The Utah Alliance for Arts and Humanities in Education is a name with a nice swing to it, uniting two elements that sound as if they have been together always.
This alliance represents the revitalization of an existing organization, the Utah Alliance for Arts Education. But the inclusion of humanities creates a holistic entity that promises stimulating aesthetics for Utah schoolchildren.More than two years of creative thinking by many arts education experts have gone into laying a firm philosophical, financial and legal foundation for the organization, which became active Feb. 1. Sue Heath is executive director.
"In any new organization, you wonder, where do I start?" Heath commented. "But you just figure out what you can do best, where you can be most effective, what you have the most passion for. If you dig in there, you will succeed."
The UAAHE begins with a commitment of $20,000 each from the Utah Arts Council, the Utah Endowment for the Humanities and the State Office of Education, plus a stipend from the Kennedy Center, among other resources.
Since its beginning, the Utah Alliance has been affiliated with the National Alliance for Arts Education, a program of the Kennedy Center that dates from 1973. The late Lorna Clayton of Salt Lake City served on the national founding committee of the AAE, and along with Lael Woodbury of Brigham Young University, worked hard to organize the UAAE, which helped to establish arts curriculum requirements in Utah schools, administered awards, and held state conferences.
Heath has served since 1984 as coordinator of arts in education for the Utah Arts Council. Before that she taught in the public schools of Norman, Okla., where she was named teacher of the year in 1978.
Wherever she has been, Heath has enthusiastically promoted arts in schools, an interest that eventually took her out of classroom teaching.
Directing the Utah artists in residence program, she increased participants by 300 percent. She has worked with the State Office of Education to develop arts education programming, with a resultant growth from 20 to 100 participating schools annually. She is an expert liaison between the arts and education communities, well acquainted with Utah's approved roster of artists in schools and a firm advocate of networking, cooperation and coordinating.
One thing she treasures most is her 1990 Friend of Children award from the Utah PTA, given to a person thought to have made a significant contribution to children across the state in the arts.
The UAAHE's avowed purpose is "to be an educational resource, forum and united voice for all state arts and humanities organizations related to the education process."
This includes stimulation of the public, the education system and state Legislature concerning the necessity to teach arts and humanities in Utah's schools; staying current on the status of the state's arts and humanities and recommending activities to promote their continued vitality.
Heath is enthusiastic about heading this umbrella organization.
"I am not an artist; I am an educator, an organizer, a facilitator, an administrator," said Heath. "I like to put people together, to figure out who can do what, for whom, by when, for how much?
"In a way it's an advantage that I had no formal training in the arts, because I have no vested interest in any one art. I come to the arts valuing the thinking and communication skills. The end result of broad training in the arts and humanities should be people who think in a holistic way."
Among those responsible for the revitalization and new emphasis of the UAAHE are Ray Kingston, Salt Lake architect and member of the National Council of the Arts; and Sherwin Howard, dean of arts and humanities at Weber State University. Under their leadership, representatives of Utah's arts, humanities and education communities have labored to put in place a constitution and bylaws, including a statement of goals and plan of organization.
"Most significant to our success has been the true partnership of the three contributing agencies," said Kingston. "Without the encouragement and financial support of director Carol Nixon and the Utah Arts Council, director Delmont Oswald and the Utah Endowment for the Humanities, and Superintendent Jay Taggart of the State Office of Education, we would have gotten nowhere."
The Kennedy Center has again demonstrated its faith in Utah by funding an organization that includes both arts and humanities - the first time it has moved beyond arts only.
Kingston, who with Howard is co-chairman of the board of UAAHE, is pleased with this official connection of the arts and humanities. "While it will not be possible to teach every art to every child in Utah, children should come through the required arts and humanities curriculum with an understanding of the connection between the two, and a sense of aesthetics - a word which few of them know or can define today," he said.
Equally pleased is the UEH's Delmont Oswald, who is vice-chairman of the UAAHE. He has long felt that separating the arts and humanities is artificial. "Many worthwhile projects that do not clearly fit into one or the other classification fall into the cracks, and cannot be funded," he said.
"Actually, all education about the arts - their significance, their place in history - is a form of humanities education. An interdisciplinary approach makes a rich context for learning and will produce adults who see the whole picture, rather than compartmentalizing."
"The essence of the Alliance will be its connecting ability," said Heath. "Many associations, such as teachers, principals, artists within specific disciplines, local arts agencies, legislators, media, social services, ethnic organizations, the PTA, have areas where their goals intersect or overlap with ours - where they would find it beneficial and convenient to educate children in the arts.
"Take for example the gifted and talented program, or special education, both of which have goals in common with us," she said. "If we can identify the areas of connection, we can cooperative enthusiastically, quickly and cost-effectively."
Heath likes to put deals together, and she thinks of herself in images. "I see myself as a bridge between the expertise I am in touch with and those who can use it in the field," she said, "or as a switchboard operator, connecting those who inquire withresources or agencies that can serve them."
An expert grants-application writer, Heath has done well in securing available federal money, but "I don't have time to do nearly as much as I can see to do," she said. "I could expend five of me, just dispersing technical assistance to groups that need help. My biggest challenge will be to set priorities and stick to them."
Heath is excited about the June meeting of the Elementary Principals Association, which will spotlight arts education, for she perceives that school principals are the most significant agents of change.
She also gives top priority to quickly finishing a survey as to the actual status of arts education in the schools. This will identify what is needed to bring schools up to core curriculum requirements in grades 1-12 and to enforce the requirement of 1.5 hours of arts credit for high school graduation.
"We need this baseline of data to take to the Legislature," she said. "Many advantages that students had in Utah schools 25 years ago are not happening now. But we don't have the data on paper to support what we know.
"The Alliance should be an advisor to the State Office of Education about arts and humanities education, to help define what policies are in place and what are needed, to disseminate information, assess where we are now and recommend where we need to go, and how to get there."
Each state is entitled to Kennedy Center support for an Alliance for Arts Education, and 45 of them have organized to varying degrees of strength. When setting up the UAAHE, its organizers used ideas they liked from the most effective AAE's, with major emphasis on Minnesota's strong organization.
Accordingly, Heath and an administrative assistant will function under the direction of a 21-member board of trustees and an executive committee. Also projected are a general assembly of 30 to 50 invited members, an advisory council of organizational representatives, and a dues-paying membership at large, made up of whoever wants to join.
"This organization is charting new paths, and we expect positive results," said Heath. "We have intentionally designed a structure that will allow divergence to emerge. By all coming together, utilizing rational skills in a harmonious setting, we can accomplish so much more, of so much higher quality, than we could individually. We will be based in reality, and optimism can make incredible things happen."