An Inside Perspective from CAP’s President & CEO

Truth, Beauty and Goodness

January 7, 2019
Kimberly Hyatt, President & CEO

Last year brought more than one occasion to mourn the passing of an era with the deaths of notable figures, from scientists to musicians to elected officials.

These individuals’ ways of making their mark in the world were grounded in virtues not routinely cultivated in schools today. Whether in the lab, on stage or at a negotiating table, they exemplified behavior anchored in an understanding that there are always alternative and valid ways to see the world.

While they were no doubt shaped by myriad forces, arts education played a role. They benefitted from not only the opportunity but also the insistence of serious study in the arts, either in private schools or in public schools before the arts and classics were removed as essential parts of the curriculum. Their education in the arts helped make them who they were.

Whether George H.W. Bush’s manner of putting himself in the shoes of other nations’ leaders or Stephen Hawking’s quest for truth, beauty and goodness, these are qualities arts education develops.


Often, we think of arts education in relation to creative thinking. To many, it is exactly this talk of innovation that stokes fears of overshadowing what was good about the past.

But while arts education powers innovative thinking, the arts are also unsurpassed conservators of the past. There’s nothing better than arts education to reclaim virtues in imminent threat of extinction. Virtues – such as empathy, curiosity and humility – that underpin all true progress. Virtues whose loss should cause us all to fear.

When kids engage in a rigorous study of the visual and performing arts, they develop habits of mind that stick with them for life. As we begin a new year, there’s nothing more important for us to teach students. Nothing.

Gender Equity – Boys Need the Arts as Much as Girls

October 1, 2018
Kimberly L. Hyatt, President & CEO

Moving into fall, you’re just as likely to find girls playing soccer, basketball and any number of other sports as boys. Though athletics used to be the purview of boys, we’ve made strides toward gender equity in youth sports. But when it comes to the arts, we still have a long way to go.

By and large, the arts remain something girls do. This is especially true of certain art forms (think ballet) and certain specialties within disciplines – girls tend to play the flute while boys tend to play the drums.

While families often encourage their daughters to try their hand at one or more art forms, they are not so quick to steer their sons toward the arts. Indeed, at the Cathedral Arts Project, year after year we see families pulling their sons from dance classes no matter how badly the child wants to participate.

The problem with this is that all children – girls and boys – are created with the potential to be creative and the need to be expressive. If we don’t equip our sons as we equip our daughters – with positive tools to give voice to their innate, human needs in healthy, productive directions – these needs will be expressed in counterproductive, and sometimes even violent, ways.

How much more do we need to see to realize we are failing our boys? We are failing them by not raising them up to explore a variety of art forms, just like we used to fail our girls by not encouraging them to play sports.

Growing up today is tough enough without having to deal with the baggage of one’s parents and other adults. And nothing short of adults projecting their own shame, discomfort and fears can account for the message boys receive from society about what it means to be a “real man.”

Why else would empathizing with others, becoming aware of one’s feelings and learning to express what’s inside – all skills associated with participation in the visual and performing arts – be considered negative stereotypes for boys while the characteristics associated with hyper-masculinity continue to be promoted and reinforced?

The arts help boys – just like they help girls – develop essential social and emotional skills. The arts help boys – just like they help girls – explore their feelings. The arts help boys – just like they help girls –express themselves in positive ways, build healthy relationships with those around them and find their place in the world.

In all these ways and more, the arts help boys. It’s time we do too.

Achievement in the Arts: Celebrating Creative Thinkers

February 5, 2018
Kimberly L. Hyatt, President & CEO

Imagine a world where every weekend parents and grandparents spend hours cheering on a child’s efforts in dance, music, theatre or the visual arts. Imagine a world where a family’s excitement over a child’s A in an arts class mirrors that of an A in math or their child scoring the winning goal in soccer. Imagine a world where families encourage their children to work as hard in the arts as they do in other subjects or sports.

Hard to imagine? Why?

Most individuals readily accept data showing a host of benefits to children who study dance music, theatre and/or the visual arts. The problem is they don’t think it applies to their child. Unless their child is exceptionally talented, they don’t think spending time in the arts is as worthwhile as other endeavors.

