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Can arts therapies improve health for military PTSD patients?

A new study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) reveals that art work created by military service members as part of their medical treatment for psychological health conditions conveys valuable information for doctors. NEAThis benefit is especially important for patients who struggle to express their thoughts and feelings. In another research development, the NEA is posting a framework document that maps new research priorities for the agency’s Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network. Both the new study and the research agenda aim to extend knowledge about how, when, and why creative arts therapies improve health for patients coping with the effects of their wartime experiences. The NEA is announcing these two resources as the nation recognizes PTSD Awareness Day on June 27. "The newly published study exemplifies the type of practical research that the Creative Forces network will pursue over the next five years," said Sunil Iyengar, director of Research & Analysis at the NEA. "The researchers will continue to examine how creative arts therapies can inform diagnoses and treatment options for the range of patients experiencing these complex psychological illnesses." One of the masks included in the study that demonstrates dentification with military unit (depiction of sense of belonging to a military unit, for example, explosive ordnance disposal badge, also known as the ‘crab’). The study, Observational study of associations between visual imagery and measures of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress among active-duty military service members with traumatic brain injury at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, examined masks created by 370 service members in creative arts therapy sessions that were part of their integrative care. Researchers identified and correlated themes observed in those masks with psychological diagnoses. The observational study was led by Girija Kaimal, EdD, of Drexel University, and Melissa Walker, of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence and is being published by the British Medical Journal, an international peer reviewed medical journal. Dr. Kaimal noted, “Few studies in art therapy have linked visual symbols with existing standardized clinical measures. This helps us see if there are patterns of visual representations that relate to psychological states.” During the creative art therapy sessions, service members are asked to embellish a blank mask of a human face using a variety of art supplies in a way that reflects how they feel. The researchers then created an inventory of themes represented in the masks and matched those themes with data collected previously in questionnaires from those patients. The questionnaires measured levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD. The study found that masks that included symbols of the patient’s identify in relation to a military unit or other social group correlated with lower levels of psychological distress. This indicates that the capacity to imagine oneself as part of something larger than one’s individual experiences is associated with lower PTSD, depression, and anxiety scores. Conversely, masks that included fragmented objects, like broken gear or faded camouflage, were tied to higher levels of anxiety, while masks that showed psychological pain matched with patients dealing with more acute PTSD. To enable more research such as this, the National Endowment for the Arts developed the Creative Forces Clinical Research: A Strategic Framework and Five Year Agenda. The research completed as a result of this framework will strengthen the Creative Forces network as well as the military medical and creative arts therapy fields, enhancing the quality of care for military patients. Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the state arts agencies that places creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at 11 military medical clinics across the country. Visit the NEA’s website for more information on Creative Forces and information on additional published research and clinical practice papers associated with Creative Forces.


About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.

Healing and development from… the arts

This afternoon, The Hub would like to draw your attention to the (positive) effects arts participation has on the human body. Exposure is certainly nice, but we focus specifically today on the actual doing. And before going further, these come by way of NASAA – the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.


First, dance. Without being overly general, all it takes is a look at a professional dancer to know dance is, at least physically, good for you. But recent data from Australia shows that older adults who participate in dance classes see “increases in physical, cognitive and emotional well-being and as well as a general sense of achievement.” See study here. Closer to home, those diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease can seek symptom relief through participation (there’s that word again) in dance classes from Ballet Spartanburg (right, dancer Charlotte Lanning). The company received the 2018 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts yesterday in part because of offering its community classes like this, which can also help those who have experienced a stroke or disorders like autism, dementia, or multiple sclerosis. Ballet Spartanburg offers the only course of this type in the Upstate, and it's led by Artistic Director Carlos Agudelo. Winifred Walsh, who leads a Parkinson’s support group in Spartanburg, had this to say about the course in her support letter for the company’s Verner Awards nomination:

To receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease at age 53 is a life-changer ... A friend urged me to join Spartanburg’s PD Support Group and the Dance for PD class offered by Ballet Spartanburg. I went and I was horrified at first look. I thought, ‘I am not like those people!’ But curiosity got the better of me and I stayed and have stayed for some nine years now. And guess what? I am exactly like those people, people with Parkinson’s who are not wasting time on self-pity ... Ballet Spartanburg Artistic Director Carlos Agudelo has set the bar high for our teachers who find joy in our attempts, who rejoice with us in our successes, who laugh with us often ... Outreach seems such a simple term for such complex blessings to me and to others who have movement and balance disorders. We offer gratitude to Ballet Spartanburg for improving our lives through dance, and also through love. We are not merely people with Parkinson’s. Ballet Spartanburg has made us dancers.”

