The Medium is the Massage: McLuhan Was Right

MediumIsTheMessageCover1-244x400In the classic text by McLuhan we are introduced to the idea that the medium with which we chose to communicate limits what can be communicated. In the same way that your method of transportation limits where you can travel and how long it take to get there, your method of communication limits what you can say and how long it takes to communicate the idea.

Another reason why our children require performing arts education is that it teaches different kids of communication skills.

Ken Robinson argues that the arts are just as important as math and English because the arts speak to aspects of a child’s being that are “otherwise left untouched.”

This is true.

And, I will add that arts education is important because it teaches aspects of communication that are otherwise neglected.

Not every aspect of being a human being can be expressed in mathematics or an adept command of spoken/written language.

There are portions of our being, of our imagination that can only be expressed or developed within the language of imagination. Through the language of acting, singing, dance, music; through these art forms one learns the language of imagination.

Well, that’s great, Louis, but so what?

Good question!

When we look at the “real world” — that world that we will pretend exists outside of the arts, we see any number of places where the language imagination is critical.

Here are two examples:

Medicine:
The language of science and imagination come together regularly in the field of medicine. In discovering a new cure for a deadly disease, in discovering a new procedure that gives comfort or saves lives; in the creation of new methods of treatments — all great break throughs in medicine represent a discovery that begin within the language of imagination before they were translated and expanded upon within the language of science.

Inventor/Start-up/Founder
People who invent new technology, write new software, found new companies, all exist within the language of imagination. When one first conceives of something that does not currently exist, this idea is existing fully in imagination. It is through the creation of stories that one brings their idea into the world of reality. Whether one is translating the language of imagination into computer code, a mechanical devices or a business plan, one begins in imagination.

What about a stock broker?
What about a physicist?
What about a lawyer?
What about a teacher?
What about a realtor?
What about a military service person?

How many more examples can you think of where the language of imagination is important? Share them with us on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

Louis Stone-Collonge
Founder and President
The Audacity Performing Arts Project, Inc.

How is Arts Education like Cholera?

Lately, as anyone who knows me will know, I have spent a lot of time thinking about children who go to school in neighborhoods where they fear being shot or harmed in some way.

It strikes me that we don’t need to cure social problems that create these situations.

In this case, it’s like thinking of cholera. You don’t need to cure the disease, you need to clean the water.  With clean water, the disease, for all practical purposes, goes away.

What Audacity is doing in the schools we serve is like cleaning water.  Children don’t need life handed to them on a platter. Children can solve most of their own issues, if we let them.  These children need clean water; they need hope.

Participatory arts education allows children to stretch those parts of their being left untouched by teaching to tests and the exclusive focus on language, math and science.

Creativity and imagination are what allow our children to imagine and create a better future. This is where hope comes from.

In the same way that clean water gives life, imagination give hope.  For our children, hope is life.

Visit Audacity’s GoFundMe page to learn how you can make a difference: www.gofundme.com/audacityPerfArts

Louis Stone-Collonge
President and Founder

Reflections Inspired by “We’re All Art Teachers”

On a personal level, I founded The Audacity Performing Arts Project knowing there are massive benefits to having young people participate in performing arts education.

audacityMay2015Growing up in less than healthy family, theatre provided one of the few positive experiences my father I shared. During a very troubled time of my young adulthood, theater provided an anchor.

Today, I have been working in youth theatre for the past 9 years; I have see how the experience changes children — allows them to change — in very positive ways.

When asking for money or trying to explain why performing arts education and participation is important, I have found it nearly impossible to avoid citing statistics that seem to reduce children are objects. We are talking here about human beings. Not one child is the same as the next. Not one child will follow the same path as others. And, yet,we know that no one can survive without imagination and hope.

The fact may be that we will never be able to truly quantify the impact of performing arts education and participation.

How do you talk about or, in my case as the president of a company, sell the benefits of performing arts education without offering some sort of quantifiable outcome?

The question that causes a great deal of anxiety is “How do I convince people to support a project where the ‘real’ benefits to the people we serve (children) may be impossible to quantify?”

Last month there was a drive by shooting across the street from one of the schools where Audacity serves.The five young men arrested were 17, 17, 16, 16 and 14. It is clear that hope to these young men was participating in activities that lead to a 20 year old being killed and a 3 month old growing up without a father.

audacityMay2015-2

To me, there is a direct and personal connection to these teens facing 25 years to life in prison and the 6, 7 and, 8 year olds we work with across the street. There is a direct connection between the smiles and hugs and the complete failure of our society to take care of those teens. After all, 7-10 years ago, they were smiles and hugs in someone’s first grade class.

When you invest in children, in their creativity, in their imagination, in those aspects of their personhood that are untouched by other disciplines, you help unleash their natural ability to discover hope. And, it is hope that guides a person to invest in a future where violence and prison are unnecessary.

Many years ago, the young men who participated in the recent shooting, were left to find hope for a better life/existence where ever they could. Their imaginations were not nurtured, their natural creativity was not guided to something bright and hopeful.

For me, the hugs of these young people suggest we are offering something more than theater games and silly acting projects. We are unleashing hope in a neighborhood that could use it. It is possible we are making a difference in the real lives of children.

How the hell do you quantify that in a number?

It is a balancing act in being able to offer donors a concrete reason to support a program like Audacity while making sure not to lose site of the “big why” (raison d’etre) and, focus on the basic humanity of a child.

I strongly desire to improve at this, the article below has reminded me to try harder because the children for whom we sit in trust as members of The Audacity Performing Arts Project are worth the effort.

Louis Stone-Collonge
Founder and President
The Audacity Performing Arts Project, Inc.

We’re All Art Teachers:  http://educationnext.org/art-teachers/

The rhetoric of “college and career ready,” for good or ill, has taken over our educational moment. Education is defined as preparation, its purpose tied to an abstract future time. This implies (if taken most sinisterly) that if a child doesn’t end up in college or something we consider a career right away, the whole endeavor was pointless. We don’t talk much about “education for education’s sake” anymore. In an increasingly competitive world, this may be the way to go. This mind-set, however, leaves little room for activities that are educationally, but not measurably, valuable.

We’re all arts teachers in the sense that we all help children to find their voices and discover who they are.

Education is a gift we give to our children. We can wrap it up as math, science, reading, or art, but the important thing isn’t what we give them. It’s what they do with it. Arts education enables children to develop into who they really are; it’s the key that opens kids’ minds and makes the rest of the stuff possible.

Benefit#3 for children participating in performing art: Leadership

Leadership is one of those elusive things that is hard to define, but in children, its magical.

When given responsibility for a part in a production (acting, light crew, stage crew, etc.), children will rise to the occasion.

When things go wrong or simply during the normal course of a production, children will naturally work together to solve problems, take initiative and get things done.  Whether a child is the lead in the play or a member of the third spear carrier in the back row, they are ALL involved in the project of participating in leadership.

They never know it, but what they are learning is leadership.

If there is a singular skill that is required for our future, it is creative leadership.

Benefit#2 for children participating in performing art: Ownership

medea-castProducing a play is always a chaotic process with many pieces coming together at the last minute.

When one watches one of our productions, it is hard to see the completed vision, but the children know because they own it.

When the night comes, when the house lights go off, when the room is filled with more than 100 people, when the stage lights up and the music plays, the children own the show. They own their parts, they own the story, they own the music – they own the show. And, they feel it. (more…)