Author: Roundtable Managing Director

Working Together: Intergenerational Arts Programs

There are many art programs out there for children and young adults in school and after-school, but what about the aging population?  “Every day more than 10,000 Americans will turn 65. They are living longer, healthier lives. They want and need community based programs that go beyond passive entertainment, combat social isolation and provide engaged, meaningful learning opportunities.” (1) While there are numerous robust programs that focus on older adults, some programs go above and beyond this and are geared toward pairing students with the aging. These intergenerational arts programs connect individuals who wouldn’t normally interact on a daily basis.

One of these programs is called PALETTE, which stands for Promoting Art for Life Enrichment Through Transgenerational Engagement. PALETTE’s mission is to connect students with active, older adults and help erase the stereotypes young people may have about aging. “The students aren’t ‘helping’ the older adults; rather they’re working together as peers.” (2) PALETTE offers visual arts workshops, including painting, printmaking, clay, and fiber arts. Each pair of PALs is set up next to each other with, for instance, two canvasses and two paint palettes. PALETTE also offers dancing, known as PALETTE in Motion, which pairs two or three students for every older adult.

Another such program, based in New York, is Roots&Branches Theater, which is an intergenerational ensemble that performs theater workshops, productions and other arts projects. Their goal is to “build understanding and respect between generations; celebrate the wisdom, energy and creativity of elders; and challenge stereotypes about age and aging.” (3) The actors, ranging in age from 11 to 90, collaborate each season on an original play based on the stories, life experiences, and imaginations of the ensemble members. The plays are then presented publicly at senior centers, community centers, schools, as well as Off-Broadway.

But, what about aging professional artists? Many artists create massive amounts of work, but do not always catalog or organize it properly. This leads to challenges for the family of the artist after they pass away. If work is uncatalogued and unorganized and if the family does not have experience or the time to deal with it, it may be in danger of becoming damaged, lost, or sadly thrown out.

This is why the intergenerational arts legacy project ART CART was created. ART CART, which connects aging professional visual artists with teams of graduate students, “provides direct, hands-on support and guidance to manage and preserve their life’s work” (4) Throughout an academic year, several teams of students, each working with a single artist, document a substantial number of works – collecting high-quality digital images as well as creating an oral history of the artist’s experiences and background. ART CART has been running in NYC and Washington DC since 2010 and is running in 2015-16 again in NYC and Washington DC with plans to expand to performing artists. (5)

There have been few studies done that show how art can improve the quality of life for older adults. One is the 2006 NEA Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults, found here. There is also an E-Book by Next Avenue called Artful Aging: How Creativity Sparks Vitality and Transforms Lives; “a collection of stories on the power of artful aging programs to bring joy, connection, improved health and a renewed sense of purpose to older adults.” (6) For more resources on art programs for older adults, there is the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA), which works to foster an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and the quality of life of older people. The organization also maintains a thorough Directory of Creative Aging Programs (7).









Leading the Orchestra, an Outsider Invited In

Addressing diversity in orchestras. New York Times article

By Phillip Lutz

After years of work and study culminating in an assistant conductorship at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Kazem Abdullah decamped to Aachen, Germany, where he became the city’s general music director. Four years on, he has programmed and conducted a wide range of symphonic music and opera from the core Western repertory.

But Mr. Abdullah, 36, who was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Washington and Dayton, Ohio, said he would like to return to the United States next year after his contract in Germany is up. The only problem, he said, is that he is most likely to find his opportunities limited in part because of his outsider status as an African­American, and a Muslim, in the world of classical music.

“There is greater openness in Germany,” he said over Thai food in Manhattan recently. “I had hoped that by working abroad and doing so well, that would translate into more opportunities from where I’m from.” “A lot of people say ‘diversity is great,’ and those are all nice taking points,” he added. “But as far as making sure the opportunities are given to everyone — that still falls quite short.

That is why he jumped at the chance when the Westchester Philharmonic contacted him more than a year ago about conducting Brahms’s Piano
Concerto No. 1 and Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony. The concert would provide the opportunity to conduct a first­rate regional orchestra in the core repertory, which he said some orchestras were patronizingly reluctant to offer minority guest conductors.

“It’s just a straight program,” he said. “That’s why I said yes. I love to do that.”