Learn more about the additional benefits of this program by clicking here.
Second, music. The National Endowment for the Arts is talking music training, which is how people get ready for … participation (that’s a hat trick). Two recent articles “find that music education not only strengthens creativity but also improves brain functions related to language development, attention, visuospatial perception, planning and other executive functions, and short-term and working memory.” Music training can be found, almost literally, everywhere. But lessons can be costly, to say nothing of other potential barriers. But four of the professional orchestras the South Carolina Arts Commission helps fund offer the interactive Link Up program from Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute. Link Up partners orchestras with schools (home, private, and public) or school districts to offer an interactive musical curriculum in schools that teach students lessons in theory and can teach them how to use the recorder. The program usually culminates with a trip to see the professionals perform locally, with a twist: during the Link Up concert, the students can play recorders along with the musicians on stage! The four South Carolina orchestras that offered Link Up concerts during the 2017/2018 school year are the Aiken and Charleston symphonies and South Carolina (Columbia) and Spartanburg philharmonics.

Arts Commission to release economic impact report next week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 31 January 2018

  • Economist, researcher Doug Woodward to present report at legislative luncheon
  • Statewide arts advocates to gather at State House in support of sector
COLUMBIA, S.C. – With Arts Advocacy Day at the State House in Columbia as a backdrop, the S.C. Arts Commission will release a new economic impact report on South Carolina’s arts sector Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The new report, the first since 2010, will show the arts’ impact on the S.C. economy with detailed employment and total impact numbers, among other things. It was commissioned by the Arts Commission and completed by Doug Woodward, Ph.D., an economist, researcher, and professor at the USC Darla Moore School of Business who examined 2014 data from the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. As the keynote speaker at the 1 p.m. legislative luncheon at the Capital City Club (1201 Main St., 25th floor, Columbia), Woodward will give a presentation on his findings and be available for media questions. “We expect the report will show that the state’s investment in the arts translates to a significant impact on the state’s economy, from jobs created and maintained to the ripple effects of people then transferring wages to other sectors through spending,” S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May said. “It’s certainly appropriate for state leaders to pay attention to the arts as a viable economic driver just as they do agriculture, manufacturing, and other key sectors.” Arts Advocacy Day is organized and presented annually by the S.C. Arts Alliance. Festivities begin shortly after 11 a.m. on the State House steps as 300 choral students from Richland School District 2 in Columbia sing on the building’s Gervais Street steps. Arts advocates then move inside for a rally, enthusiastically greeting members of the House and Senate arriving for the day’s sessions, before moving across Gervais Street for the 1 p.m. luncheon honoring the S.C. Legislative Arts Caucus.
ABOUT DR. DOUGLAS P. WOODWARD Dr. Douglas P. Woodward is the director of the Division of Research and professor of economics at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. He earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Texas in 1986. Dr. Woodward's primary research interests are in regional economic development. He has published numerous academic articles in economics and regional science journals. Dr. Woodward has conducted sponsored economic research in the United States, China, Morocco, South Africa, Kenya and elsewhere. Over his career, Dr. Woodward has received many grants and awards. He has testified before local, state and national government committees and has presented his research at many conferences around the world, including the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzer- land. Dr. Woodward has been quoted frequently in the national press and has often appeared on television and radio programs discussing economic development and related topics.
ABOUT THE SOUTH CAROLINA ARTS ALLIANCE The South Carolina Arts Alliance is dedicated to advancing the arts for all South Carolinians through advocacy, leadership development, and public awareness. Based at the Younts Center for Performing Arts in Fountain Inn, S.C., the SCAA works across the state with artists, arts administrators, educators, creative entrepreneurs, community leaders, and arts supporters to strengthen the creative sector in South Carolina. More information can be found at SCArtsAlliance.net.
ABOUT THE SOUTH CAROLINA ARTS COMMISSION The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives in three areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.

