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The Importance of Art Education: Processes of RADICAL PEDAGOGY

  • The anti-art shift in the pedagogical environment impacts the long term culture of New York City, the “Cultural Capital of the World.”


Last night I attended the Panel on The Importance of  Arts Education
at Artists Space at 55 Walker St.
The sad facts: In 20% of NYC schools there is NO art teacher – that’s 1 in 5.
In the past 7-10 years there has been a drastic decline in arts funding.
A 47 % decline in field trips to cultural institutions,
A shocking 84% decline in Art supplies and instruments!
The average spent on arts per student citywide is $2.
(Bloomberg gutted Project Arts.)
Mayor de Blasio’s new $23 million a year funding line
in the city budget for arts education is not enough.
Systemic Deficiency: The  Problem with Testing and Common Core
Common core insists on standardization and accountability.  This “mind surveillance”  leaves little space for critical investigation….The focus on Common Core and testing leaves teachers no time for arts education. Is a child nothing but a number from 1-4? Question for you dear  readers – What is education? Is it aesthetic, spiritual and moral?  –in addition to math and language?
Robert Sember, sound artist,  spoke eloquently of the “constraints and burdens” of the teacher….“Everything is controlled’”
He told of ” the alienation  of the profession of teacher”and
“the terrible pressure to deliver high test scores.”
“How can there be any elbow room in such an atmosphere of brutal discipline around bodies and minds?”
An art teacher from the South Bronx from the audience raised his hand:
“It is very hard” he said, with tears in his eyes…
[One cheering take away: our Gifted Childrens Arts Festival for high poverty kids will happen OUTSIDE of school.  Perhaps we will be able to reach deeper layers of freedom and beauty with our students. Do you know a gifted child who might benefit from time spent with our 8 inspired, skilled, career artists -- July 13 - 19? Let me]
The event was chaired by Dipti Desai, Professor of Art and Art Education at NYU Steinhardt
She received a Specialist Fulbright Award in 2014.
Joy Episalla, multidisciplinary NY artist – founding member of Fierce Pussy. Solo exhibition of her work opens March 8, Participant Inc.
Carmen Fulford, Assistant Principal at Nathan Straus PS 140. She supervises the 21st Century grant which provides the school w access tos ervices from community-based orgs.
Doug Israel, Dir. of Research and Policy for The Center for Arts Education. (CAE)
Robert Sember is a member of the international sound art collective Ultra-red . He talks about “collective listening” as a critical factor in community organizing.
Robert Sember ” the artist is the perfect entrepreneur…a flexible laborer, with no medical insurance and no unemployment insurance who often works “for love.”
Check out Robert Sember and Ultra-red
Joy Episalla, a beautiful and brilliant Artist-Activist teaching on the lower East Side:

Minutes 2/31/15

NYUM - New PageYouth Art and Music Festival Committee Meeting
Minutes 2/31/15

Meeting called to order 10:30 AM Sunday
Daniel Hauser, Urszula Abolik, Phoebe Legere, Sonja Abolik

1.Brief review of last 1/25/15 minutes.

2.First order of business:
Phoebe to Danielle: How do we find gifted, low-income children ages 9-12?
Danielle: Create a one sheet with the word FREE in capital letters, bold. Use colors. In two lines outline the program. General info. Attach a FUN, EYE-CATCHING flyer. Keep it short.

Danielle presents Phoebe with a beautiful three page spreadsheet with the names, numbers, emails and addresses of local schools, principals of Lower East Side middle schools, elementary schools.

Danielle prepares Phoebe for the psychological, physical challenges in finding the children. “Some administrators are ‘dead in the eyes.’ Principals are sometimes impossible to reach, surrounded by screaming kids or in crisis in their office.”

Danielle: On entering a school:
Schmooze the guard. Show him the flyer. Use the principals name.
If you can’t get to see the principal see the parent coordinator or art teacher.
Double team with the art teacher to get the job done.
Franklin Roosevelt School is the toughest and roughest. Go down Attorney St. “Down there” Very tough.

3. Curriculum:

Phoebe leads Band of 3 in a visualization “Imagining the Future” -MIT Ugroup

Decision pending approval from Board to change the name from Camp to Festival

Brain Storm
Phoebe creates a white board mind map (see attached)

10:30: Three tables set up in Garden. (Tables provided by Ula, stored by Phoebe at NYUM)

As kids come have them put on their smocks.
Give them a little juice box or small snack. Have them sit down.
Teach a song or tell little history lesson of Lower East Side during snack.
Have them write their names on cups if cups are used.
When done have them drop their cups in one box, “paper, metal, glass” to be reused in art projects in another box.

As they move past the box they return to circle on ground.

Welcome Ceremony
Brief Native American Ceremony led by Phoebe Songbundle with Drum.
Brief Overview of Festival program
Urszula says, Tell the children:

“You will meet really famous artists, people who you see on TV. They will say your name and shake your hand.”

In circle
Each child introduces him/herself,
“What is your superpower?”

Stand up. Do movements culled from Ballet, Tai Chi, Yoga. Get warmed up.