Too often, this leads to parents indulging their child’s interest in the arts to a small extent, but never with the purposefulness it deserves and with nowhere near the level of engagement they demonstrate when a child works hard in other subjects or plays a sport.

But achievement in an art form is like achievement in anything else – when kids are challenged to perform better and work at it, they show improvement. Most children are not gifted at math but are taught early on that they must at least become proficient in it. It should be the same with the arts.

Estimates are that only 1 in 10,000 individuals have perfect pitch – the ability to identify or sing a musical note without the aid of any reference tone. It has long been believed you’re either born with this ability or you’re not.

This is typical of how people feel about the arts in general. Either the arts come naturally, or one shouldn’t waste their time. This myth of natural talent leads to children (and adults) thinking they can’t draw or play an instrument unless it comes easily. This is the very antithesis of the growth mindset needed to succeed in life. Never would we take that approach to science, math or reading. Of course, it takes hard work.

In 2014, Ayako Sakakibara released results of a longitudinal study showing she was able to teach children to identify notes by pitch. Some children picked it up more quickly than others, but every single child was eventually able to develop this ability, even if it took years.

That is not to say talent or a predisposition to excel at something doesn’t exist. It does. And it explains why some students were able to develop perfect pitch more quickly than others. But disposition is not destiny.

Children who are not prodigies in the arts can still learn and grow. Many of those without natural talent will still, over time, achieve remarkable things.

Parents discount the arts because they care about their children and are afraid they are wasting their time, but that’s not the case. All the data shows that. Not only does studying the arts benefit a student during the K-12 education, but these benefits continue leading to both higher rates of college enrollment and graduation. And yes, even scholarships are available for merit in an art form.

Hardly any students who play youth sports will receive college scholarships. Of those that do, many will give up their scholarship after one or two years. Of those that continue, only a very small fraction will go on to play professional sports.

Does this mean youth sports are a waste of time? Absolutely not. But it does provide a point of comparison.

We have a robust pipeline in this country to develop athletes, even though it is not a path to a career. We need a pipeline to develop creative thinkers and problem solvers. Studying the arts does this and can lead to a multitude of careers.

When we fail to encourage the development of the skills required to produce in each art form, we leave unrecognized potential on the table that can be used in many fields. There are real consequences to not recognizing the gravity of arts learning.

The arts matter – they provide the most essential of skills, like creative thinking, perseverance and self-discipline, that benefit all people in all areas of their lives.

We all want our children to succeed to make their mark on the world. So, let’s get serious about encouraging them to do just that.


The Northeast Florida Art Educators Association hosted the 7th annual Northeast Florida Scholastic Art Awards on Saturday, February 3, 2018. CAP is honored to again host the Gold and Silver Key portfolio winners in the Heather Moore Community Gallery.

The exhibition features the work of 44 Gold Key and 34 Silver Key portfolio winners that were selected from more than 2,868 submissions by students in Clay, Duval, Nassau, St. Johns and Volusia counties.

These students are being recognized for their accomplishments in the visual arts, but many will receive scholarships to partnering institutions like Savannah College of Art and Design, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and New Hampshire Institute of Art. In 2017, the Northeast Florida Scholastic Art Awards was able to offer $5.1 million in scholarships to regional individual and portfolio winners. In addition, the works of Gold Key winners will progress to national adjudication where their work may earn a place at the ceremony at Carnegie Hall where national medals, scholarships and inclusion in a national traveling exhibition will be awarded.

Arts Education for Juvenile Offenders

November 6, 2017
Kimberly L. Hyatt, President & CEO

Actions have consequences. This truth underlay the “tough on crime” stance I long held toward youth involved in the criminal justice system. But once I saw the difference arts education could make in their lives through our programming at the Cathedral Arts Project, I realized there’s more to the story.

At CAP our vision is for every child to have access to an arts-rich education. “Every child” includes those accused, rightly or wrongly, of criminal activity.