The geographic divide in American creativity

From The Washington Post Article by Christopher Ingraham

Urbanist Richard Florida popularized the term "creative class," describing the millions of workers in fields such as the arts, sciences and technology whose work largely involves coming up with new ideas and innovating on old ones. The creative class has, for better or worse, primarily been associated with big American cities along the coasts: out of Richard Florida's top 20 creative-class cities in 2015, only one — Dublin, Ohio — was located in a non-coastal state. But new data recently released by the National Endowment for the Arts suggests that there's an awful lot of creativity happening far inland from America's coastal tech and arts hubs. Among other things, the NEA worked with the Census to poll residents of all 50 states on their participation in the arts, particularly whether they performed or created works of art in 2014. Those data reveal a somewhat surprising pattern: America's Great Creative Divide isn't between the coasts and the center, but rather between North and South. Take a look. Nationwide, 45 percent of American adults said they personally performed or created artwork in 2014. "Art," in this case, was defined by a wide variety of activities. Rather than recite all of them, I'll just leave the definition, from the NEA's report, here: As you can see from the map, the study found a surprisingly wide range of arts participation between states. At one end of the spectrum, folks in places such as West Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida seemed to have little interest in doing art — participation levels there hovered around 30 percent. By contrast, people in states such as Colorado, Vermont, Montana and Oregon were roughly twice as likely to personally create or perform artwork. You can see that the states are heavily sorted by geography, with the dividing line at parallel 36°30' (by chance, the line that delineated the boundary between new slave and free states in the Missouri Compromise). In no state to the south of that line do a majority of people say they personally create or perform art. Conversely, in only three states above that line — Kentucky, Delaware and West Virginia — do fewer than 40 percent of residents create or perform art.
What's driving these differences? A separate analysis by the NEA has some answers. Education is a big part of it. The percent of state residents with a bachelor's degree or higher is positively correlated with creating artwork: in other words, more education, more art. This relationship is even stronger in some of the other categories the NEA looked at, such as attendance at art exhibits or performing arts events. Conversely, poverty rates are a strong negative driver of arts participation. If you're working three minimum wage jobs, you're probably not going to have a lot of time to indulge in crochet or creative writing. Of course, education and poverty are big drivers of each other, too. States with more money can spend more on better education, which leads to higher wages, which leads to more education, in an ongoing virtuous cycle. Unfortunately, the reverse holds true as well. Rates of participation in the arts are a powerful and under-appreciated proxy for human well-being. "Self-actualization," including creative activities, are all the way at the top of Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs. If you're able to spend the time and resources necessary to, say, practice with the local theater group or join the local community band, it's highly likely that you've got all the basics like food, shelter and safety taken care of. The NEA numbers suggest that a lot of folks in Southern states are falling behind their Northern counterparts on some of those measures. This mirrors what researchers see in other domains too, such as child well-being. Geography, again, is destiny. Statistically speaking, a kid born in a state such as Florida is likely to have a harder time reaching the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid than one born in, say, Minnesota.

