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New Research: Arts Education Sparks Innovation, Optimism, & Resilience
Episode 102

New Research: Arts Education Sparks Innovation, Optimism, & Resilience

CI to Eye with Courtney J. Boddie and Russell Granet

This episode is hosted by Erik Gensler.

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Erik speaks with Courtney and Russell about the New Victory Theater’s Spark Change research, quantifying the positive impact of performing arts education on kids. They discuss why early exposure to arts education fosters a lasting love for the arts, builds interpersonal skills, encourages innovation, and builds hope for the future in young people. They also share their insight into the New Victory is creating opportunities for access to the arts in the schools that need it most.

Erik Gensler: Courtney, Russell so nice to have you on CI to Eye.

Russell Granet: Oh, thanks or having us, Erik.

Courtney Boddie: Thank you for having us.

Erik Gensler: You’re [sic] both have backgrounds as teaching artists, and I’d like to talk a bit about the concept of the teaching artists. In fact, Courtney, you have a podcast all about teaching artistry. So, I’d love for you to talk a bit about what a teaching artist does, as you see it, and how this role has evolved and where you see it going.

Courtney Boddie: Yeah, a teaching artist is somebody who is a facilitator of other people’s creativity, in my opinion, and really bring [sic] a love of sharing their own artistry with others. And then, that can connect in a lot of different ways, depending on the kind of community you’re working with, the subjects, the art form, et cetera.

Russell Granet: And I would add to that, that teaching artistry, at least in New York City in the late seventies, was born out of necessity. You know, you had huge budget cuts to the Department of Education where the arts were just decimated. So, the cultural community at that time really stepped up and said, “In order for someone to have a complete, well rounded public education, it has to include the arts.” So, the culturals really stepped up and that’s where you’ll see, sort of, the birth of education departments and, certainly, sort of, a sea change in the role of an artist in schools. I started as a teaching artist in the late nineties and the role of the teaching artists has changed and the profession is really a profession now. I mean, I would say, when I started, 95% of my colleagues were actors, dancers, painters, musicians, who were looking for a paid gig and they would, you know, audition in the afternoon. In the early days, you would only teach in the morning. So, you were sort of in a school from nine to noon, and then you had the rest of the day to pursue your art. That has changed. I mean, there are programs now that are specifically about teaching artistry and how to become a teaching artist. And everything Courtney said, I completely agree with. The only thing I would add to that is I do think teaching artists have the added skill of being the translator of the art and I think that’s very important for young people who may not have a lot of exposure to the arts. So, “art” as a term, we know from our own research, is an elitist term. And, oftentimes, when you say, “art,” people think visual art, they don’t necessarily think the performing arts. So, the idea that a teaching artist is a translator of that art, I think, is key in their role and the success of their role.

Erik Gensler: Absolutely. So, that’s actually a really great segue into your most recent research study, your SPARK research, which we’re going to talk about today, which has some really powerful and important implications for our podcast audience about the impact of arts exposure on young people. So, before we jump into the findings and the methodology, I always like to start with, “Why?” Why did you commission this research? What are the origins of the study? And then we can get into some of the key findings.

Courtney Boddie: So, I’ve worked for the organization for 18 years and when I started working here, one of the very first memories I have of being here was being in the theater with over 400 kids, watching a show and realizing that this was the place that was absolutely for me. Kids being able to have immediate reactions and responses to what they’re seeing on stage or being drawn into a story or drawn into a character’s life as a collective and a community has always been very important to us as an institution, and, from my perspective, me too. And so, I think we’ve always had some big inquiry questions about how we’re approaching this work. How are we also engaging young people before and after they see a particular performance? And had some informal or formal evaluation and assessment, but we didn’t have, like, the clear, sort of, longitudinal, hard evidence of exactly what was happening in the hearts and minds of kids when they see live performance and engage with our teaching artists in their classrooms. So, that was the start of embarking on all of this many, many years ago,

Russell Granet: I’ve been at the organization for two years, so I was not here at the beginning, although I did consult for the New 42 and the New Victory early on in their early stages of looking at research and just how important it is … Oftentimes, we find ourselves talking to people who already believed what we believe and what you need to be able to do is to change your pitch for those who don’t believe what we believe. And we believe the arts are a basic human right. And for some people, having the research and the data, what we know intuitively is the right thing, people need that research to back it up. And so, I, obviously, am in full support of the research and I’m thrilled that we have it, really, to use to inform our own practice, but also to set policy.