The concert, which will take place on June 19, will feature Alone Goldstein as soloist. Mr. Goldstein, a native of Israel, said that despite having played about 40 concertos in the past 27 years, he had not met Mr. Abdullah, and had performed under only one other African­American conductor, Isaiah Jackson, with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra of Ohio.

The lack of diversity in American orchestras is an issue of long standing, but it has gained fresh currency. The League of American Orchestras held a major conference on the subject this month in Baltimore, reporting that only 1.8 percent of members of American orchestras are African­American and 2.5 percent Latino.
Read the full article here.
Excerpted from an article in the New York Times, June 17, 2016

Creating Inclusive Classrooms


By Lissa Piercy

The summer before my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My executive function struggles made certain classroom experiences particularly challenging. While I loved learning and was quick to have an answer for the teacher’s questions, I was constantly being told that I was “too talkative,” had too many “side conversations,” or didn’t leave enough room for other students to speak up. Discussions, especially in English class, were exhausting and frustrating because I was constantly trying to force myself to stay engaged without over-participating. The classes I enjoyed most were taught by teachers who used creative lesson planning. In English class during my senior year, teacher Matt Fitz Simmons taught using multiple discussion techniques. In history class, Chris Lorrain split us into groups and led interactive activities. In these classes, my learning differences didn’t stick out, which made it easier to learn.

College proved even more difficult than high school, but eventually I received my AA from Landmark College, a school for students who learn differently; and my BA in social work from Wheelock College, where I did had an internship working with youth with disabilities. I also discovered spoken-word poetry, completed teaching artist training with the Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP), and began teaching workshops with young people.

It wasn’t until I started teaching this past fall that I connected my experience as a student with ADHD with my lesson planning practices as a teaching artist. I was performing at a high school assembly. My repertoire of “youth-friendly” poetry was limited at the time, so I decided to perform a poem I had written for a fundraising event at Landmark College. The poem explores my ADHD, my roommate Amanda’s dyslexia, and our experiences at Landmark. Here’s an excerpt:

The neurons in my brain needed to be taught of executive function
needed to be told that I’d been living without them
still need to be reminded
At Landmark, Amanda’s Dyslexia became best friends with my ADHD… It took us 20 minutes to come up with a study plan, three hours to execute that, and lots of red bulls to survive finals, but we got there
Maybe only because we met one another
Where else could the first words out of my mouth be, “Hey, what’s your LD?”
I later learned that mine didn’t really fit into the category, but I still fit in
Into classrooms where science professors tossed toys to my distractible hands, where we climbed rock walls during class, learned seven different ways to memorize for tests
where note cards were smart cards and time management was part of the curriculum…

Excerpted from an article of Teachers & Writers Magazine

Read the full story here

New York State Council on the Arts creates The NYSCA Network, A Collaborative Community

NYSCA creates online community for dialogue in different categories to enhance information and idea sharing


The New York State Council on the Arts  has announced the creation of an online forum for the arts community in New York State.

The NYSCA Network is “a marketplace for ideas created for organizations, institutions, artists, applicants, and the public that the agency serves.” Created as a collaborative forum to share knowledge, build professional relationships, and spark innovation, NYSCA is urging the field to participate to make this a vibrant and effective network.

Arts in education and social justice in the arts are two of the 16 forums listed. The arts in education forum asks the community to “share with us your most successful arts education initiatives and any questions, issues or hopes you would like to discuss.” Join the conversation by clicking the All Forums link at the top of the page.

The New York State Council on the Arts is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New York’s citizens.

NYSCA strives to achieve its mission through its core grant-making activity and by convening field leaders, providing information and advisory support, and working with partners on special initiatives to achieve mutual goals.

Understanding Arts Advocacy

Creating an Advocacy Plan that Works

By Caryn Cooper

See full version here

Over the past few months of 2016, I have noticed a few common themes in the field. One being able to effectively advocate for and in the arts. We are in an interesting time in the arts and education with this being a historic election year, the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and a shift in the awareness and appreciation of the arts in education, now is the time to really advocate!

This week I was able to attend the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable event called Face to Face. Through a series of panels, workshops, reports, presentations and networking, this annual conference provides participants with the opportunity to think deeply and learn more about arts education while discussing current challenges, opportunities, and answering key questions to help move the field forward.