In the digital age, young kids need classical music more than ever

From The Huffington Post Article by Claire Fallon

There’s a sticker on the plastic-wrapped CD I’m holding that reads, “Produced by Phil Ramone.” The late, great producer, who died in 2013, has a name brand that few other music producers can rival: He worked with Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Madonna and Sinéad O’Connor. This album, though, is a little different. It’s classical music, curated for children. “He actually started as a child prodigy violinist,” said Marc Neikrug, a renowned classical composer who collaborated with Ramone on the album, "Sunken Cathedrals," after being introduced by Dr. Rock Positano, a podiatrist with a special interest in music’s value to medicine. “The three of us were all very, very interested in promoting classical music to children, for many reasons.” Parents have heard about the specific benefits of classical music for developing minds and calming babies for decades -- imagine a mother playing Mozart through headphones stretched over her pregnant belly -- but the scientific debate has continued to rage. In an age when children develop surrounded by constant stimulation and distraction, however, Neikrug sees a very particular value in classical music. “I’m concerned about a world in which there is an almost corporate, aggressive move to lower people’s attention spans, so that your brain actually can’t focus for more than half a minute on anything without needing some other stimulus,” he told me. “That’s terrifying. How do you even absorb and learn things? How do you expect kids to do well in school?” With TV viewing consistently on the rise, including among very young children, some studies have suggested that frequently watching television as a small children or infant can harm attention spans later in childhood. Where does classical music fit into this landscape? “I think it’s really important to let kids, at the earliest age, build some kind of ability to focus,” Neikrug said. “Great music can do that, because you’re drawn into what you’re listening to.” A two- or three-minute waltz may not seem so long to concentrate on, but it’s “a good attention span, for kids,” he said. “We picked the pieces very deliberately to be not too long.” The pieces are calm, beautiful, and simple, the sort of music that won’t rile a kid up or throw up constant distractions. Much like reading aloud to a child, calm classical compositions engage a child in a form of entertainment that’s low-stimulus and substantive. All of the pieces on the two-part album are unadapted, complete works of classical music, either solo piano or piano with violin, from Schubert to Schumann, Mozart to Debussy. “Both Phil and I, and Dr. Rock, were completely convinced that we need little, short, beautiful pieces for kids. They happen to be really good for adults, also,” he points out, though the words “Classics for Kids” on the cover might scare some grown people off. The ability to fully enjoy classical music later in life, Neikrug argued, is one of the potential benefits of playing classical music for a child. “If you listen to classical music at an early age, even if at the age of say, eight or nine to 20, they go off into that world if you come back to it, it’s the same as learning another language early,” he said.“They come back to it.” This doesn’t mean you should toss all of your Raffi albums or trash all the screen devices in your home. “I’m not an advocate for disregarding the reality of living in this world,” Neikrug said. “I just don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. I would say someone who grows up able to focus for an hour and equally able to text under the table with one hand, is fine.” So how does one get modern adults to pick up an album of classical tunes that might benefit their kids? “In the end, I think it’s the people,” said Neikrug. “Phil Ramone was one of the great record producers, and it’s two very respected people in the classical music world. It’s not Yanni. It’s not 'Sesame Street.'” Parents who grew up on Ramone’s music -- from Bob Dylan to Lady Gaga -- can let their babies do the same, even from infancy. Maybe, along the way, those babies will fall in love with the quiet joys of classical music. Image: M-ImagePhotography via Getty Images
   

We want to hear about your flood damage

Dear Friends, As our state takes stock of damage from the flood, we want to hear from artists, arts organizations and arts program administrators. Do you have damage and need assistance, or are you okay? Please check in by completing this brief survey to let us know whether you, as an individual, or your arts organization or school, were impacted by the flood and the extent of flood damage. Even if you did not suffer flood damage, please complete the applicable parts of the survey to help us understand the full impact of the flood. As you work through the process of recovery, please take advantage of the resources available on our website and let us know if we can provide additional information. It has been a difficult time for our state, but gratifying to see how the arts community is stepping up to aid in the recovery. Please continue to be safe and look out for one another. Thank you, Ken May Executive Director S.C. Arts Commission

When music is medicine for kids coping with cancer

From PBS News Hour:

Whether for relaxation or rehabilitation, music helps cancer patients cope and fulfill physical and emotional needs. Video produced by Laila Kazmi, shot by Aileen Imperial and edited by Greg Davis, KCTS 9. When she was 21-months-old, Allistaire was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Now four, she has spent more than half her life in and out of cancer hospitals. Her schedule includes exhaustive medical treatments, but there’s one session she looks forward to each week: music therapy with Betsy Hartman. For patients who need exercise, but feel too exhausted because of the harsh medicines and treatments they are receiving, music provides a physical outlet. “When you have a guitar, a drum or a maraca in your hand, sometimes you can’t help but dance,” said Hartman, who works solely with patients in the Cancer Unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Allistaire Allistaire plays the maracas. Photo courtesy of KCTS 9 References to the use of music for therapeutic purposes date back to ancient times and across cultures. In the United States, the field gained official recognition in 1950 with the establishment of the National Association of Music Therapy. However, music therapy work was happening in the U.S. long before that. It was in the early 1800s when Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry, advocated for music as a therapeutic tool. Two of Rush’s students went on to write dissertations about the use of music as therapy. A life-altering diagnosis and subsequent treatments can be emotionally taxing. For many of Hartman’s school-age patients, treatment means missing school, friends and their daily routine. “For kids, that’s hard,” Hartman said. “So, as music therapists, we work with patients to express some of those feelings through songwriting or listening to different lyrics.” David Knott, also a music therapist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has been practicing music therapy for over ten years. While Hartman is dedicated to the Cancer Unit, Knott works across the hospital and sees children with many different ailments. Betsy Hartman Music therapist Betsy Hartman plays the harp. Photo courtesy of KCTS 9 “There is a lot of interest from neuroscientists in examining how music is processed in the brain, and some really interesting studies are being done or have been done,” says Knott. Research conducted by Dr. Robert Zatorre and his team, for example, found that dopamine was released when listening to music. “Music activates reward centers in the brain,” Knott said. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown that music can help with short-term pain reduction, as well as help reduce anxiety and nausea caused by chemotherapy. For Hartman, working with her young patients is a deeply rewarding experience for her. “I can only imagine that it must be one of the most vulnerable and scary times in their lives, and the fact that they let me come in and offer something like music to them is an honor.”