Erik Gensler: Absolutely. How did you go about this? Like, what was the methodology, what was your hypothesis, and how did you go about making this happen? Without going into too much detail, but I find it helpful to sort of frame what we’re looking at.

Courtney Boddie: We partnered with our research partner, Wolf Brown, and we were inspired by work that their colleague Alan Brown had done on the intrinsic impacts of theater on adult audiences. So, we were able to take some of the constructs that were found in that study and apply them using youth development constructs to start to devise, how would we start to look at what the impacts were on young people? The methodology was quite varied. We had perspective-taking, where we were working with a specific group of young people, third- through eighth-grade students to learn over time after seeing three, then six, then nine performances over a three-year period, how are they able to look into a particular character’s inner life? And then, there was also just thinking about, “What kinds of questions would you want to ask an artist or that you’re having directly after?” So, it was the immediate impact of seeing a live performance, where we would have them self-report —the students would self-report during the talkback, actually, at the theater itself. And a couple of other measures where we had observations, but we also had measures at the top of every school year and at the bottom of every school year, the same exact measures, where we were looking at things like, “Who would you want to collaborate with?” “Who would you want in your theater company?” “Do you think that theater is for you or somebody like you?” “Did you see or learn about somebody while watching?” Those kinds of questions.

Erik Gensler: And so, this took place in, I believe, nine schools from 2015 to 2019. So, it was really a lot of schools without formal arts education programs, right?

Courtney Boddie: Yes, we had launched that program. It was called the SPARK program. It’s an acronym that stands for Schools with Performing Arts Reach Kids, which was very aligned with what we were looking for. Really, could we spark something inside of an individual kid, inside of the teachers, inside of the community by engaging in the performing arts?

Erik Gensler: Let’s dive into some of the key findings. There are four, and let’s talk about sort of the headlines of what you learned and then we can dive into some of the findings.

Russell Granet: The key finding for me—and we’ll go into, sort of, the four big topics—is early as better. What we know, overall, is that early exposure to the arts leads to all kinds of benefits. But we also know there are many barriers that lead to that. So, this is going on the assumption that early is better, right? So, when young people are exposed to performing arts at a young age, we know that there’s an enduring love for the performing arts that then lasts a lifetime. So, the younger you are, the more you see it, the more that’s going to stay with you for a lifetime. We know that if you are seeing the performing arts for the first time in middle school or high school, it’s never too late, but it really is dramatically different with the amount of engagement a person might have when they’re exposed to the arts later. Obviously, there are all kinds of exceptions, but generally, earlier is much more beneficial. It really expands—and again, you know, this as an arts person—interpersonal skills that strengthen teamwork. And that’s what every corporate giant is looking for out there, someone who going to be able to work with a group of people, understand there are multiple solutions to problems, and be able to communicate that. So, that’s a fairly big finding for us. Again, not necessarily surprising given the world that we’ve decided to work in, but we know that for the outside world, that’s an important measure. The third is the idea of, “Inspires creative thinking and encouraging innovation and problem-solving.” Again, a skill that, if you’re going out on the world and looking for work, that is something you’re being asked in all kinds of interviews, right? “What, how are you seeing the world? What do you bring to this conversation that’s different from someone else? What is your creative ability?” And then the last—and given the world we live in, in the last 18 months—the last finding is this idea of hope, that by engaging in the arts, you have a better understanding of your place and a much greater capacity to understand your future in a positive light. And I think we found that to be the most compelling. You know, what parent or bureaucrat or educator is going to say, “I don’t want a young person to have hope for their future?” And if we can lead to that, then it only builds our case that the arts are in fact, essential.

Erik Gensler: Absolutely, and to have quantitative results that can say, “Nurturing hope and optimism and improving self-confidence and resilience by 10%,” that’s pretty miraculous to be able to say that. And, I mean, all of these findings, I think, are often are slashed from budgets and I think, perhaps, have a PR problem, where if you really looked at what is going to make someone unemployable and successful in the future, a big piece of it are these perspectives and interpersonal skills that you now have quantitative results that shows arts exposure leads to, but it’s much easier to say, “Oh, we’re just going to cut all that and focus on the hard skills or the STEM skills.” But I thought it was amazing that this really quantitatively points out those benefits.

