The Psychology of Creativity is Subject of Upcoming Webinar

Curious about what the latest psychological research can teach us about creativity, how it’s expressed, and how it can be measured? Join the public webinar on the psychology of creativity, hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts, on Wednesday, February 19, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. (EST). James C. Kaufman, Ph.D., internationally recognized author and professor of educational psychology at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, will share his research and insights on such areas as everyday creativity, creativity assessment, and creativity and mental health.

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PTA Art Exhibit Opening Showcases Magical Moments

Reflections-student artists and special guests

Reflections student artists are joined on stage by National PTA President Otha Thorton (center), PCAH Executive Director Rachel Goslins (seventh from right), members of the PTA Reflections Committee, and National PTA staff.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Department was privileged to host the opening of an exhibit of art works by winners of the National PTA’s 2014 Reflections Program competition. For nearly half a century, the National PTA has inspired millions of students to become involved in the arts through Reflections, and each year many of the winners are recognized at the Department in its Student Art Exhibit Program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open an exhibit of their work. This year’s exhibit includes 65 works by K–12 students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad on the theme The Magic of a Moment. Writing, dance and film are also showcased in the exhibit.

Reflections-Haley Strong The Cat Who Smells Flowers

Haley Young’s cat was the inspiration for her award-winning collage, “The Cat Who Smells Flowers.”

Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton welcomed guests to the Department and delivered the important message that arts education matters for “every school and every child.” As Shelton pointed out, “The research is clear that art helps our kids do better at everything.” This includes the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Shelton reflected that not only does art tell a child’s personal story, but it also gives the U.S. a vital leading edge over other nations in “creativity, design, and innovation.”

PTA President Otha Thornton explained that the PTA’s mission is to engage parents to make sure their students’ education is challenging and rewarding. A way to do this, he said, reiterating Shelton’s message, includes adding “the A” for art to STEM, and bringing STEAM to every school’s curricula. The arts in education, Thornton said, “[help] students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that the core subjects can’t foster alone.”

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Artists Mark International Education Week with Exhibit and Performances

VSA student and adult artists and speakers at the exhibit opening gather for a moment on stage before the ribbon-cutting.

VSA student and adult artists and speakers at the exhibit opening gather for a moment on stage before the ribbon-cutting.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), in celebration of International Education Week, hosted the VSA Student Art Exhibit and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Yo Soy … Je Suis … I Am … My Family, in Barnard Auditorium. VSA was founded almost 40 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to create a society in which people with disabilities learn through the arts, and is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Kennedy Center’s education programs are supported by a National Arts in Education Program grant from OII.

The exhibit is a collection of 19 works by students from 10 nations in VSA’s International Art Program for Children with Disabilities. Also featured were music performances by winners of VSA’s International Young Soloists Competition. There are an additional 51 pieces on display at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

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Digital Media Academy Promises and Delivers for D.C. Students

Lights. Camera. Action! The sights and sounds of summer learning in the Hollywood, right? No, right here in Washington, D.C. if you were one of 15 Kenilworth Parkside youth who participated in the Digital Media Academy (DMA) sponsored by the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) this past summer.

Students in the program share their "Daily Downloads," in which they upload media assets they produced to their digital portfolios and journalize about their learning experiences. (Photo courtesy of DCPNI)

Students in the program share their “Daily Downloads,” in which they upload media assets they produced to their digital portfolios and journalize about their learning experiences. (Photo courtesy of DCPNI)

With the help of an OII Promise Neighborhoods Implementation Grant awarded to DCPNI in 2012, DMA gave students in this Northeast D.C. community an extraordinary opportunity to learn from top media artists, journalists, web designers, and other professionals representing more than 23 media-related organizations, a number of which offered internships behind the camera or microphone. The students shadowed Media Mentors who showed them the ropes at such nationally known media enterprises as Google, Black Entertainment Television, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and XM Satellite Radio.

Weekly workshops and coursework provided insights into college and career possibilities in a wide range of fields from media marketing and advertising to PR and journalism to information literacy and digital citizenship. And on Fridays, the students experienced firsthand what classes are like at the Corcoran College of Art & Design or how the Newseum preserves America’s past through its news makers and journalists, as well as other city venues in which the media arts play a significant role in serving the community and its culture.

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North Carolina Students Affirm Role of the Arts in Schools

A new student art exhibit opened at the Department of Education’s headquarters on June 21, and its title, “Artful Expressions: From the Mountains to the Sea,” had a dual significance: On the one hand, the 60 art works on display were created by students in that number of K-12 public and private North Carolina schools, stretching from Asheville in the western, mountain region of the state to Oak Island on the Atlantic coast. And for many of the more than 175 students, family members, and teachers who attended the opening, their day before it began before dawn as they boarded a bus in the mountains and made their way towards the coast, stopping for other art exhibit goers along the way to the nation’s capital.