One of the sessions I attended was entitled Creating an Advocacy Plan that Works for You. Co-facilitated by Jennifer Katona- Director of the Graduate Educational Theatre at City College and Jeff Poulin- Arts Education Program Coordinator for Americans for the Arts, they led an excellent workshop on understanding arts advocacy and how to create a powerful arts advocacy plan.

But what exactly does that mean, to advocate? Poulin defines advocacy as “building strategic relationships to effect change.” He talked about the Spheres of Influence that illustrates the power structure of putting students at the center of education and illuminates the possible relationships between stakeholders. I like this diagram because it shows where your role is, how your influence can directly influence others, and who makes decisions who directly influences you.

If you are interested in reading and learning more about the different roles one can fall in the Spheres of Influence please refer to The Arts Education Field Guide. This document, created by the Americans for the Arts, does a great job breaking down and defining the different players of the game on the federal, state, and local levels while providing information on the following:

A brief overview of the stakeholder and their role.
How they show support for arts education.
A list of barriers and challenges they may face.
Metrics of how they measure success.
Ways they partner to collaborate with others to show their support.
Where they receive funding and if they fund arts education.
The National Associations that they may be affiliated with.

The session then moved onto an action plan one can follow to create an advocacy plan that works for you. This plan asks you to think about the answers to the following:
What is your role as the advocate? (Are you the educator, the teaching artist, cultural partner, etc?)
Who are you advocating for? (Are you advocating for the students, the parents, the school, the community?)
Who are you advocating to? (Are you talking to the principal, school board, local elected officials, a funder?)
What is your hard ask? (What is your plan 3, 5, or even 10 years from now?)
What is your soft ask? (What are the immediate steps the person/group you are advocating to can do now?)
What is the research that supports your ask? (What are the studies, research, and reports out there that can strengthen your ask?)
What is a story to support your ask? (Do you have a touching story to share to show the impact of your ask? Remember data changes minds, but stories change the heart!)

Of course there is no one cookie cutter way to do this, and your role will constantly change based on the situation, but I personally found this information helpful in really understanding arts advocacy in terms of my role in the community and how we can work together to meet common goals, needs, and wants. I hope this information is valuable and helps you went advocating for arts education.

Instrument Drive Changes Students Lives

Two years ago, WQXR held their first Instrument Drive with the goal of reaching 1,000 donated instruments to refurbish and distribute to music programs throughout NYC public schools. Little did they know, their goal would be surpassed by more than twice that, ending with over 2,500 donations within 10 days. Graham Parker, WQXR’s general manager, said he was surprised by the level of excitement behind the program. “I have been humbled by the personal stories that have accompanied many of the donations,” he said. “It becomes very real for people to think of their once-used instrument making its way into the hands of a student who can create new memories.” (1) This year, WQXR is launching its second drive from April 8-17, 2016, with the goal of collecting 6,000 instruments.

Many NYC public schools lack music programs, and the ones with them are often lacking in instruments or are in need of repair. The 2014 NYC State of the Arts reported that “from 2006 to 2013, there has been a 47 percent decline in arts programming funding and an even steeper decline in dedicated support for supplies such as musical instruments and other equipment, according to the comptroller’s report.” (2) Even though music and other arts have been proven to improve academics, they are always in danger of being lost due to budget cuts. “Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education.” (3)

With the help of WQXR and thousands of generous donors, these instruments will be refurbished and distributed to students in NYC and Newark under-resourced music programs beginning in the fall of 2016. Teachers and administrators can also submit an application for their school to be considered to receive instruments.

Donate your used instrument and change a student’s life! Vsit to learn more and spread the word using #GiveMusicNYC.



Teachers are using theater and dance to teach math – and it’s working

Washington Post article 2/22/16

By Moriah Balingit

Mariah Balingit’s article in the Washington Post shines a examines outcomes of arts integration. In this piece, the writer examines how teachers are using theatre, dance, and visual arts as a teaching tool for math and other subjects.

According to the article, a study by the American Institutes for Research found that students in classes headed by teachers trained by The Wolf Trap Institute through a program that pairs art teachers with early-childhood educators performed better on math assessments than did their peers being taught by teachers who were not in the program.

Researchers found that pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students in classes taught by Wolf Trap-trained teachers gained about 1.3 months of math learning in the first year over their peers. By the second year, they were 1.7 months ahead.

Researcher Mengli Song said the students in the program did not necessarily learn additional math content but they did demonstrate a better grasp of the material. And the effect was comparable to other early-childhood interventions.