Russell Granet: If you said to a parent, “Next year, we’re not going to have any math,” or “Next year, we’re not going to have any English,” it just wouldn’t happen. Yet, to your point. It is largely a marketing issue that we are passive as a culture. When somebody comes in and says, “You have to cut your arts program or your foreign language program”—and those tend to be the ones that, that get cut first—and we have to redefine that narrative.

Erik Gensler: Was there anything really, sort of ,surprising or out of the ordinary in these, in these results that you thought was, you know, unexpected from what you were thinking would come out of this?

Courtney Boddie: A lot of it was. This is the first research study that I had been a part of and the fact that this particular program sits under my purview, there was a little bit of anxiety, to be honest with you, but I knew that having other folks, people who were quite trained in doing this work, looking at this work was going to help me better understand how to continue to refine and revise the programs themselves, outside of this particular group of young people. The biggest surprise was the nurturing hope, you know, and thinking about that future orientation and fostering optimism. That was incredibly enlightening, one, and two, felt like, “Oh, there’s a lot more responsibility that we have here,” which is important, and we take it on, absolutely. But I don’t know if we were thinking about it in that way, without this study concretely giving us that evidence.

Erik Gensler: I saw one thing that sort of opened my eyes was under the finding of interpersonal skills. And then, the finding that asking classmates, if they have their own theater company, how many of their classmates are they include in it? And the SPARK participants showed a 19% increase in team size over the first year and control group students showed a 25% decrease over that same period. That is remarkable.

Courtney Boddie: We talk a lot about the moment that we’re in now, but we were working with students who are living with trauma, were living with trauma then, and are, you know, that’s compounded over time. And so, without really engaging with these artists, who have a great deal of empathy, who are getting the young people to work collaboratively in each of the activities, et cetera … without that exposure engagement opportunity, the distrust that may sow between kids is it’s highly possible. And so, I’m not as … Unfortunately, I’m not as surprised by that statistic.

Russell Granet: And I would just say in that particular section, the idea that we gave kids the vocabulary and the language to express what that means, right? So, at a certain age, you get a gut feeling about something, but you don’t necessarily have the life experience to be able to articulate what building a team might be. And so, that was the other piece for me. Again, I don’t know that it was a huge surprise, but it was certainly a great validation that, in addition to all of the good benefits of this kind of work, we’re also giving kids, to your earlier point, hard skills around being able to communicate a point of view and to know what they’re in fact saying and want to be able to do. Again, that leads to great, potentially great leadership in these young people.

Erik Gensler: As you speak to it, maybe it’s not surprising, but it’s just really nice to have, again, the quantitative evidence. It’s an interesting way of measuring it that really hits important points and can connect it to important outcomes. So, I really appreciate how these results are framed. And another area that I think was framed really intelligently was the part about improvisational exercises and then, as scenarios got more complex and more detailed, kids got more comfortable. And the ability to think creatively and solve problems, obviously, is important to success, and you saw a 50% increase in improvisation skills among SPARK participants after three years and a 300% increase in the average improvisation length among SPARK participants after three years. Again, quantitative results framed in a really interesting way. Curious for your thoughts about that.

Courtney Boddie: I would say, just going off of what

Russell Granet: just said, I mean, working … Not only were they, they had fine examples over nine different productions that they saw the New Victory over a three-year period, of professionals doing this work and collaborating with each other and making, you know, artistic choices, and then, being able to hear about those artistic choices, that the idea of working with our artists back in their classrooms, being able to continue to build on the skills that they were learning year after year. It’s very heartening, again, to learn that the something that’s sticking in terms of engaging and then thinking about improvisation … like, life is an improvisation. And again, just thinking more globally around social interaction with my peers or with adults or within my community, being able to better articulate myself through trying things out in a safe environment, trying language out, trying ideas out, physicalizations, et cetera, that growth over time is incredible.

Erik Gensler: It’s sort of the ability to embody expertise is not, I think for lots of people in society, you just sort of step into that, but some people can easily take for granted that that’s not a given. And one of the things I’d like to talk about is how you selected the schools and what the population of students, how you selected it, who they are, and why that’s important.

