Moving forward with the arts

Government, education and art leaders in the community came together Thursday to answer one question about arts in the schools: What’s next for Juneau?

Alaska’s capital is the only city in the state that’s part of Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child, a program out of the Kennedy Center that focuses on expanding arts education in schools in an equitable manner. It requires a community-wide effort, and because of changing roles in the community these past few years from mayor to superintendent, it was time for a realignment.

“Part of the reason for the reconvening here is that we did go through a period of a lot of transition,” said Ted Wilson, the Juneau School District director of teaching and learning support. “A lot of people who had been on the past leadership team have moved on and other people have come forward. We’re at that point of organizing where it’s time to reenergize the Any Given Child community because we know there are elements in the community that aren’t as integrated as we had hoped.”

The Any Given Child program requires an effort or backing by city officials and businesses as schools and the arts community work together, Wilson explained. With a new mayor in office since the first Community Arts Team (CAT) convened in 2013 — and the potential for another mayor to take over in two months — and a new superintendent, new introductions were required.

Part of that introduction included Deborah Brzoska, a Kennedy Center teaching artist. Brzoska worked with the original CAT team in 2013. During her trip this week to Juneau, Brzoska led a workshop in arts integration strategies for teachers and took part in a luncheon with Gov. Bill Walker and school principals.

Brzoska also me with old leaders and said hello to new ones during the CAT meeting, helping them focus on what their singular purpose was in the grander scheme.

Those in attendance — mayor Mary Becker, mayoral-hopeful Karen Crane, JSD superintendent Mark Miller, school board president Brian Holst, to name a few — took part in an activity where they examined schools of fish and described what they observed.

Words and phrases such as “better together,” “momentum” and “diverse” came to mind during the exercise, and Brzoska explained to the room that was how everyone in the community had to see the future of arts — as something that improved when people worked together. Brzoska called it a “collective impact.”

Jayson Smart, a senior program officer with the Rasmuson Foundation, was also in attendance to lend support to the community-wide effort to reenergize the arts initiative in Juneau. However, he noted that Juneau is already an example to the state of successful integration.

“Communities that put arts education at their core are better off,” Smart said. “They have better economies when they share a vision for the community and … Juneau is a state model for arts integration in the community.”

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