New arts research reveals why and how people participate, plus a revised economic impact

Three reports from the National Endowment for the Arts reveal new findings about the economic impact of arts and cultural industries, as well as how and why Americans participate in certain arts activities. The data for the three reports is all from 2012, so for the first time the NEA can show a comprehensive view of a single year in the life of the arts and cultural sector from three different angles: supply, demand, and motivations for consumer behavior. The new information will help arts providers and others more effectively understand and develop strategies to engage individuals and communities in the arts. “The implications from this research are significant," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "The findings show that there is great diversity in how people engage in the arts, and this gives us a framework to use our creativity to innovate new ways to reach these audiences.” “With the creation of new data analyses like this one - which shows how arts and culture contribute to gross domestic product (GDP) - the Department of Commerce is providing a more detailed picture of what drives the U.S. economy, growth, and job creation,” said Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, referring to the Bureau of Economic Analysis satellite account data discussed below in report 3. Report 1: When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance (click on each infographic for a larger view)

 Why attend the arts?

In 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts partnered with the General Social Survey to ask why people attend arts events (specifically music, dance, theater, and visual arts). This new report looks beyond demographics to discover the attitudes, motivations, and barriers for attending the arts at different life stages—the first time the NEA has published a report on this type of data. There were common barriers for the 13 percent — 31 million adults — who were interested in a specific event, but did not go for some reason:
  • Nearly 60 percent of people with children under age six said lack of time was the greatest single barrier to attendance. This finding could inspire arts providers to develop more family-friendly program options.
  • Some noted that the location was too difficult to get to. This was especially a problem for retirees, older adults, and adults with physical disabilities. If we're quantifying the value of what we often term "access to the arts," it's about 11 million lost audience members or exhibit-goers.
  • Twenty-two percent of those who wanted to attend but chose not to said a barrier was not having someone to go with.
Motivations include:
  • Top reasons Americans attend the arts (performances and exhibits) include socializing with friends or family members (73 percent); learning new things (64 percent); and supporting the community (51 percent).
  • Despite similar household incomes and education, people who call themselves middle-class were more likely to attend the arts than those who identified themselves as working class. Thwarted interest, rather than lack of interest, may be the cause for lower attendance rates among some audiences.
  • Life stages — pursuing higher education, marriage, child-rearing, and retirement — are often more predictive than age alone, as a factor in attending the arts. For example, parents with young children under age six more often cited socializing with family or friends, learning new things and celebrating cultural heritage when they attended performances accompanied by their children.
  • For more key findings, go to Arts Data Profile #4.
Report 2: A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings from the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 2002-2012

nea-infographics-why-participate

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) is the largest and most comprehensive survey of U.S. arts participation, with a total sample size exceeding 37,000 adults, ages 18 and over. The latest SPPA compares arts participation rates based on surveys from 2002, 2008, and 2012, as well as regional, state, and metro-area statistics.
  • A new question in the 2012 survey revealed that adults who attended performing arts or visited museums as children were three to four times as likely to see shows or visit museums as adults. Exposure to the arts in childhood turns out to be a stronger predictor of adult arts participation than education, gender, age, or income.
  • Technology is a great enabler of arts creation and participation. In 2012, nearly three-quarters of American adults — about 167 million people — used electronic media to view or listen to art, and large proportions of adults used electronic media to create music or visual art.
  • Women participate in the arts at higher rates than men across all categories, except a few. For example, men are more than twice as likely as women to use electronic media to create or perform music, and they are also more likely to create visual art online.
  • More than half (54 percent) of all American adults attended at least one live music, theater, or dance performance in the past year, or they went to view an art exhibit. That's about 120 million people.
  • For more key findings, go to Arts Data Profile #5.
Report 3: The Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA)

