Arts Business Education Consortium of Colorado Springs
The formation of the Arts Business Education Consortium of Colorado Springs began in 1979, with a conversation between some arts leaders in a parking lot following an arts event. Their concern was the lack of arts education in area schools. A meeting followed with arts leaders, parents and school officials voicing their concerns about arts education. Two events were planned to bring educators, artists and business people together for the purpose of raising awareness of and encouraging the expansion of arts in the schools and to emphasize what is being done to encourage creativity in the arts, especially for children.
The first event was a symposium entitled “Cultural Arts Awakening Creativity” held November 1979, to recognize the “PTA Reflections” award winners (this national program was founded in Colorado Springs) and to conduct presentations, dialogue and performances for the participants. The second event was a luncheon held March 1980, entitled “Arts Business Education is Everyone’s Business”. The luncheon focused on school administrators and principals, key businessmen and parents. A local corporate President and CEO was the Master of Ceremonies. The Commissioner of Education spoke from a State Department position concerning Arts Education in Colorado and the keynoter was a national corporate leader.
Following the two events, the Arts Business Education Consortium was formed, made up of arts organization directors, school district administrators, PTA representatives, corporate representatives and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce. From this beginning grew a Partnership which continues today. The ABE Consortium is an all-volunteer group with no paid staff. The Consortium’s umbrella organization is The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation.
The purpose of ABE is Arts Advocacy, and the theme “Arts Education is Everyone’s Business” has remained the same for 31 years. The Consortium promotes the growth of cultural arts in education in the Pikes Peak Area Schools (15 districts). The Consortium brings awareness of cultural arts programs in the schools to business executives, school administrators, teachers and parents. The ABE Consortium presents special recognition awards given at an annual luncheon for innovative arts education programs, excellence in teaching and business support of arts education. The Arts Council also presents artists awards and the Chamber of Commerce gives business and corporate awards for support of the arts. This luncheon brings artists, educators and business leaders together to raise awareness and encourage expansion of Arts Education. Recognizing business involvement in Arts Education at the annual ABE luncheon has resulted in increased interest and participation in the schools.
The ABE Consortium has had an impact on state and local policy. In 1983, the Governor appointed a task force for Excellence in Education. The arts had no presence on the Committee or areas of study. Following letters sent to the Governor’s office, the ABE Consortium members, with proposal in hand, met with the Governor’s Task Force Director in November 1983, to seek inclusion of the arts in the study and in the State’s definition of Basic Education. This was accomplished and the arts were included in the May 1984 Final Report. Following the Governor’s report, the State Department of Education began, in 1984, an initiative called Operation Renaissance: Measuring Progress and appointed task force groups to identify skills, knowledge and competencies for each basic curriculum area. The ABE Consortium met with the Commissioner of Education to request that a task force for Arts Education be formed. This group was formed for the 1985-86 school year. Task force recommendations were published in a full report, and a State Fine Arts Coordinator was appointed to follow up on recommendations. The K-12 scope and sequence in arts education developed through the task force group, later became the foundation for the recently developed Colorado Arts Education Standards. The Fine Arts Coordinator position has been renewed yearly and has had a positive impact on Arts Education in Colorado.
The ABE Consortium held meetings locally with Superintendents and Principals to disseminate the task force results and generate interest in K-12 Arts Education. Over the years, this has resulted in an increase of elementary art teachers in area schools. Arts in Education week was initiated by the ABE Consortium in 1981. Hundreds of children were bused to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for arts experiences. ABE members funded artists from their arts organizations for performances and to conduct workshops for this week-long celebration. The FAC docents led the students and teachers through the experiences. This program exposed teachers and administrators to the importance of the Arts in Education. The Arts in Education week was held 1981-1985. In 1986, the event became the Kennedy Center’s Imagination Celebration. The Imagination Celebration continued to be hosted by the Fine Arts Center in 1987 and 1988. In 1989, the Pikes Peak Library became the presenting organization for the Imagination Celebration.
Meetings with school administrators generated an idea that ABE developed called Art Snippets. Funded by businesses and held at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in 1985, 1986, and recently in 1996, the program provided arts experiences for school teams made up of principals, teachers, school board members, parents and business people from each of the schools that participated. Volunteer Docents led the teams through participatory activities in the arts using local arts educators and artists. This program also informed participants of arts education opportunities and resources available in the community.
The ABE Consortium, working with the Chamber of Commerce, developed the “Corporate Closet”, a program that recycles donated material, supplies and furniture from businesses and corporations for use in local schools and nonprofit organizations.
The ABE Consortium, as a partnership, enjoys working together with a stated, focused purpose. The members are motivated by seeing the development, growth and opportunities that have occurred for students in the area schools and this seems to be enough of a reward for the continuation of a strong Consortium. The partners have a vested interest and have experienced a growth of support in their areas and wider participation by the community in the arts. Members, particularly parents, have developed leadership skills through their participation in the Consortium.
As one of the founders of ABE, I have learned that artists, arts educators, administrators and business people working alongside parents is a key factor for an all volunteer Consortium’s success in advocating for arts education. The partnership has to have a continual review of the group’s purpose in order for the Consortium to stay focused. An evaluation must be conducted of all Consortium involvement to ensure continuity over time. The result of Arts Education Advocacy efforts may not be known for years. ABE’s strength has been that it is purposely a Consortium and not an organization. The Consortium does not raise money or award its own members. Flow-chart planning and the development of strategies to make change happen are keys to successful development of ideas and accomplishment of objectives. Each partner brings a special contribution to the work of the Consortium and they need to share their efforts equitably. An effective arts advocacy effort takes many people working together. Arts advocacy is a process and the “job” is never finished.
Joyce E. Robinson
The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation
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