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Military-Connected Student Wins National Art Contest

The Google Doodle seen by millions on Google’s home page on May 23rd was created by Sabrina Brady, a 12th-grade student from Sparta, Wis. Sabrina’s interpretation of the letters in Google was inspired by the day she was reunited with her father after he returned home from an 18-month tour in Iraq.


This year, Google hosted its sixth annual Doodle 4 Google competition. They received more than 130,000 submissions and after millions of votes, Sabrina’s submission, “Coming Home,” was named the 2013 Doodle 4 Google National Winner. She, along with four finalists from different age groups, will receive college scholarships; Sabrina will use hers when she attends the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.

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Arts Advocacy Day Focuses on Arts Education’s Pay-Off for All Students

Arts Advocacy Day brought thousands of arts education advocates from across America to the Nation’s Capital on April 9th. Armed with an ever-increasing body of research-based evidence about the contributions that arts education makes to a well-rounded education for all students, the advocates reminded members of Congress that supporting arts education is a smart, pay-forward investment in every child’s education and future.

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Military Children Share Their Experiences Through the Arts at the Department of Education

Students cut the ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

Students cut the ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

In celebration of the Month of the Military Child, the U.S. Department of Education Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to host the art exhibit “America’s Children.” The exhibit features some 50 works of visual art and writing from students based around the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and Canada and Germany.  Communicating the unique life experiences of military-connected children at the event were Taylor Walton, MCEC Student 2 Student president at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va.; the Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs Eric Waldo; Mary Keller, president and CEO of MCEC; Patricia Shinseki, board member of MCEC; and student performers from Mount Vernon High School.

The school’s Marine Corps Jr. ROTC Color Guard began the program by presenting the colors.  Quincy Smith, an 11th-grader, sang the Star Spangled Banner. Eric Waldo welcomed the audience and provided context with remarks about the importance of military families to the current administration. He also spoke about the character traits he encountered over and over again visiting students on U.S. military bases worldwide: “Military-connected kids are some of the most impressive, resilient, and incredible kids … they have had a really rich and robust experience dealing with the stresses of their lives and using that experience to make them stronger, make them more able to adapt to the environments they are a part of … I am so fascinated by their experience. Sometimes the cultural or the social and emotional experiences they have will make them so much more successful in their lives.” Mary Keller helped to paint a clear picture about military families, stating, “There are two million kids whose parents are serving and another two million whose parents are post 9/11. The bottom line is, it’s just one story. It’s one child’s story and we want you to share with us the joy of that story.” While there are many military children around the world, the art on display represents individual voices and experiences unique to each student artist.

Oliver McKellips, a 9th-grader, and Marissa Taylor, a 10th-grader, presented the Children’s Ethos for military children.

  1.  I will always place the mission first.
  2.  I will never accept defeat.
  3.  I will never quit.
  4.  I will never leave a fallen comrade behind.

The “battlefield” on which they perform their mission is the classroom and the community, reaching for excellence in everything they do according to the mandates of that ethos.

Elisa Solomon, a 9th-grader who dreams of attending and graduating from West Point after she completes high school, presented a powerful poem she wrote, “I Know,” and described the inspiration for her poetry: “My parents serving in the Army has impacted my poetry. Poetry is a way to release my emotions when my father is deployed. Poetry is a gift and I have been involved in poetry for four to five years.”

Here is an excerpt from “I Know.”

I know what it feels like to move again and again, I know what it is like to see the brown cardboard boxes
never end.

I know what it is like to have to adapt to a new environment, and I know what it is like to see loved ones
dream of retirement.

I know what it’s like to have to make new friends, just so you can leave them before the year ends. […]

I‘ve seen the sense of relief in my mom’s eyes, the gentle exhale, the soothing sigh. And I often wonder
how we did it, and then I remember we’re military, we push through it.

Logan Beveridge plays “Soldiers Return” and Elisa Solomon recites her poem “I Know.”

The program ended with a moving bagpipe performance of “Soldiers Return” and “Amazing Grace” by 12th-grade student Logan Beveridge, who was inspired to learn to play the bagpipes after hearing them at his grandfather’s funeral as a part of the burial ceremony.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a few of the students provided insights on their life experiences as military children.

Taylor Walton, 12th grade: “I started moving when I was 12 years old. At first it was easy to understand other military students until I moved from Louisiana [he had always lived in the South] to Nebraska. After Nebraska I moved to Florida. When my dad was deployed to Iraq I had to fill in for him and start to help my mom around the house.”

Logan Beveridge, 12th grade: “When my parent was deployed to Germany I started playing the bagpipes and I have continued to learn and to show this skill off as a military child.”

Guests view the exhibit after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Guests view the exhibit after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Allison Kline, 12th grade: “My mom just joined the military five years ago. Having lived both in the civilian and the military worlds has made me realize that the lifestyles are very different. I would like to be an army officer and work in medicine.”