nea-infographics-economic-value

The ACPSA, a partnership between the NEA and the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, is the first federal effort to provide an in-depth analysis of the arts and cultural sector's contributions to current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the final dollar value of all goods and services produced in the United States. The revised estimates reveal the arts are a bigger driver of GDP and jobs than previously estimated. Among the new estimates are:
  • In 2012, arts and cultural production contributed more than $698 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.32 percent to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, more than construction ($586.7B) or transportation and warehousing ($464.1B).
  • 4.7 million workers were employed in the production of arts and cultural goods, receiving $334.9 billion in compensation.
  • Arts and cultural spending has a ripple effect on the overall economy, boosting both commodities and jobs. For example, for every 100 jobs created from new demand for the arts, 62 additional jobs are also created.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis highlights the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account in the January edition of the Survey of Current Business, widely read by economists and financial analysts to understand the state of the U.S. economy.
  • For more key findings, go to Arts Data Profile #6.
The underlying data for the SPPA and GSS research reports are available to researchers, policymakers, and arts practitioners via a brand-new online resource. Through the National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture (NADAC), the NEA provides free access to the data files and related resources, as well as a user-friendly platform for querying the data. Visit NADAC to learn more. The NEA is the only federal agency to conduct periodic analyses of the value and impact of the arts in American life. For nearly 40 years, the NEA Office of Research & Analysis has produced research publications, conferences, and data sources on arts-related topics of interest to policymakers, educators, journalists, cultural researchers and practitioners, and the general public. Many of these products have emerged in consultation or collaboration with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In recent years, the NEA launched a new research grant opportunity to support research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts. About the NEA The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion to strengthen the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at arts.gov. Via: National Endowment for the Arts

Researchers aim to determine whether the arts can treat Alzheimer’s

From the Washington Post: Story by Fredrick Kunkle

As rock-and-roll fills a sunny recreation room at Birmingham Green in Manassas, residents of the assisted-living facility seem swept up in the music as if by a powerful wind.