Courtney Boddie: So, that was my job (laughs). Initially, when we launched the program, we had done a lot of research utilizing some measurement tools like the New York City department of education’s arts reports, which is a self-report from each year. It’s anywhere between 90 to 95% of the schools actually complete the report. And we’re looking at hours of arts instruction, how many teachers, specifically arts specialists, they might have, other arts partners that they might have. And there were, again, you know, doing that kind of research sort of makes you cringe a little bit because there were a lot of schools that would sort of start the report by saying, “Due to budget cuts, we don’t have arts teachers, we don’t have this, we don’t have that.” But we were also looking for clues or keywords, like, “Despite that, the math teacher does drum circle during lunch;” “There’s a poetry club that’s after school, that’s run by our science teacher,” those kinds of things. So, the understanding that arts are important was still being conveyed through this report, but the lack of resources or that the need for the teaching staff or the administrative to try and be creative about how to incorporate more arts into the curriculum or the day for students was a huge key. And then, we were also looking at geography within New York City. Our performances are at 11 o’clock. We tend to have … At that time, we were tending to have schools that were sort of in closer proximity. So, we were really looking at the outer boroughs and within the outer parts of the outer borough. So, we were looking at schools in East New York or Bronx and way out in Queens. So, just giving more access to these kinds of opportunities through this program was important to us. And then, a very basic and important criteria was also having a higher percentage of Title I funding. So, I think it was 75% or more.

Russell Granet: And what we know is, high-performing schools and many private schools have very strong arts programs. So, you know, what do they know that the other schools don’t? And so, in selecting schools, it’s an equity and access issue. And that’s why there needs to be policies set in place that it’s not for some schools, but for all schools. You know, New York City has the largest public school system in the country. We have 1,800 schools, 1.1 million kids, and we have the absolute best in public education. But as the pendulum swings that way, it also swings back, and we have to be able to offer and share with young people throughout the … I mean, this is the cultural capital of the world, and we’ve got kids who could potentially graduate New York City public schools without a single day of arts education. And so, think of that brain development, right? Think about all of what’s missing without having art in your life. We’re not worried about the schools that have it, right? That’s not the point of this research. The research, I think, is really about leveling the playing field so it becomes for all kids.

Erik Gensler: And addressing a lot of the structures that are perpetuating this. That is certainly, I think, something on every arts administrator’s mind right now, is the structures of our audience, structures of who gets to participate in art, defining what art is, and breaking some of these historic inequities that have been foundational in American society. And I think not having access to arts programs, now that you have this, like, quantitative research that says, “No, this is actually proven to be damaging these kids at these schools,” really gives a case to make policy change. So, I’d love to talk about, as you thought about how investing in arts education connects to work around anti-racism.

Courtney Boddie: There is a systemic power-hoarding structure well in place by how one region or one school district … the school’s budgets are tied to taxes. And so, if you’re living in a lower-income neighborhood, then your budgets are less. And, again, if the priorities are towards STEM and not the arts, that’s where all the resources that you have are going to go. And so, to be able to use this report in that regard, I hadn’t really thought about that. I really appreciate that that was brought up because I struggle personally with, “How do we do all the work that needs to be done embedding anti-racism into everything that we do when we’re still needing to do that work on the systemic—this very large, the largest school system in the country—in that systemic way, when, ultimately, the resources, the power is continually gets shifted and pulled away from the people who actually need or want or should … or deserve, frankly, deserve all the resources and all the access possible? The other thing I was thinking about in terms of anti-racism is better understanding, again, sort of flipping the word “art” from an elitist perspective and really broadening that out to all kinds of different art forms, genres, styles, that we don’t necessarily have the knowledge or understanding of. And how do we start to incorporate more of that into either the programming on our stage, the work that we’re doing, really decentering whiteness and white approaches to developing content and curriculum? I really, you know, thinking about working towards an abolitionist perspective, that’s a long road and a good one, and we’re on that road, absolutely, and on that journey. But it is interesting to think about our responsibility in relation to this larger systemic issue.

Russell Granet: And you can’t separate out the cost of a ticket. Like, you just … You know, as much as you might be doing all the training and all trying to do all the right things, if you have a $200 ticket or a $500 ticket, that limits your audience and New 42 and New Victory, from day one, for students, we have a $2 ticket. And that was a $2 ticket 25 years ago, and it’s still a $2 ticket. And I do believe it should have some value. Like, I don’t really believe in free programs. So, I think a $2 ticket is totally fair and, truth be told, if someone couldn’t afford the $2, we would obviously cover that. But that has to be talked about. That has to be a part of the conversation. You can do all the work in the world, but if you’ve got a ticket price that’s not in reach for a large percentage of our community, that’s a problem. And I understand on the practical end of it, as a producer, to produce is very expensive. So, I get that. I mean, it’s not like I don’t understand where these ticket prices are coming from, but in the same breath, we can’t say that it’s for everyone.