Danielle Leon, 10th Danielle Leon, 10thgrade: “I get to be a part of different cultures and meet new people. While my dad was stationed in Japan, I started learning Japanese language.  I would like to take Japanese classes again.”

The day after the opening, part of the exhibit moved to Vice President and Dr. Biden’s home at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and the rest moved to the Department of Defense Education Activity headquarters in D.C.

Click here to view photos from the event.

Chareese Ross is an Information Resource Specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at 202-401-0762 or at

The Arts Matter — in March and Throughout the Year

More than 4,000 art educators gathered in Fort Worth, Texas, early this month to “draw connections to their communities” — the theme of this year’s annual National Art Education Association (NAEA) conference. And what a great way for these P-12 teachers of art, along with museum educators; university professors of art education; and school-, district-, and state-level arts and education administrators to also kick-off the month during which all the arts are recognized for their importance to a well-rounded education — Dance in the Schools MonthMusic in Our Schools MonthTheatre in Our Schools Month, and Youth Art Month.

There was no question what mattered in Fort Worth during the recent NAEA conference. (Photo courtesy of NAEA and Seth Freeman Photography)

There was no question what mattered in Fort Worth during the recent NAEA conference. (Photo courtesy of NAEA and Seth Freeman Photography)

In Fort Worth, one phrase — ART MATTERS! — became the mantra of the conference. It was emblazoned on tee shirts, tote bags, and, especially for this group, aprons for the studio art room. It was also on banners attached to light posts throughout the downtown, a great affirmation of Fort Worth’s world-class commitment to the arts — witness the Amon Carter and Kimball Art Museums and the Bass Performance Hall, to name only a few — as well as a sign to let locals know that NAEA was in the house.

NAEA President F. Robert Sabol, in the opening session, used the rhetorical device of entreating his audience to respond to each of a long list of reasons why the arts are important in the education and lives of young people; the response was “ART MATTERS!” The most enthusiastic response came after he cited former NAEA president Elliot Eisner’s “10 Lessons the Arts Teach,” a must-have resource for any serious arts education advocate.

The NAEA attendees, representing virtually every state and the District of Columbia, as well as more than a dozen other countries, took advantage of more than 1,000 professional development opportunities, some as plenary sessions with renowned artists such as Jesús Moroles, whose monumental granite sculptures are featured at CBS Plaza in New York, the White House, and the Smithsonian Institute. There were also Super Sessions, focusing on hot topics such as the Next Generation Arts Standards and connecting with community resources like museums, performing arts centers, and libraries.

One Super Session examined three Texas models of community partnerships, two of them — Dallas and Houston — supported currently or in the past by Office of Innovation and Improvement grants. Big Thought, a past grantee of the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) program, facilitates the efforts of more than 100 community cultural partners that believe in the power of imagination, creativity, and innovation to change the way children learn. Its Thriving Minds program promotes creative thinking, project-based learning, and experimentation, changing the way Dallas and its public schools think about educating youth for the 21st century.

With a 2011 grant award from the Professional Development for Arts Educators program, Houston Arts Partners is collaborating with the grantee, Houston Independent School District, and other local cultural partners to implement and evaluate CAPP, a unique professional development project designed to put the arts at the core of every school and promote a college-bound culture in Houston’s middle and high schools.

Another former AEMDD grantee, the University of New Hampshire, shared evaluation findings and a range of instructional and professional development resources resulting from its art and literacy project, “Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art and Image-Making Within the Writing Process.” OII support helped to develop, pilot, and rigorously evaluate an elementary-grades approach to giving children visual and kinesthetic as well as verbal modes of thinking as they master the writing process. Session participants viewed a DVD that documented the picture-writing process in several New Hampshire schools along with evidence of students using the picture-writing process outperforming peers on reading assessments. Click here to see how two schools used picture-writing to bridge cultures and learning styles, helping ELL and newly immigrant students to appreciate and celebrate diversity.

The inherent connections between the visual arts and literacy are the point of this year’s Youth Art Month observance in Maryland’s Howard County Schools. (Photo courtesy of the Visual Arts Office, Howard County Public Schools)

The inherent connections between the visual arts and literacy are the point of this year’s Youth Art Month observance in Maryland’s Howard County Schools. (Photo courtesy of the Visual Arts Office, Howard County Public Schools)

I returned from the conference ready to write this blog and also continue to see how the ARTS MATTER to the students we serve. And just a week later, the Howard County (Md.) Schools opened its Youth Art Month exhibit, “The Visual Storyteller: The Narrative in Art,” at the local arts council’s gallery. The show’s a great way to see not only the skills that students are acquiring in visual arts, but also how the arts are a natural part of the new Common Core State Standards. Rather than pigeonholing literacy to the silo of English language arts, students are crossing over academic boundaries to express themselves in ways that connect with others, inspire their creativity, and prepare them for a world that increasingly communicates in words, sounds, and images. Or, as the kids would say, “it’s all good.”

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and works on issues of national arts education policy and practice.