Sunday, November 1, 2009

Outside of the classroom, but not extracurricular

CUarts created a program called ArtsLink which is designed to enable faculty to easily include arts events in their syllabi.

Here is a fun video explanation of it:

The program is based on the concept that the arts can help connect topics to audiences in a new way. This type of experiential education is valuable in a completely different way from reading a textbook. The program site indicates "Students, like everyone else, respond strongly to questions and themes expressed in a dramatic context, no doubt because drama depends on conflict. Is Hamlet crazy, grief-stricken, or very clever? Why does Hedda Gabler kill herself and her unborn child? Is Mary Stuart a victim of Elizabeth's ambition, or a necessary sacrifice to the stability of an endangered nation? Shakespeare, Ibsen and Schiller make these questions live." And a survey reported that 90 percent of students said the ArtsLink event "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" influenced their understanding of the related topic(s) discussed in class; and 85 percent of faculty reported that the event had a considerable to high degree of academic value. While many music humanities classes use it to take their classes to the opera, there are also many non-arts courses that use it to help their classes explores themes and topics, such as Introduction to the Study of Hispanic Cultures taking their classes to West Side Story, and Globalization and Politics in Africa taking classes to Ruined.

This is a fantastic program and a huge privilege of living in New York: that great art can be a part of your course experience and an excellent teaching tool. But what about the schools across the country that are not located in cultural centers?

For this again digital media can be a useful resource. For example, New U.K. company Digital Theater will make productions from high-profile British troupes including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Almeida, Royal Court Theater, English Touring Theater and the Young Vic available as Internet downloads, and the Met Opera presents live HD broadcasts of its operas throughout the season. These HD recordings and distribution could potentially be replicated with all sorts of dance, music, theater, and broadway performances. These will be useful not just for nationwide broadcasts, but also for individual class and student learning. For example, a school could use its screening room to show an early literature class Classic Stage Company's upcoming production of Age of Iron. Of course its not the same as being there, but I've heard from multiple sources that the Met Opera broadcasts are pretty close, and are very special considering the Met Opera is not available near them. Theater and music classes around the country will obviously want to take advantage of these resources, but it will also be a useful teaching tool for many non-arts classes, giving students the option of being able to experience (sometimes live!) and learn from some of the best performers in the world creating great art.

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