Art and creativity are some of the most important educational tools for many students. The arts encourage children to reframe concepts in a way that is relatable for themselves rather than just memorizing and repeating information. Creativity supports self-expression within the learning process, which is vital for some students to grasp and retain difficult concepts. All too often, the arts are only accessible in wealthy school districts, leaving under-resourced schools without the programs children need to cultivate a love of creativity.
Locally, the Delaware Institute for Arts in Education (DiAE) works to integrate the arts into all aspects of learning in schools across the First State. The organization‘s signature SPOTLIGHT event will celebrate DiAE’s 40-year anniversary on September 21 at the Blue Ball Barn in Wilmington.
DiAE was founded in 1982 by Larry Peterson, a professor at the University of Delaware. The organization drew teaching artists from Philadelphia, New York City and the University of Delaware to work in classrooms across the state.
Today, Artistic Director Ashley Davis describes DiAE as an arts-based education-focused organization.
“The goal is to serve teachers statewide by finding methods and resources that they can use to implement arts integration strategies into their classroom,” she says.
This is especially important for under-resourced schools without funding for ample arts education programs. DiAE uses art residency programs to send “teaching artists” into K-12 schools to partner with teachers. Through these programs, teachers integrate arts into their lesson plans for any subject.
“Aesthetic education and arts integration is truly a meeting of the minds between our team and the teachers,” says A.T. Moffett, Executive Director of DiAE.
This meeting of the minds can be a beautiful thing. Many excellent lesson plans have come out of the art residency programs. One noteworthy project comes from a middle school French classroom. The French teacher worked with teaching artist Yolanda Chetwynd to create a graphic novel project wherein students learned about the process of graphic novel creation. They then asked students to create their own six-panel comic—entirely in French. Through this integrated form of learning, students were practicing their French vocabulary while also cultivating their creativity.
This relationship is beneficial to all parties involved. The students cultivate creativity and are provided a new opportunity to learn. Teaching artists have a source of income through DiAE so they can create and teach art as a career. The teachers also benefit by having extra classroom support during a time of massive shortages of teaching staff.
“Our teachers are being asked to do so many things right now,” says Moffett. “We see ourselves as supporting what is already in motion; complementing, amplifying and highlighting what they’re doing.”
Along with the K-12 art residency program, DiAE also offers the Delaware WolfTrap program for early childhood education (pre-K and kindergarten). Between the K-12 and early education programs, DiAE is responsible for over 35 art residencies each year. The organization has helped over 150,000 Delaware students cultivate a love of art and creativity, with the number climbing each year.
DiAE also hosts professional development programs to help teachers implement artistic education strategies into their classrooms. These programs come in a variety of formats to fit the needs of different schools. From 90-minute virtual options to more involved full-summer programs, the professional development programs help school staff expand and deepen their practice of arts integration with hands-on workshops.
The SPOTLIGHT event at the Blue Ball Barn in Wilmington is an excellent place to learn more about DiAE and its signature fundraising event, which will feature Slam Poet Gayle Danley. The evening will also include hands-on demonstrations with teaching artists and a panel discussion with founder Dr. Larry Peterson. Administrators, teachers or lovers of art education are welcome to purchase tickets to celebrate the past 40 years and help cultivate a future for art education in the First State.
Teachers and administrators interested in DiAE’s services can fill out the online contact form or email Executive Director A.T. Moffett (email@example.com) or Artistic Director Ashley SK Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org). Artists interested in learning more about becoming teaching artists with DiAE are encouraged to reach out as well.