Three months into my new job as Managing Director of the Roundtable, I found myself on a train ride to New Haven and Yale University.
My journey started a month before when Lizzy Carroll from Yale’s Education Studies department contacted the Roundtable to ask if we would participate on a panel in the exCHANGE series. The panel was to be about Arts Education and input from the Roundtable – with 20+ years of involvement in the arts and education field in New York – would make an important contribution to the conversation.
exCHANGE is a monthly public forum for the Yale-New Haven community to engage in authentic learning and civil discourse on the critical issue of education. What particularly interested me about the program was a commitment by Yale to create a space where students, faculty, and staff, New Haven and area teachers and school leaders, and members of the local community can come together to exchange questions and ideas about the urgent education-related debates of our time.
After a couple of hours on the train, I arrived in New Haven and made my way to Yale University, my first visit. I was astonished to find such a vast, old and English-looking campus, reminding me of the great universities of my home country. After getting seriously lost, I followed directions down a passageway, through an ancient gate, and across a quadrangle to a church-like structure called Dwight Hall. Here, I met Lizzy Carroll and the delightful Dwight Hall administration, Peter Crumlish, Executive Director, and Claudia Merson, Education Advisor.
Almost immediately, my fellow panelists arrived, Linda Friedlander, Curator of Education, Yale Center for British Art, and Suzannah Holsenbeck, Arts Director, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven. Students started filing in, including those from Yale along with others from the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, making for a widely diverse group of participants.
The conversation during the next two hours explored a broad range of topics, including the impact of arts education in student achievement; the role of collaboration in expanding arts education; how the arts can complement STEM, turning STEM to STEAM; and how arts organizations have stepped up when school district have cut arts teachers in school budgets.
The model for the series encourages participation from students and an active dialogue with presenters. In this session, both groups of students shared the conversation and contributed their perspectives both as students and artists. The program’s emphasis on bringing the New Haven community into a conversation with the Yale community resulted in a rich and penetrating discussion.
My trip to Yale concluded with an evening at the equally historic Mory’s restaurant, where the conversation continued in a wood-paneled room that echoed of an era when diverse students from New Haven would not have been welcome at Yale. I was glad that my glimpse into another world has shown one that is committed to evolving and that arts education is a point of connection between such diverse groups.