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New York City
June 2002

The Lincoln Center Summer Institute: Bravo & Encore
By Joan Baum

Sometimes it’s the little word that makes the difference. In the matter of the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) Arts in Education program, the key to understanding how this particular school-arts collaboration differs from all other programs that supplement, augment, and enrich learning lies in the preposition “in” as opposed to the conjunction “and.” Where other fine programs also serve to bring the arts into closer play with the curriculum, LCI wants the arts ­ all the arts ­ to be integral and inseparable from teaching and learning. In this sense, among others, LCI directly affects teachers and teaching in a way that, in the words of LCI Executive Director Scott Noppe-Brandon, makes it “unique.” For starters, he points out, the 25-year old program has a philosophy ­ Aesthetic Inquiry ­ and a philosopher ­Maxine Greene­ behind it. For another, the program’s integrative approach to the arts, from pre-service teacher education through Focus School and Partnership School collaborations, insures that philosophy gets practically grounded as experiential learning. And specifically grounded, LCI may be the only arts-in-education program to center study on a specific work of art, whether in dance, theatre, museum art, or music, and then challenge teachers to draw out general principles about how the arts affect teaching. There is also the fact that LCI has prestigious affiliations in its collaborative efforts ­ Lincoln Center - not to mention this summer’s additional coup: partnering with England’s Royal National Theatre and the American Crafts Museum. The July 8-19 session, part of LCI’s annual Professional Development series, coincides with performances at Lincoln Center, including a birthday concert with the New York Philharmonic for Maestro Kurt Masur, and The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Dance and the Art of Animation.” Not to mention workshops on photography, poetry, and teaching students with special needs.

The history of LCI tells much about its purpose, which is essentially to make the arts a model for learning in general, not an add-on but an integral part of curricula. Conceived from an idea proposed many years ago by a former dean of Juilliard, that performances to be truly appreciated needed an education context, the idea, now shaped in light of Aesthetic Education, prompted studies into the role of imagination in professional life, no matter what the profession. Soon business and science leaders started holding conferences on the idea, then town meetings, and the idea expanded directly into the schools. “We don’t get into discussions of standards or high-stakes testing,” Noppe-Brandon, says. The focus is on the depth and breadth of the arts in the curriculum, on realizing the theory of Aesthetic Education for grades K-12. Maxine Greene, LCI’s philosopher-in-residence, is the “soul” of the program, guiding, checking, being the honest broker on how we “operationalize” theideas, Noppe-Brandon says. At the heart of the program is the hallmark of progressive education. As the LCI website proclaims, “Each individual ­ child as well as adult ­ has the capacity to respond to any given work of art in ways that challenge preconceived notions, stimulate fresh insights, and encourage deeper understandings. Without the limitations imposed by ‘right’ or ‘wrong’answers, this process of response builds cognitive abilities in powerful, fundamental ways.”
How do schools find out about LCI? “Word of mouth,” Noppe-Brandon says, though he admits that he’d like to have a better presence in the high schools. Still, there’s a waiting list for the lower grades. The majority of participating institutions are public schools, and the Director keeps careful watch on the kind of school that applies, its level and location. Every effort is made to represent diversity, he notes. Collaboration comes in basically two forms: Partnership Schools and Focus Schools. The former, now numbering 140 (Elementary, Middle and High Schools) and involving 65-70 percent of the faculty, allow individual teachers to participate in the Institute’s various programs and creatively design their own curricula, draw up their own budget, establish their own procedures for testing, and provide for additional coverage. In Focus Schools, now numbering 11, the Institute works one on one with every student in the school over a period of five years.

The beauty of the overall LCI idea, Scott says, is that 85 percent of the participating teachers are not involved in arts education. Not all artists, he points out, are good teachers. His own background, he pointed out, was a slow but inevitable movement from dancer to certified arts education teacher, to artist-in-residence, to administrator, a shift that expanded his roles, rather thancausing him to abandon one for another.He is now involved with five CUNY colleges and some private institutions, including the Bank Street College of Education, Fordham University, and Teachers College, promoting different kinds of collaborative programs, from loose arrangements for individual teachers (Bank Street) to sequential course models (Lehman) .

So, does LCI work? Just ask Anna Marie Carrillo, Principal of P.S. 116 in District 2. She is nothing if not rhapsodic about the program, moving from adjectival hyperbole to more adjectival hyperbole. “Wonderful,” she says, “we are all so very happy,” and by “we” she means, not just administrators but teachers, students and especially parents, for whom the program has been particularly “inspirational.” One innovation it has inspired, she says, has been Museum Night, when parents and children together with teachers go to a museum to study a particular art work. The quality of the discussion, she reports, is “absolutely amazing.”

This summer LCI is instituting new repertory and institutional partnerships for educators, with Arts Coordinators Workshops, and fabulous dance and theatre performances, including an LCI co-commissioned presentation, “Shadow’s Child,” performed by the Urban Bush Women and National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique; “Srishti,” a program of traditional Indian dance; “As If the Past Were Listening,” Latino folktales; “The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies,” performed by New York Theatre Ballet; Poulenc’s “Piano and Wind”; “Ghost Lovers,” a comic Chinese opera; and the Royal National Theatre production of “The Tempest.” #

For more information about LCI, access the website or call (212) 875-5535.


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