The Wanderer

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I love being Executive Director of Lincoln Center Institute, but if I were to name my job’s myriad positive qualities, tranquility wouldn’t be one of them. Lincoln Center’s position as the world’s largest performing arts institution is something I never forget, especially when I have a significant decision to make. In these moments, a mob of diverse and worthy perspectives invariably crowds my mind: I hear the voices of Lincoln Center’s and LCI’s Boards of Directors; of Maxine Greene, our Philosopher-in-Residence; of my passionate senior staff; of the classroom educators with whom we work and the students whom we serve. Then I get nervous. How am I supposed to synthesize the wisdom and interests of so many parties? Can I do so and still actually get something done? I feel myself tensing up, and I know it’s time to wander. Continue reading

Shall We Dance?

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Monica Bill Barnes & Company in SUDDENLY SUMMER SOMEWHERE. Photo by Jane Hoffer

Monica Bill Barnes & Company in SUDDENLY SUMMER SOMEWHERE. Photo by Jane Hoffer

When we’re good at something and do it often, it’s easy to slip into autopilot and lose track of the real essence of what we’re doing. Then when we do get stuck, we don’t know how to extricate ourselves: we’re too close to the thing; we’ve lost our sense of perspective. So how do we break free? As a young dancer, I learned the answer the hard way—that is, physically.

I used to practice contact improvisation, a postmodern partner dance form based on communication and shared points of contact. I would take on my partner’s weight, he or she would take on mine; we’d charge, lift, roll, and balance each other in a state of constant awareness, tuned in intensely to one another’s subtlest movements. But sometimes we’d get stuck. Locked into a position. Communication breakdown. I’d want to move one way, my partner would want to move another, and instead we’d end up like Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: “They do not move.” And if one of us tried to force the issue, to make a unilateral decision, it wouldn’t work: cooperation was necessary for progress. So I learned, over time, to stop pressing. Continue reading

Outstanding Achievement

Image by Sarah Small

Last Wednesday at the annual gala celebration for the Lab School of Washington (DC), author and activist Jonathan Mooney accepted the school’s prestigious Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award. Severely dyslexic, Mooney learned to read when he was twelve; published his first book, Learning Outside the Lines, at 23; and has become one of the foremost experts in LD/ADHD, disabilities, and alternative education. He was also among the luminaries who took part in one of Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations this past summer in New York City.

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So, Why Imagination First?

Scott cropped by LM

Image by Julia Clark-Spohn

“A capacity for imagination is our greatest renewable resource,” claims Imagination Now featured blogger Scott Noppe-Brandon. In a discussion last night at The Princeton Club, Scott discussed his views on the central role imaginative thinking and action could play in our lives, our businesses, and our nation, and he the role that the “imagination practices” outlined in the book Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, could play. The book, a recent release from Jossey-Bass Publishers, was co-authored by Scott and Imagination Now featured blogger Eric Liu. Scott calls for Americans to routinize imagination, on a small scale through individual practices, and on a broader scale through changes in workplace, school, and home environments.

The event included a panel discussion about imagination with Scott, award-winning high school principal Maxine Nodel, and theater artist and storyteller David Gonzalez.

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The What, Why and How of Imagination — Advocacy in Action!

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Eric Liu speaking at the Washington State Workforce and Economic Development Conference

When you get the advocates for workforce development and advocates for economic development working together, notes Imagination Now featured blogger Eric Liu, what you get is a combined effort that is greater than the sum of its parts—non-zero math where 1 + 1 = 3. Last week Eric delivered the keynote address at the Washington State 2009 Workforce and Economic Development Conference, discussing the primacy of imagination within the Imagination > Creativity > Innovation continuum and responding to participants’ questions. Breaking innovation down to the “what,” “why,” and “how,” this discussion made a great springboard for the conversations, both formal and informal, that took place over the next two days.

Watch a video of the opening session, which includes Eric’s keynote (time signature 29:33).

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Create to Graduate

graduation cake

Image by CarbonNYC*

For anyone interested in the work of LCI, we present some exciting news: The Center for Arts Education (CAE) has just released “Staying in School,” a groundbreaking report that is the first ever to examine the link between arts education and high school graduation rates in New York City public schools. Data collected by the NYC Department Of Education from more than 200 schools over two years tells us that those “in the top third in graduation rates offered their students the most access to arts education and the most resources that support arts education” (2). What accounts for the connection? By sparking students’ imaginations, by giving them means to express themselves, by leading them into creative collaboration with their peers, the arts engage young people who might otherwise become drop-out statistics. The report concludes helpfully with several positive policy recommendations, including expanded course offerings in the arts, the hiring of certified arts teachers, and the provision of ample classroom space for arts instruction (20-21). We at LCI applaud the exhaustive research and analysis undertaken by CAE, an organization that has served the children of NYC since 1996. The writing (or painting or acting or dancing or music) is on the wall: schools—not just here, but across the country—must integrate the arts into their curricula if we are to end “the national graduation crisis” (5) once and for all.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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