Chatham Conversations

Even before I heard Barbara Shepherd of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education speak last March at North Carolina’s  NC: The State of the Arts Conference, I’ve been eager for our community to undertake their Community Audit for Arts Education. [I know, you’ve heard me saying this for two years!] It’s a great assessment tool to examine strengths and needs. Most importantly, it incorporates information not only from a school system, but from all those that have a stake in, or provide, arts education activities—arts organizations, community arts leaders, local artists, families, afterschool programs, summer camps, child care providers, recreation departments, civic and business community members, etc. One of the comments Ms. Shepherd made in Raleigh was that, even in bad economic climates, it can be possible for people to come together for discussions. Civic and business members may not have money to contribute, but they can contribute time.

NAHM_2007_logoEvery October Americans for the Arts celebrates National Arts and Humanities Month. One of the activities they promote is called Creative Conversations. Here’s how their website describes them:  “Creative Conversations are local gatherings of emerging leaders in communities across the country and are part of a grassroots movement to elevate the profile of arts in America during National Arts & Humanities Month every October. Started in 2004, some of these local convenings have grown into cohesive, organized emerging leader networks. This local tool empowers emerging leaders to take a leadership role in their own community by both designing programming and galvanizing their peers to connect professionally.”

Doesn’t that sound like the perfect opportunity for us in Chatham County?  Our school system covers such a large geographic area that many involved in arts education rarely see each other and may never have met. When resources are limited, collaboration can be a valuable strategy to make real progress, plan for the future, and provide the best arts education opportunities for our students.

Take a look at the Community Audit along with feedback from other communities that have used this tool.

What do you think?  Are you interested? Who would you invite?

Let’s have a conversation!

[To join another conversation of sorts, check out next week’s Americans for the  Arts ArtsBlog which will be devoted to Arts Education with two dozen national arts education experts contributing.]