Brett Sigmundsson, 52, belts out the lyrics of a Beatles tune while dancing in place with all the vigor of a middle-aged Mick Jagger. John Archer, 64, rises to his feet in dance. Up front, Norma Felter, 85, a former department store clerk whose eyes are glued to a TV screen showing the lyrics for “Hey Jude,” sings into a microphone, not always in sync with the words but joyfully all the same. Even those whose thoughts appear far away sometimes sway or tap their fingers in time to the beat. The karaoke session is a popular draw at the facility. But music, art and dance sessions like these are also the subject of intensifying interest among the scientific community. As the nation’s median age rises and baby boomers retire, the federal government, universities and health-care institutions are seeking to determine whether the arts have a quantifiably therapeutic effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related disabilities. Many researchers agree evidence seems promising that the arts can improve cognitive function and memory, bolster a person’s mood and sense of well-being, and reduce stress, agitation and aggression. But many previous studies have been too limited or poorly designed to say for sure. Alzheimer's research George Moseley in front of a mural he painted in an empty room at Birmingham Green, an elder care residence in Manassas, Va., on Nov. 21. Painting “helps me to manage and cope, to have a positive attitude,” he said. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post) The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health and others are pushing for more answers. At Birmingham Green, researchers from George Mason University are conducting a federally subsidized study to examine the impact of the arts on the emotional and cognitive health of older adults. “There still needs to be a lot of work done,” said Sunil Iyengar, who heads the Office of Research and Analysis at the NEA. Iyengar said research into the effect of art on people with cognitive impairments has suffered from a lack of rigor. Too many studies lacked proper controls, involved samples that were too small, and were poorly defined. They also may have been looking for the wrong thing, Iyengar said. While searching for hard evidence of biological improvements in memory or cognition, many also overlooked measurable improvements in the mood and well-being of people with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, too. In a paper titled “Shall I Compare Thee to a Dose of Donepezil,” researchers Kate de Medeiros and Anne Basting called for developing research models that would better suit interventions that involve the imagination and meaningful personal experiences, instead of those that have been used to test clinical efficacy of pharmaceuticals. “I think these are the so-called intangibles that we as a society have tended to underplay,” Iyengar said. “These are really devastating diseases for these people and their families, and anything you can do to reduce that pain is important.” The National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the NEA and NIH, convened a public workshop in March 2011 to investigate ways to bolster research into arts-related interventions for aging adults. Several studies have hinted at the promise of integrating the arts into therapy for age-related disabilities. Dance and movement have been shown to help older people avoid falls. Acting sessions can strengthen the sense of social ties and community, a critical need for people whose cognitive impairment can lead to isolation. Interventions using everything from drum circles to poetry have been shown to improve psychological symptoms, such as aggression, in patients with cognitive impairment. Norma Felter sings “Hey Jude” with activity aide Tina Burhans-Robinson during karaoke at Birmingham Green. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post) Norma Felter sings “Hey Jude” with activity aide Tina Burhans-Robinson during karaoke at Birmingham Green. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post) Music has been found to have a particularly strong effect on cognitive function. Research has shown that musical training can help older people distinguish speech better, particularly amid background noise. People recovering from brain injuries, such as a stroke, have been shown to sing words and phrases that they might not otherwise be able to speak. Performing music also relies heavily on memory and understanding of visual and sound patterns. For these reasons, people with musical training may weather the effects of aging better than non-musicians. “But outside of these things is sheer joy,” said Gary Glazner, founder and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Glazner said he was working at an adult day-care center in Northern California and searching for ways to connect with people with Alzheimer’s disease when he discovered the power of poetry to reach people with cognitive impairment. Having studied poetry in college, Glazner shared Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and The Song” with a resident and from the first line — “I shot an arrow” — hit the mark. Glazner uses poetry, particularly beloved classics learned by older adults, in call-and-response with older people and guides them in writing poems. Jump-rope rhymes, even military cadences, can evoke responses from people with cognitive impairment that engage them, he said. Holly C. Matto, a professor of social work at GMU who is conducting the experiment at Birmingham Green, said people with cognitive impairment often feel overwhelmed by their inability to process and integrate information from their surroundings. Using the arts, particularly nonverbal arts such as painting and music, can help restore a sense of organizing their world. “Those nonverbal ways of communicating are not impaired,” she said. Her 18-month study, supported in part by a $25,000 grant from the NEA, involves taking groups of 10 randomly assigned people and engaging them in twice-weekly sessions using music, imagery and movement. (There is also a control group.) Those who participate in the study are invited to choose music for the group to listen to and then let their imaginations and memories roam. They also use painting to express what they feel in the music. And they are invited to dance. (Study guidelines forbid observing the study itself, but a reporter was allowed to observe other art programs at the center.) “The hypothesis is that after folks participate in this study, the people will show an improvement in mood and possibly a change in cognitive function,” Matto said. She said the study subjects and control group are to be evaluated before and after the sessions begin using accepted clinical tools, such as the Profile of Mood States, cognitive assessments and the Geriatric Depression Scale, to evaluate whether the sessions have any lasting impact on the subjects’ mood or well-being. “It makes me happy,” said Felter, who had been rocking to the Beatles from her wheelchair. She said the music helps her adjust to the stresses of living in a communal setting. Kathryn Dodd, 65, who lived in Ashburn before moving to Birmingham Green, said listening to tunes by James Taylor and Mary J. Blige allowed her mind to wander to pleasant memories from years ago. “Music brings memories. I basically try to remember the good times — I don’t like to dwell on the bad times — and music brings those out,” Dodd said. “I got a lot out of it.” All over Birmingham Green are visual reminders of the relief art can bring. George D. Moseley, 70, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, said his love of painting vivid murals of flowers, birds and landscapes — all showing the influence of Thomas Hart Benton and years of formal training at the Corcoran School of Art — has been instrumental in helping manage a lifelong cognitive disability, instead of medication. He describes his art in almost religious terms, saying the activity delivers him from the bondage of his condition. “It helps me to manage and cope, to have a positive attitude,” he said. “The paintbrush and the art give me an outlook and a feeling of serenity and peace, love, and joy. The paintbrush is the treatment for all else that has failed.”