Erik Gensler: Absolutely. And I think that ties to some research that you did it back in 2018. and looking across all multiple forms of entertainment and seeing childhood exposure leading to continued attendance as an adult. And that ticket price piece is such a big piece of it. You also, in that same study, found that parents are the top influencers. So, if you have parents that can afford theater tickets, that are going to the theater and creating an environment where you’re talking about the theater, if we don’t break it or do something about it, it’s just perpetuating that system.

Russell Granet: And the budget issue for schools, the delta, oftentimes, is made up by the parent association. So, if you’re in a school on the Upper East Side or Upper West Side, you know, there are PAs that are bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. So, although the per capita might be the same for many schools across the city, the game changer are these parent fundraisers where that’s how they supplement the programs. But if you’re in a community where you’re at a school where that’s not an option, what are you supposed to do? I mean, it doesn’t, you know … There’ve been all kinds of possible solutions put into place, but nothing is nothing has worked currently. On a practical level—you don’t want to just raise all the challenges without talking about the solutions—oftentimes, the schools that we’re talking about are not easy schools to work with. They don’t have extra staff. They don’t have someone who’s their arts point person. I worked at a foundation once where we phoned the school to let them know that they got a grant for arts education and no one ever called us back because it was on a machine somewhere, back when people had machines ,and nobody … Like, they, I think they called, like, four months later and said, “Oh, we just heard the good news!” and it’s like, “Well, that was in the fall!” And they said, “Well, we just are getting …” You know, and it’s no fault of their own. They’re doing their best to run schools with very little support. I think one of the solutions is an accurate heat map—and I would love our incoming mayor to think about this—of where arts are not happening. And I think as cultural community, we have a history of stepping up. That’s what we did in the seventies and it’s what we’ve doing ever since, that we take on and work with communities and work with the local arts organizations within these communities as well to ensure that all kids have access.

Courtney Boddie: Our responsibility, knowing that very many of the kids that we tend to work with, the reason why they’re having any exposure to a place like the New Victory is because of their teachers. So, being able to create different opportunities within the partnership programs structure is all about supporting those stakeholders, deepening relationships with them by creating moments just for them, like professional learning. We also have community conversations. We’ll also sit down with them and talk about, you know, “What are your goals for your students? How can we help you to curate a season specifically to meet those goals and to meet your students’ needs?” I think, yes, the understanding that, sometimes, the parent has other kinds of focuses and that’s just the way it is and that’s okay, that to be able to support the other adults in a kid’s life to understand how they can leverage the performing arts in the work that they’re doing to give more exposure, more opportunity for engagement and learning and all the wonderful things that we found in our study.

Erik Gensler: So, this podcast is for arts marketers, executive directors, people working in arts administration. And I want to get in what you’re hoping people like that can do with this information. And, I think perhaps, a lens is how you’re thinking about taking this and what you’re going to do with it at the New 42, and perhaps what you’re hoping that the broader field. And you started to touch on, on some of that, but I wanted to allow you to open the aperture, if you wanted to dive a little deeper in anything that that brings up.

Russell Granet: I would say, for my colleagues in similar positions who are running arts institutions, that we hope that this research will assist them in their own fundraising. I mean, we’re all after the same, small pot of money. And I think the more people have that kind of backup ammunition to be able to tell their story because, largely—and I’ll go out on a limb here—I don’t think that artists and arts administrators are great at telling their story. I think they tend to be … at least, there was a study done, another study done, called “The Qualities of Quality” that talked about how people in our position tend to be more passive than aggressive and tend to be very accepting of situations. So, if you show up to a school and you’re about to do a dance class and they’re like, “Well, here’s a room with no windows and no dance floor,” teaching artists, arts administrators are often so worried that they’re going to lose that partnership that they say, “Yes,” as opposed to a chemist isn’t going to say, “I’ll do this without the instruments I need.” So, I do think, if it could be used for advocacy within people’s own institutions, that would be a huge win for us. A, being read would be huge, and then, B, that they were taking action on it and raising the visibility of this work because I do think anyone who read this and is inspired by it helps all of us. So, by no means should this be held only by New 42.

