An Amazing 1st Half to the 60th Anniversary National Conference

Photo: Illstyle and Peace Productions. Credit William A. Herbert.

The first half of the 60th Anniversary National Conference flew by with so many great speeches, performances, and breakout sessions. The whole conference began with a smashing performance by Illstyle and Peace Productions. The acclaimed Hip-Hop dance ensemble captivated the conference attendees with their energetic personalities and their positive message. They couldn’t even be contained on the stage and performed among the audience with an ability to improvise like no other.

The conference keynote speakers, Richard Kessler, Dean, Mannes College, The New School of Music; Ayanna Hudson, Arts Education Director, National Endowment for the Arts; and Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York gave engaging speeches that all touched on the idea that we have to think in abundance in a time of scarcity. This theme was emphasized throughout the breakout sessions and in today’s site visit to the New York City affiliate, Young Audiences New York (YANY).

Speaking about the breakout sessions, one session gave an in-depth presentation of how Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Maryland and a school district partner developed the SMART program, an innovative professional development program for Title 1 schools. The breakout session was presented by Pat Cruz who spearheaded this initiative and with a modest budget cultivated it until the program thrived. The breakout session began with an interactive literacy performance by SMART teaching artist, Chris August. Jake Little, Title 1 Coordinator for the Hartford County Public Schools MD, spoke frankly about how the funding for this project was possible through obtaining hard data that showed improved attendance, more disciplined students, and higher test scores.

Another breakout session was led by Gigi Antoni, President and CEO of Big Thought and focused on her successful project that created a unique summer school program that served a major percentage of the Dallas student population. Inspired by her new book, More Than the Sum of its Parts: Collaboration & Sustainability in Arts Education, the breakout session described the experience of partnering with over twenty cultural agencies. This collective action would allow Antoni to increase the scope of her summer school project tenfold while maintaining a similar budget and receiving increased visibility from a combined marketing effort. And she even worked out a partnership that would feed each student three meals a day. Check out the details and more information here.

And from what I hear, the other breakout sessions were equally popular. One of my colleagues reported that there was standing room only in The Grants for Arts Education Projects led by Keynote speaker Ayanna Hudson.


A combined performance from Poetry Meets Percussion and Rhythm Poets

And I also have to give a shout out to the slam poet and percussion combined performances of Poetry Meets Percussion and Rhythm Poets (Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania Teaching Artists). 

I just got back from the YANY affiliate site visit to the Alvin Ailey Dance Studio and the SONY Dream Lab space. When I get the images and videos ready, I will post a follow up on the rest of the conference next week.

Marcus Romero, Communications Manager 


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