Studies: Students exposed to cultural field trips and live theatre gain educational benefits

Jay Greene, endowed chair of the Department of Education at the University of Arkansas, has released two studies on the educational benefits of engagement with the arts. One study is the first large-scale examination of field trips to understand the impact of cultural enrichment through the arts on students’ learning outcomes. The second study assessed a group of students’ knowledge about theater—and interest in watching or participating in theater—after attending a live performance. (Image: dress rehearsal for Guys and Dolls Jr. at Columbia Children's Theatre)

From The Daily Signal:
New research into humanities education suggests student learning outcomes increase with exposure to the arts. Few empirical studies have been conducted on the benefits of arts education for students. Jay Greene, endowed chair of the Department of Education at the University of Arkansas, and his team have released two studies on the educational benefits of engagement with the arts. Last year, Greene, along with researchers Brian Kisida and Daniel Bowen, conducted the first large-scale study of field trips to understand the impact of cultural enrichment through the arts on students’ learning outcomes. In “The Educational Value of Field Trips,” Greene and his team applied “gold standard” methodology to measure the educational value associated with students who toured an art museum during a field trip. They found that students who attended the tour could recall historical and sociological information about particular works of art at higher rates than students who did not visit the museum. For example, 88 percent of the students who saw civil-war era painter Eastman Johnson’s work, At the Camp— Spinning Yarns and Whittling, remembered the cultural context of the painting as depicting “abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied on slave labor.” According to the report, the students’ high rate of recall compared to that of students who did not attend a museum suggests that art could be used to increase the learning capacity of students for traditional classroom content. They also found students who attended the field trip experienced a large gain in critical-thinking skills, which was observed in their essays regarding particular works of art. Students who attended the museum also showed higher measures of historical empathy, tolerance and a desire to visit more art museums than students who did not tour the museum. Their findings underscore the value of cultural field trips, which have a long history in American education (although they have been on the decline in recent years, or replaced with non-cultural field trips, such as outings to amusement parks): Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing field trips because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: chools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture. More-advantaged families may take their children to these cultural institutions outside of school hours, but less-advantaged students are less likely to have these experiences if schools do not provide them. With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage. Students from rural or high-poverty areas had the largest gains in historical recall of information and critical thinking and reported higher levels of empathy, tolerance and desire to return to the museum. Greene found similar results in his newest study, “Learning from Live Theater.” Using the same research design, Greene, with coauthors Collin Hitt, Anne Kraybill and Cari Bogulski, assessed a group of students’ knowledge about theater—and interest in watching or participating in theater—after attending a live performance. The researchers used a sample of students who applied for, and won, tickets to either A Christmas Carol or Hamlet, compared to a control group who lost the lottery. The study showed students who saw live theater significantly improved their knowledge of the plot and vocabulary related to the play by 63 percent of a standard deviation. The students also showed significantly higher degrees of tolerance and empathy through the “Reading the Mind through the Eyes” test than the control group. The researchers used the RMET measure because it tracks feelings of empathy, and prior research has found that reading literature or engaging in theater enhances one’s ability to read emotions. Both studies suggest that culturally enriching experiences produce important educational benefits, which in turn could contribute to overall student achievement. Greene’s findings come at a time of concentrated focus on STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics—education. In 2009, the Obama administration published its “Educate to Innovate” campaign, which included $260 million in partnerships involving the federal government and industry to prepare more than 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next decade But at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, The Atlantic asked thought leaders in academia (Harvard, Yale, and Cal-Berkley) and the private sector, what letter— if any— should be added to STEM education. They all agreed that they would add the letter “A” for the arts and humanities. “To me, mathematics, computer science and the arts are insanely related,” said Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity and Founder of GoogleX. “They’re all creative expressions.” “ seem to me such an important dimension of educating students about what science, technology, engineering and math are for,” said Harvard President Drew Gilpin. Greene’s studies and advocates of STEAM both suggest the arts could enhance learning in reading, math and the hard sciences. Student engagement of the arts, through field trips and live performances, also provides positive reinforcement for cultural institutions within communities to contribute to students’ overall education. As the authors concluded, “Schools produce important educational outcomes other than those captured by math and reading test scores, and it is possible for researchers to collect measures of those other outcomes. If what’s measured is what matters, then we need to measure more outcomes to expand the definition of what matters in education.”