Sit down at tables.
11:15 45 minutes
Activity of the day
learn a skill

12:00 -12:30
Healthy lunch

12:30 – Theater games
such as:

Hotel Clerk
Pick names from a hat
archetypes: poet, rebel, dramaqueen
What do you have to be to book a room?

Confidence Coaching
Mon. Self-Esteem
Tues. Confidence Courage
Wed. How to start a small business
Thurs.How to give and receive gifts
Friday: Visit from a charismatic math teacher

2:00-3:00 Star Visit
Confirmed Stars:
Hilary Knight (Illustrator) Daisy Berkowitz (Marilyn Manson) Penny Arcade (Performance Artist)
William Niederkorn (Performance Poetry, Shakespeare) Johnny Depp (Actor)

Possible Mentors:
Xenobia Pauline and Ione Oliveros?
Kenkelaba Curators to talk about Art as Community
Visit to Wilmer Jennings Sculpture Garden?


Danielle “We promise we won’t read your journals. You can write or cartoon about anything you have learned here, or what’s going on at home, or on the street.”
Sit at Tables
Pass out Journals
Work on Journals

One on One
(line up for your turn)
Buddy Mentors

Closing Ceremony (Phoebe Songbundle)

What did you learn today?
Did you give or receive a gift?
Closing Song and Closing Hug

Line up Remove Costume of Power Messy Shirt, fold neatly and sign with name,
Put in Box.


Phoebe talks about potential challenges:
How do we handle the one on one?
gives example from Zen monastic traditon, 1 on 1 Dharma talk with master

Also suggest the possibility of 1 minute of silent introspection each day

Friday is Gift Day
To be discussed: Preparation for Saturday, Family Day
Friday – Theater Games to be replaced by Dress rehearsal for show?

Danielle: “Everything takes longer than you think it will.”

Phoebe suggests a Big battery operated Clock Timer

To buy or acquire:
Plastic wireless circular amplifier
Plastic battery op Clock Timer
20 white mess shirts
Materials for the Arts


5 movements at the start of every day, repeat at end, add one new movement each day.

Folk Traditions;
Do you come from another country? How do you greet people in the other country?
Each person gets to be a leader.

NY History

Phoebe films Band of 3 talking about why children are so important to our community.

Phoebe: Let’s talk about really disruptive, problem kids.

Agreed: We need a screening process to screen for gifted children who can interact with other children

Go to Crystal Field, propose that May 16th, Saturday, we hold an audition.
Do a theater game; See how they interact; Interview them

Phoebe: Have them sing, duplicate a note,do a brief rhythm exchange?

At the end we ask Sonja, a 12 year old gifted child,
How does this all sound to you?
She says, “It sounds really fun. I want to be part of it.”

Minutes 1.25.15

nyumlogorealMeeting of the Art Camp Committee

Present: Urszula Abolik, Barnaby Ruhe, Danielle Azizza, Phoebe Legere

Meeting called to order by Executive Director Phoebe Legere

Refreshments provided by Phoebe Legere: $19.95, 5 Chocolate croissants, 3 large coffees, milk, sugar. (One Belgian Waffle donated by Dinges next door.)

Each person present introduces themselves and tells their background in education.

Phoebe gives a brief overview of the mission and history of the Underground Museum.

Resolved and voted:

NYUM Art Camp will take place July 13 -17 9AM-4PM, M-F with a Family day 12-3PM on Saturday.

Family Day 7/18 noon will be an exhibition of the children’s art works, music, poetry, theater and dance.

We discussed the age range of children. Daniella relates her experiences with Middle Schoolers, and talks about the difficulty of breaking through with High School age young people.

We decide and vote on 9-12 as a general age range.

Barnaby suggests that the children keep a “cartoon journal” of what happens at home and at camp during the week. Phoebe suggests a “mixed-media” journal.
All agree.
Other exciting ideas are shared: tracing the body, the buddy mentor, wearable sculpture, theater games, creating an art book, performance poetry, health and wholeness.

Phoebe asks Danielle to tell us where we will find gifted children for the camp.
Barnaby suggests an interview to filter for gifted children.

Danielle tells Phoebe to prepare a one sheet and a folder describing the camp. These materials should be given to Principals, Art Teachers and Parent coordinators. Danielle will provide a list of the shelters and public schools in the neighborhood.

Curriculum is to be discussed at the next meeting but self-defense and math are suggested to augment the arts curriculum.

Barnaby talks about techniques to focus and settle hyperactive and autistic children. Special needs children will be discussed at a later meeting.

Non-profits that distribute food to non-profits and Materials for the Arts will be contacted as soon as our 501(c)(3) comes through.
Our CFO offers to contribute the notebooks for the journals.

Phoebe tells Danielle to invoice her for any time she spends on administration.

All agree it is great, fun meeting full of hope and love for our community.
TO DO: NYS Char form, Camp Licenses, CPR certification, Insurance through FracturedAtlas,
Meeting with Gardens and MORuS. Confirmation of Theater for the New City as a rainy day space.