Arts careers go far beyond pencil and paintbrush today.
The field has expanded with new techniques and technology, and state education guidelines now better reflect the innovative, creative professions that students can pursue.
Last month, the Department of Education released the new Georgia Standards for Excellence in media, visual and theater arts, which revises the arts guidelines in the Georgia Performance Standards of 2009.
The state tries to update standards every seven or eight years, but only the main courses were modified in 2009. Some fine arts subjects, such as ceramics, were still using standards from the early 1990s, said Jessica Booth, the state’s fine arts specialist.
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“We were in a situation where technology had changed a lot since then, and we weren’t really preparing our students for the careers that are in place now,” she said. “The creative economy in Georgia has really grown in the last five years. We have a very strong industry in the state.
“With the tax credits in the film industry, it really opened up a lot of possibilities that didn’t exist before.”
Nationally, states and districts are trending more toward media arts and making sure they’re offering more than just fine arts courses. Georgia’s new media arts area is a computer-based fusion of the arts, Booth said.
It includes everything from animation to graphic design to film, courses that are sure to engage and interest students, said Ben Bridges, director of fine arts and magnet programs for the Bibb district.
Additional courses have been added to visual and theater arts as well, including jewelry and metalcrafts; fashion design; acting; film/video and television; and advanced drawing and painting.
“These standards really focus on educating a 21st century student. Georgia has a huge market in terms of arts-related career fields,” Bridges said. “Every content area (of the new standards) has something in regards to looking at career fields that relate directly to the learning.
“It’s not just a course. It really is looking at where that student is going to be post-school.”
The guidelines focus on knowledge, skill-building and how students can use course material later in life, he said. The language of the new standards is more concise and makes expectations more clear.
The 2017 standards were compiled using input from educators, industry and business professionals, arts experts and the community. They are guidelines for what students should be learning, and it’s up to the districts to decide what classes would be the best use of their funds, Booth said.
“I think they help promote a well-rounded education and provide students with more opportunities for creativity and help them better express themselves,” said Alicia Elder, Monroe County’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “It’s more hands-on and performance-based.”
The 2017-18 year will be a year of planning. The state will offer professional learning and resource development opportunities, and districts will decide which courses to add and how to pace the curriculum over the year, Bridges said. The new arts standards will be fully implemented in 2018-19.
The state will revise the standards for dance and music this year, 2018-19 will be for planning, and 2019-20 will be the adoption year.
“We have to evolve in education,” said Monroe County Superintendent Mike Hickman. “In order to compete on a global (level), we’ve got to be on the cutting edge of all changes. We do it because we want our kids to be successful.”
Elder said Monroe County will review and deconstruct the new standards and see what tweaks need to be made to their curriculum. Bibb County will look at which classes will interest students most and what pathways may be needed at certain schools, Bridges said.