Courtney Boddie: This study is coming out long after we’ve … we still have this program going (laughs). So, we’ve been learning lots of things and still continue to refine and whatnot. So, the biggest thing I can say is starting them early, that idea, we really think very, very specifically about, threes and fours—especially as the universal pre-K education program continues to grow within our city. We partnered with the Department of Education already to do professional development for those 3-K and pre-K teachers to have better skills and understanding of what they’re already doing and how to continue to integrate arts into their teaching practice on a daily. And, to that end, we’ve also developed a lot of resources around early arts learning so that we can support play-based learning and, again, that sort of love of theater, love of performing arts, right at the very beginning of a little one’s education. And then, on more broadly, we continue to tweak the partnership program to have different or multiple entry points for performing arts education. So, geography is not an issue.

Russell Granet: just talked about the $2 tickets. We really try to make sure that this program is affordable for everybody. We do our very best to try and help everybody understand that this organization is for them. In addition to that, what we’ve been able to optimize over the last 18 months is understanding the world of digital platforms and videos. And so, we have a huge archive and library of instructional videos, plus our Arts Breaks, which

Russell Granet: can talk a lot more about, but we share all of those materials with our teachers, and also research guides, et cetera. So, we’re trying to find new ways or more ways to engage all sorts of schools so that the performing arts can be a part of every kid’s life and not have only one entry, which is, “Buy a ticket and then you get all these other things.”

Russell Granet: I think that there is a gap in teacher education and teacher certification programs. And I think this research needs to be in those programs. So, before you’re in the trenches as a classroom teacher buried in work and stress, while you’re in graduate school becoming a teacher, this research has to be a part of the curriculum, as well as in leadership programs. So, there are some teachers who are on tracks to be classroom teachers and some on track to get their license for administration and leadership. I think that’s when you have to get to people, when their minds are still being developed and their opinions are being developed about what’s right. And when I talk to principals who have strong arts programs, I often ask, “No one’s holding you accountable. Like, why?” And I would say nine times out of 10—and this is not part of a research, but my own sort of research—is that it’s completely personal. The principal would go, “My son’s an actor.” “My daughter’s a dancer.” “I was a dancer.” It’s very personal. And because it’s that personal, they want to ensure that every kid has the same experience that they had. And I think that this research, if it’s shared while people are still developing their opinions, I think we’ve got a shot at real change.

Erik Gensler: Some big thought I had in preparing for this is this idea of, within organizations that tend to be siloed and don’t have a teaching artist at the helm or such a strong education department, that education within arts organizations is often siloed and it’s sometimes looked at as like … I actually had a development director early in my arts career say, “Oh, you know, education is important to us because that’s what funders will fund. You know, they don’t want to fund mainstream.” So, it sort of became this thing over here that raises money and is secondary. But the more you think about this in reality is, like, this idea that education is the art, and it’s this virtuous cycle. It’s like, the more you know about theater or dance or whatever your art form is, the more you want to learn about it, the more you attend. And so, education is marketing. And then there’s been studies done, like in content marketing, I remember a long time ago, I read a study about, like … It was either almond milk or oat milk. And if people are, like, watching videos about how almond milk or oat milk were made, they were much more likely, in the 30 days following that study, to purchase that product. And it’s the same thing here right now.

Courtney Boddie: I mean, I think because I don’t, I don’t necessarily think from a marketer’s perspective. So, I do think that that’s fascinating that there is something about thinking … I’ll talk about the, the wraparound content, right? So, going into a school … Before a young person or class is going to see a particular production, we’re coming in and giving them some nuggets to latch onto while they’re watching. And that is very visceral. We’re getting them to move, you know, the engagement piece is absolutely there. And then, what they end up talking about after, when they go home, right? If there’s an opportunity for the conversation at the dinner table or something like that, to talk about the experience, that’s a kid, that’s word of mouth (laughs) that that’s happening. And I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about it from the marketing. It’s more from, you know, from an education perspective. I believe that that means that we’ve had something is stuck for you, and that you’re wanting to share that. And then, to take the other piece about what’s beautiful, I have worked for other institutions in their education department, and I know that sort of language or that rhetoric and I think that’s unfortunate because I think that then, the, sort of, rigor and the approaches to how we are actually doing this work, from a place of equity, from a place of love, all of those really important pieces of the puzzle that it’s education work it can be hollow. And there is a potential for saviorism inside of that, that is, uncomfortable to me. And so, what I love about working for the New Victory is that the education department was a part of the organization from day one. And it has absolutely evolved over time and it always has kids rooted at the center of, “How do we continue to push, grow, deepen, and expand?

