espousing the power and benefits of music and music education. Those who oversell its potential provide ammunition for the skeptics and sabotage the scientific advances made by the true practitioners of music and sound therapy, arts integration, and arts education in general.

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Arts Integration at the Louisiana Cultural Economy Summit

classroom girl 1-5 x 2-25I attended the Louisiana Cultural Economy Summit on Friday, an effort driven primarily by Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu and his staff to support culture and the arts in a more deliberate manner as an economic driver in our state. A few observations:

– We support and pursue businesses in manufacturing, chemical, and technology companies through a variety of incentives. A study indicates that 144,000 jobs come from the state’s cultural economy. Nice to see that we are beginning to recognize the importance of those jobs and industries and supporting them in kind (through historic preservation, legislation for arts in the schools, and tax credits for film, television, and theater production).

– With respect to the arts, Mitch Landrieu’s indicated that “You’ve got to show up” to make a difference, referring to the fact that legislators have to choose between various worthwhile programs and if you don’t speak out, they’ll appropriate the money elsewhere. Mitch indicated that when roughly 90% of the arts budget in the schools was put on the chopping block recently, he and his staff rallied support from the arts community and its advocates around the state. Within 3 hours, they had generated e-mails from 80,000 people and delivered them to the appropriations committee. They changed their tune.

– Regardless of where you stand politically, Mitch Landrieu should be applauded on 2 fronts:
Number 1 – It’s sometimes difficult to measure what gains are realized when people get together to discuss issues at conferences of this nature. The first step in that process however, is recognizing the importance of the issues. It’s encouraging that Mitch is putting the importance of arts and culture on the front-burner rather than the traditional approach of hoping that those industries prosper organically.

Number 2 – For a position (Lt. Governor) that traditionally has been considered somewhat benign in Louisiana politics, Mitch is making the office seem much more relevant.

– I attended the panel on arts integration in the schools, one of the most encouraging and enlightening experiences I’ve had recently related to the arts. The following panelists should be applauded for their efforts:

Sarah Cunningham – National Endowment of the Arts
Rosalynn Wade – Oklahoma A+ Schools
Kathy Riedlinger – Lusher Charter School
Cissy Whipp – J. Wallace James Elementary School for Arts and Technology
Judi Holifield – Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Initiative
Carl Day – Laurel High School Whole Schools Initiative

Ms. Riedlinger said that when other school administrators ask how she can prepare her students for the LEAP tests with Arts in the curriculum, she replies, “How can you prepare your students for the tests without Arts in the curriculum.”

Amen.

These progressive and dedicated educators are demonstrating that arts in the schools are the catalyst for student achievement, not a hindrance.

– In Louisiana, Act 175 requires public schools to develop, adopt, and implement a visual and performing arts curriculum by the 2010 school year. While the program has challenges, a pilot program of 6 fully integrated arts schools will demonstrate success stories and provide a model for other schools to follow. Hats off the Richard Baker, Jr., Fine Arts Program Director for the Louisiana Department of Education for his efforts in moving that initiative forward.

To learn more about LA Act 175, you can view a lecture by Mr. Baker at ArtistsHouseMusic.org