CAP’s programs provide these young people a non-threatening outlet for self-awareness, reflection and expression. Whether they are learning about art history, color theory and technique in visual arts, or body, energy and time in dance, they are learning so much more. We emphasize communication and social skills, nonviolent self-expression and new avenues for coping in difficult environments. They develop new ways of thinking about life from perspectives behind, within and beyond the time and space they currently inhabit. They imagine possibilities of a second chance.

Yes, actions have consequences. Not only their actions, but also ours collectively. Most youth who become part of the justice system experience trauma before, during and after, which often compounds mental illness. Estimates of the prevalence of mental illness among justice-involved youth are as high as 70 percent overall and 80 percent for girls.[i] Our justice system is simply not equipped to provide these children the treatment they need. In fact, whether the justice system is even set up for successful rehabilitation is debatable.

An investigation by the Miami Herald reported that Florida’s juvenile justice system adds new trauma to troubled youth. “With a one-year recidivism rate of 45 percent, it is a justice system that is supposed to reform juvenile delinquents, but too often turns them into hardened felons.”[ii] In the Fourth Circuit, State Attorney Melissa Nelson wants to write a different story so that more youth can be successfully reintegrated into society and transition to adulthood. Nelson created a Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee to develop programming that will reduce recidivism rates and crime.

What we and many others have found is that the arts reach these kids when nothing else has. Corrections Officer Eric Wesley with the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office witnessed the difference our arts program made at the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility. “Coming to this class gives them [the students] the opportunity, literally, just to be themselves. ‘I don’t have to be tough in this class, I just need to be me. I don’t have to walk around and act like nothing bothers me. I’m able to now express myself through art.’ And I think that’s the most important thing – them being able to realize, ‘Hey, it’s okay for you to be who you are.’”

That’s because they, like all of us, are creators at our core. Every child is born with the capacity to make positive contributions to society. Sometimes, it takes the arts to ignite that spark. The arts hold the power to transform – to transform feeling, to transform thinking, to transform doing. Through arts education, these children move to a place where they can experience that transformation and learn at an entirely different level.

Yet even as they learn, it is equally true we have much to learn as well.

The most important lesson is that we can’t write off youth involved in the justice system. Actions have consequences, including our own individual actions. And we are just as responsible for our actions as anyone else is for theirs. For those of us who believe the creative process underlies our very existence, we must remember that we are called to help one another discover and steward that creative capacity and that none of us are ever finished products. Reams of research during the last 30 years especially demonstrate that young brains simply have not had time to develop the same cognitive, psychological, social or neurological capacities that adults typically possess.

In Graham v. Florida (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “Juveniles are more capable of change than adults, and their actions are less likely to be evidence of ‘irretrievably depraved character’ than are the actions of adults…from a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed.”

In life and in art, actions have consequences. But while we usually arrive at a finished product in the arts, that is never the case when it comes to life, especially the life of a young person. There is always another chapter to be written. There is always another move to make. The question is, which direction will you take?

*For more information, visit capkids.org/countymissives

Images: County Missives, Joe Karably


[i] Shufelt, J. L. & Cocozza, J. L. (2006). Youth with mental health disorders in the juvenile justice system: Results from a multi-state prevalence study. National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice.

[ii] Fight Club: A Miami Herald Investigation into Florida’s Juvenile Justice System.

 

Arts Integration: An Education Reform Strategy Business Should Back

 

September 5, 2017
Kimberly L. Hyatt, President & CEO

As 129,000 Duval County Public Schools students embark upon a new school year, laments about the poor quality of public education ring out as familiar as ever. Despite business interests and others funding countless reform efforts since the 1983 publication of “A Nation at Risk,”[i] the gap between educational outcomes of children from lower- and higher-income families, by many measures, has widened across the country.

A glimmer of hope appears in recent research out of Northwestern University that examines the larger school districts in Florida. The results present reason to trust that demographics are not destiny. Why? Because individual schools within Florida’s districts vary dramatically at closing the achievement gap.[ii] It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

One way to help students from all socioeconomic backgrounds learn is to treat them like the creative thinkers they are. In the midst of political polarization around education reform, there should be easy consensus that integrating the arts when learning other subjects works wonders and is cost-effective.

