Engaging The Local Arts Community
The National Education and the Arts Statement encourages teachers and local arts communities to strengthen their relationships to promote a strong arts presence in schools. They state:
Working constructively with Australia's thriving arts and cultural sector helps build creative and sustainable communities. Connections and collaborations between artists, creative organisations, teachers, schools and educational institutions must be strengthened to allow all students to realise their full creative potential. (National Education and the Arts Statement 2008, p.8)
A combination of informal and formal approaches will assist you and your school in drawing upon the expertise of your local arts communities who will have groups engaged in a full range of creative arts disciplines. An excellent opportunity to connect exists through community-based festivals, which brings arts practitioners and performing artists together and can be a great way for teachers to gain knowledge of their local arts community. Informal relationships often underpin the teacher/community relationship, and teachers draw upon their artistic colleagues and friends to help with arts implementation within their classrooms. The use of parent volunteers is another example of this informal approach.
More formal programs also help connect artists to schools through small funding grant programs. Guidelines are available for teachers and schools planning to utilise such programs within their schools. An example is the Artist in Schools (AiS) program. The purpose of the AiS, such as that in the Northern Territory, is generally described as follows:
The aim of the Artists in Schools (AiS) Program is to provide students, teachers, parents and the wider community with first-hand opportunities to work with professional artists over a period of time, and experience the creative processes, skills and attitudes that artists from all the disciplines (dance, design, drama, music and the visual arts) bring to their work. This program enriches school arts programs and encourages future artists and arts audiences in all art forms.
Source: Department of Education and Childrens Services NT.
The Australian Curriculum emphasises the importance of intercultural understanding, therefore, schools should connect with cultural groups within their communities. Cultural groups are very often engaged with creative and performing arts from their countries of origin and present a fantastic resource for teachers. Teachers and schools should seek advice from local cultural groups when they begin to explore arts and culture from communities such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Cultivating a relationship such as this ensures that artistic exploration is done in a culturally sensitive way and that doing so avoids the risk of Cultural appropriation is the process whereby one culture adopts features or elements of another cultural group..
Finally, in our connected 21st century classrooms, the concept of 'local' community has broadened. Teachers are now more than ever able to draw upon an online community of artists and sites such as Art Education 2.0: Connecting Art Educators Around the Globe to utilise expertise when implementing the Arts curriculum. Arts Education 2.0 has an ongoing program called Connecting Classrooms, which aims to connect teachers and schools with other schools and professional artists worldwide. Further information about accessing such online resources is included in this package.