Russell Granet: And that education and artistic programming need to be at the same level, that it’s not, education’s reporting up to artistic or education … it just doesn’t work. And the people who understand that education is just a part of the artistic process, as is artistry being a part of education, education being a part of the artistry … the people who get very stuck on being very precious about what’s on their stages … I think if you have an audience—and I’ve been in these audiences—where half of them are sound asleep, that’s not engagement. So, you’ve left it to purity. Great. But then what they’re leaving saying they went somewhere, but that there was no real effect or change happening. So, I’ve never, you know, I’m relatively new at New 42, spent a long time at Lincoln Center, and have been in this field for 35 years. I think the people who get it right are the ones who the work of the artists and the work of the educator is totally in sync with one another. And that’s going to be what will move our field forward.

Erik Gensler: And I would say the marketing, as well, because that is the marketing is the programming and the spirit of teaching and sharing what you’re doing and building a passionate following around what you’re doing is the same, whether it’s through the marketing an on-stage performance or through your teaching artists or exposure to any sort of education or marketing content, it should always in that spirit. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. And this conversation and this research has certainly solidified. So, I wanted to just ask where can folks who want to learn more about this research, where should they look for it?

Courtney Boddie: We can find our research, actually, on the website. There’s lots of information about the program, the study itself, you can get access to the study, this report, the self-report. We also, our partners at Wolf Brown have also been submitting peer articles to … or, peer-reviewed articles. And so, there’s a link to the very first one that’s been published.

Russell Granet: As we talk about this work, we have to talk about all learners and that includes kids who learn differently. And, oftentimes, those kids are marginalized and not … I remember walking in as a teaching artist and the principal going, “I’m going to put you in these classes, not these classes, because they’re more kids in these classes,” but yet, the kids in the smaller classes oftentimes really excelled in this work. So, under Courtney and our colleagues’ leadership, we’re launching a website called Give, and it’s a project and a program for teaching artists and artists who want to work with kids with special needs, learning differences.

Courtney Boddie: Yep, that website is

Erik Gensler: Our final question we always ask is our “CI to Eye moment,” if you could each share. The question is, if you could broadcast to the executive directors, leadership teams, staff, and board of thousands of arts organizations, what advice or things to think about would you share with them right now?

Russell Granet: I would hope that the last 18 months changed your institution, that it wasn’t a placeholder, that you didn’t hold your breath, that you didn’t wait for this to be over because it’s never … this is a new time for arts and culture and I hope over the last 18 months, you’ve taken good notes and that it will help propel you to the next phase of the organization. I think New 42 is stronger, smarter, more efficient than we were 18 months ago.

Courtney Boddie: I love that,

Russell Granet:. I think mine is maybe a little bit more mushier cause that’s me. From that learning, from the last 18 months, approach this work from a place of love for others. Continue on your empathetic paths and think about how you are, you know, a slice, a piece, have some responsibility about how to make our world a better place.

Erik Gensler: I love that. Courtney, Russell thank you so much.

Russell Granet: Thank you for having us.

Courtney Boddie: Thank you.

About Our Guests
Courtney J. Boddie
Courtney J. Boddie
VP of Education and School Engagement, New Victory Theatre

Courtney J. Boddie is the VP of Education and School Engagement at the New Victory Theater. In 2019, TYA/USA awarded her with the TYA Community Impact Award for her leadership in New Victory SPARK (Schools with the Performing Arts Reach Kids), a robust multi-year arts program that has transformed New York City school communities previously underserved in the arts.

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Russell Granet
Russell Granet
President & CEO, New 42

Russell Granet is President & CEO of New 42. Under his leadership, New 42 expanded its virtual presentations and educator resources, including fully subsidized arts education for NYC public schools and the highly successful curriculum series, New Victory Arts Break. Among numerous honors, Granet was recently named by Crain’s New York as a 2020 Notable LGBTQ Executive.

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