Building Artistic Literacy Through the New Connecticut Arts Standards

Jackie Coleman, Education Consultant for the Arts, CSDE
Co-authored by Kristine Fillian, Arts Intern, CSDE
The Connecticut Board of Education adopted the new Connecticut Arts Standards on October 5, 2016 with an eager and enthusiastic, unanimous vote.  Inspired by the National Core Arts Standards (2014), the new Connecticut Arts Standards provide a more rigorous academic program for Connecticut’s Arts students with a focus on student development and attainment of artistic literacy. 
What is artistic literacy?
The National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning (2014), described artistic literacy as: the knowledge and understanding required to participate authentically in the arts….Indeed, an arts-literate individual recognizes the value of the arts as a place of free expression and the importance of observing and participating in the social, political, spiritual, financial, and aesthetic aspects of their communities (both local and global, in person and virtually) and works to introduce the arts into those settings.

Artistic literacy is a high level concept for administrators, teachers, and students to pursue.  The drive to attain artistic literacy in Connecticut classrooms is a product of current education methods that utilize and capitalize on concept-based learning techniques.  The new Connecticut Arts Standards encourage and provide a blueprint to the necessary skills for developing artistic literacy across all of the art forms.
How the New Connecticut Arts Standards Fosters Artistic Literacy
What is new in the Connecticut Arts Standards (2016) is that they will encourage educators and students to focus on why we are making, doing and performing. This focus will promote global connections to be made and 21stcentury skills like collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking to be built.

It is expected that Arts teachers will be talking about the changes that will occur in their classrooms as a result of these standards.  The new Connecticut Arts Standards has similar expectations to the National Core Arts Standards.  The National Core Arts Standards have 11 anchor standards that represent all 5 disciplines (dance, media arts, music, theatre and visual arts). This means all of the arts are organized under one umbrella with a common, very clear and important purpose.  One example is Anchor Standard #6 – Convey Meaning through the Presentation of Artistic Work.  We see a powerful contemporary example of Anchor Standard #6 fully realized at a highly accomplished level in the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.

There is meaning coming through the performers, the music, the costumes, the set and the story.  They are telling a historical tale centered on Alexander Hamilton. They have finely honed their craft and mastered artistic literacy.

In the classroom. Students are not expected to fully grasp a high level anchor standard like Anchor Standard #6 – Convey Meaning through the Presentation of Artistic Workright from the start. They need smaller pieces that they will put together and build to master the larger concept. For example, in a theatre classroom at grade six, this same anchor standard is defined by the performance standard appropriate for that grade level – adapt a drama/theatre work and present informally for an audience.  When you walk into that sixth grade theatre class you might see students using pantomime to communicate the meaning of a story or students informally improvising the story for their peers.

Meanwhile, in the 6th grade visual art classroom across the hall, the performance standard they are working on reads – assess, explain, and provide evidence of how museums or other venues reflect history and values of a community. Students in that classroom are perhaps presenting a PowerPoint with images from one of the oldest art museums in the United States, located right here in Connecticut, the Wadsworth Athenaeum.  While both classrooms seem to be performing very different tasks, both are laying the foundation for artistic literacy.  They are doing so by guiding, supporting, and ensuring that students are demonstrating meaning through the presentation of artistic work. No matter which discipline or grade level the performance standard represents, the overarching Anchor Standard remains the same.  

The goal of all 11 of the arts’ Anchor Standards collectively is to develop artistic literacy in our students.
Next Steps
As we prepare our communities to use these standards effectively, it is important that we remember the value of professional development in the standards implementation process. We are identifying opportunities across the state where teachers, administrators and parents can learn more about the proposed new Connecticut Arts Standards.  

If you are interested in what is available to your district feel free to contact

Posted: 10/26/2016
Blog Tag(s): Artistic Literacy, Literacy, Standards