Researchers followed students in 18 schools. In 10 of the schools, Wolf Trap Institute art teachers helped classroom teachers generate math lessons. In the other eight, teachers taught students as they normally would. Researchers administered math assessments to about eight students per class.

Teachers who were trained by the master artists and participated in professional development with Wolf Trap continued to use what they learned in their classrooms, even when they were no longer working with teaching artists, the study found. It demonstrated that a year or two of training could have a lasting impact.

Read the full article here.

Excerpted from an article in The Washington Post, February 22, 2016

From Here to Diversity: where do we go from here? By Sobha Kavanakudiyil

This issue of Diversity has been a hot topic discussed a lot in our field this year. I’ve heard it everywhere. Questions like: how do we diversify arts education leadership? How do we support the diversity of those working in schools to better represent the children we serve? What do these words mean: diversity, equality, equity, inclusivity?

I grew up in Armonk, NY, in Westchester County, raised by parents of Indian descent in a very “white” area.  My parents immigrated here in the 1960’s.  At that time most Indian people were trying to assimilate as best they could and be “American.”   My parents spoke to us in English.

I had really great friends growing up, but none of whom were Indian. In fact, the only Indian people in my life were family. But things at my home were different compared to my friends. I couldn’t really pinpoint what, didn’t have the space to talk about it, and I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Last year at Face to Face 2015, I presented a session with Michael Wiggins, James Miles, and Courtney J. Boddie called Diversity in Leadership. The conversations that came out of the session were the first steps toward discussion about this topic of diversity – sometimes uncomfortable, but always honest and questioning.When my parents’ siblings came to the country in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s things were different. There were Indian schools, more Indian churches, and my cousins were raised a little differently than I was. I started to feel “different” sometimes even with my family. I didn’t fit in completely at home or in the circles in which I ran. I had an identity crisis really.  Who was I? I am a woman of color but had a lot of privilege growing up. I started to question – what is the lens that I approach this work from?

This year, the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable started the Diversity Task Force, spearheaded by board member Piper Anderson. Our first meeting was an exploration of terms such as equity, equality, inclusion, and diversity. What did they mean and were we all on the same page? A simple question and one that created such rich dialogue.

The Diversity Task Force has since pioneered a survey to explore information on this topic from Teaching Artists, Arts Administrators, and Practitioners in the field of Arts Educators; started a reading resource list which is now posted in the Diversity Reading Room on the Roundtable website, and in collaboration with the Programming Committee, presented the Day of Learning: Equity and Access for All on January 22, 2016.

It was an inspiring day that had registration at full capacity. We had exciting presenters: Piper Anderson, Jennifer Katona, Michael Wiggins, Tatyana Kleyn and Farah Said and Antonio Alarcon, and Alex Santiago-Jirau; and powerful speakers: Bo Young Lee and Dr. Aaron Flagg.

Here’s what I learned:

Immigration status is dynamic, not static! (People can move from one status to another and the only safe status is citizenship)

When working with young people think about Preferred Gender Pronoun and Gender Identity

I should check myself and think about these questions: what is my privilege, what does that mean, and how does that impact the work I do?

It is important to make the comfortable uncomfortable and be in that space to really have deep conversations about diversity

We all have Unconscious Bias

Don’t run from the work, stay there, do it, fail at it, and then start learning

As an arts educator, create art that represents the diversity of all humanity

We ALL have to be agents of that dialogue

So I continue to think about what this all means, both my experiences and what I gained from a thought provoking day.  How does this all impact what I do as an Arts Educator?

I will leave you with this quote from Jimmy Carter, “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

2016 Excellence in Theatre Education Award – Applications Now Available

Did a theatre teacher change your life? Applications are now being accepted for the 2016 Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education

Announcing the 2016 Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education Award.

Presented by The Tony Awards® and Carnegie Mellon University, this award honors arts educators who make a difference in students’ lives.

We are emailing you because you began or completed an application for the Award in 2015. We invite you to once again submit a candidate for this year’s award. If you choose to resubmit the same candidate as in 2015 and he or she is still eligible, you can continue to use elements from your last year’s application.

This year we are asking you to focus on the story of your teacher and the program(s), classes, and educational value that he or she has created within your community. To help share your teacher’s story, we are asking that you submit a video that showcases the teacher’s work, tells a powerful story, and demonstrates the impact of the teacher on students.