In arts integration, students connect an art form with another subject area and learn both. It’s not simply playing background music or doing a craft project. It’s about treating music, dance, theatre, media arts and visual arts as inherently valuable and then integrating these disciplines when learning science, math and other subjects.

Illustration courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Maya Angelou is often quoted for saying, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Well, we know better – yet we continue to teach children as if we don’t understand how they learn. Whatever the reason for this, it’s surely not because arts integration is too expensive or too experimental.

Turnaround Arts is a federal initiative to integrate arts learning into some of the nation’s lowest performing schools. In its first three years, Turnaround Arts demonstrated a 13 percent improvement in reading scores and a whopping 23 percent improvement in math scores.[iii]

Closer to home, the Cathedral Arts Project offers a theatre and civics integration program for middle schoolers. In end-of-course exams, 100 percent of students in the integration program were proficient, compared to only 46 percent and 78 percent in the control groups for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, respectively. This is the remarkable difference arts integration can make – whether it’s in civics, math, science or language arts.

With arts integration, learning is not about students passively receiving information. It’s about what happens in their minds as they interact with information and with one another to solve problems. It’s about connecting the dots, applying knowledge from one subject to another and discovering innovative solutions. You know, the kind of work they’ll be called upon to do the rest of their lives.

Employers routinely report difficulty finding job candidates skilled at problem solving and innovative thinking. To the extent workforce development is one of the goals of education, wouldn’t it make sense to help students develop these skills? We can’t expect individuals to magically know how to analyze a problem from different perspectives just because they start to draw a paycheck. These habits of mind must be taught from the earliest years and throughout their education.

Regurgitating information no longer predicts success. In a world of infinite data anyone can retrieve from a phone, memorizing is not the way to demonstrate intelligence. What we need is what we have always needed – individuals who use their minds to think analytically as they tenaciously engage with a problem. To persevere in problem solving, one must be self-motivated and engaged, and there is nothing that engages our brains like the arts.[iv]

That’s one reason arts integration is a perfect way to address the achievement gap. The arts help children – all children – love school. Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to actually graduate from college as their peers with little or no arts education.[v]

Granted, integration must be done right. The greatest academic improvement occurs when students are engaged in integrated learning over successive years. Teachers need effective training, autonomy and support from principals. Arts teachers need principals who demonstrate by word and deed that the arts will not take a back seat at their school. And it must be research based.

Any Given Child Jacksonville and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville are working with DCPS to implement arts integration in four schools. Through the support of PNC Bank and David Engdahl, the Lift Every Student program is embedding a local artist in each of these schools: Lucy Chen at John Love Early Learning Center, Valarie Esguerra at Hyde Park Elementary School, Sarah Crooks at Hyde Grove Early Learning Center, and Erin Kendrick at Smart Pope Livingston Elementary School. These artists in residence will work with classroom teachers to integrate the arts into other subjects so that students will get to experience and work with information rather than passively receive it. And when kids experience knowledge, it takes hold in their minds – minds that were created with the capacity to astound.

When all is said and done, there are only a few things we need to get right in life – educating children is one of those things.

Arts integration is a proven and cost-effective strategy on which people on both sides of the aisle should agree. It’s an area ripe for public-private partnerships. We’ve tried one reform effort after another and still have a crisis in education. It’s time we turn to the arts.


[i] United States. National Commission on Excellence in Education. Department of Education. A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform: A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education, United States Department of Education. Washington, D.C.: The Commission: [Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O. distributor], 1983.

[ii] Some schools much better than others at closing achievement gaps between their advantaged and disadvantaged students. David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik. Evidence Speaks Reports, Vol 2, #19 July 20, 2017. Center on Children and Families. Brookings Institution.

[iii] Turnaround Arts Initiative: Summary of Key Findings

[iv]An Impact Evaluation of Arts-Integrated Instruction Through the Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) Program, The Kennedy Center, 2014.

[v] Americans for the Arts, 2015.