In addition, we require a short essay (250 words or less) describing the program at the school or theatre company under which the teacher operates, as well as information on the school’s demographics (see the application form for details on how to supply this info).

As last year, we will require three letters of recommendation. New in 2016: You may choose to collect and submit the letters yourself; or, if you prefer, the system can send an email to your choice of recommenders.

Please note that we no longer accept self-submissions. If you self-submitted last year, we will not reconsider your application. Other members of your community, including colleagues, students, and former students, are more than welcome to submit an application on your behalf.

The application form contains a lot of information, so please read it carefully and double check everything before you submit. For more information, please visit the FAQ page on our website ( and the application portal.

The deadline for all completed application materials is February 29, 2016, including the three letters of recommendation. We recommend that you get started as soon as possible!

To get started, visit


Reprinted from Tony Awards announcement.

Confessions of a Teaching Artist Parent By Justin Daniel

When I received the news that twins were on the way, my thoughts went from “Oh my god, that’s amazing!” to “Oh my god, how do you take care of twins??!”, with every other thought in between.  After six months of twin daddy hood behind me, I can confidently say it is a joy to raise two amazing little humans, and as I continue to figure out the balance between raising children and maintaining a career as a teaching artist, I thought I would share with you some takeaways I’ve picked up along the way.

I AM TIRED… all the time! And to be specific, I am more tired than teaching five movement workshops in a row to incredulous 6th graders after taking two trains, a bus, with a walk. Honestly, I did that for an entire school year, and that doesn’t even begin to compare to the exhaustion I feel after a full day with infants! But somehow I find a way to give my all to my infants AND to my students. Who knew?

I am lucky to have the FLEXIBILITY OF TIME. Because the organizations I work for are so incredibly parent friendly, I have been able to find a great balance between my work life and home life. For the first three months, I taught very little in order to stay at home, but as I slowly eased my way back into my teaching I’ve been able to control the amount of hours I’m away from home and the general days I work. This makes childcare easier to book, and allows me to find the right balance for my family.

I am a NYC SCHOOL SLEUTH! I have always been interested in the inner workings of the DOE, but now that my kids will be part of it in just a few short years, I’m keenly aware of the inner workings of the schools I visit. I feel like a teaching artist detective, figuring out what makes a positive school culture, student engagement, and how parents are best involved.

PARENTING MAKES ME A BETTER TEACHING ARTIST, and vice versa. Even though my kids are still in the infant stage, I am becoming more attuned to how to engage their innate creativity, how to best use non-verbal communication, and tuning in to their subtle (and not so subtle) cues. I find myself using these same techniques in the classroom, and I’m constantly bringing my experience into the nursery as well. That being said, if you ever see me rocking back in forth for no particular reason, please tell me!

Teaching Artists are an INSTANT SUPPORT SYSTEM. I often find myself reaching out to my colleagues for parenting advice and to swap stories. It is an invaluable resource, and truly makes me feel like I’m part of a community, even when I’m on my own.

It’s much HARDER TO ACCEPT WORK as a parent. When I receive an offer for work, I have to weigh a slew of pros and cons to determine whether it’s a YES. Obviously, the financial reward needs to meet my childcare costs, but even then, is it worth spending time away from the babies? Sometimes, the answer is a definite yes, but sometimes even if it makes sense financially, it doesn’t make sense as a new parent. And I haven’t even begun to figure out the balance of new artistic pursuits beyond my teaching artistry!

Teaching Artistry is an extremely rewarding career for me, and I’m finding this even more true as a parent.  It’s not without its challenges, but I’m always inspired by the many teaching artist parents who consistently make it work.

For anyone expecting, or expecting to be expecting, here are some online resources I’ve found useful as a new parent!

p.s. If you have any tips for other teaching artist parents, please share them in the comments below!

Mommy Poppins – Great resources and articles!

NYC Dads Group – While most blogs tend to skew female, here is an awesome resources for dads of all walks of life.  And they schedule great meetups!

A Child Grows (parenting blog with an emphasis on my home Borough of Brooklyn.

Park Slope Parents (even if you don’t live anywhere close to this parental enclave, there’s great advice here!)

Baby Bargains Book (thanks to fellow teaching artist Jamie Kalama-Wood for this recommendation.  Great deals can be found in this book!)
Link to Amazon