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Saluting Sarah Cunningham as She Departs the NEA

Okay, I’ve been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Many have interpreted this to reflect a winding down of Dewey21C as a result of my departure from The Center for Arts Education at the end of this month.

Well, that’s not the case. There will be no winding down. I am going to continue Dewey21C and expand its focus to life-long learning, including of course, K-12 and higher education.

So, why have I been so quiet lately, even missing the three-year anniversary of Dewey21C?

Well, there’s the transition from CAE to Mannes College The New School for Music, which created the feeling one usually has during a transition of being pushed and pulled in different directions at the same time. I am not complaining, mind you, just offering it as a reason why the space in my head and heart is just a bit less than usual.

Then, there is my Mom and Stepdad. One has nursing needs, the other dementia. That’s been another factor which is one heck of a primer on American healthcare and culture.

And, there’s more, but I won’t bore you.

Now, before I get to Sarah Cunningham, let me list a few blogs that are on the way. And, while I am at it, I can also tell you that the next time I post, you will see a spiffy new design that Doug McClennan has put in place.

The Grand Illusion: The Promise and Perils of Technology in Education
The Key The Arts Learning Holds for Student Assessment
K-12 To Higher Ed: The Vital P-16 Sequence
UT&UG: Programs for Untalented and UnGifted
I am still working on an interview with Bob Morrison (hint, hint, Bob!), and am going to reconnect with Steve Tennen on an interview with him.

Today, I believe, is Sarah Cunningham’s last day at the National Endowment for the Arts. Okay, I completely biased, for Sarah is my friend. And guess, what, CAE hasn’t always gotten grants approved by the NEA, and she is still my friend! That tells you something, don’t you think?

In so many ways Sarah was a very unlikely candidate for this position at the NEA. She wasn’t an arts educator or arts administrator, in a strict sense. She also hadn’t come out of a cultural organization. For the most part, these were the hallmarks of her predecessors and certainly what most people suppose would be the core of any such hire.

Sarah brought an openness and fresh point of view to the work that was initially suprising and ultimately refreshing. While I would imagine that there are some who would have preferred a more cut and dried administrator type, her training as a philosopher led to the sort of epistemological questions that this field needs to pursue.

While she has a strong background in visual arts (it doesn’t hurt to have a father who is an artist), she often exhibited an ingenuous enthusiasm and interest in things both new and old that led me to question my own openness, and commitment to personal learning and renewal.

She’s not going far, gladly, and it is certainly exciting to see her in a research role at The Virgina Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Richmond. I am eager to see what she cooks up over there.

So, as my own current tenure hurtles towards conclusion and transition, I want to take the moment to thank Sarah for the fine work she has done, for being such a thoughtful and kind colleague, and for being someone who refused to become jaded or agency-like in her daily duties and overall way of being. I think this field has been fortunate to have Sarah Cunningham at the NEA.

Please join me in wishing her the best of luck and good fortune in her new position.

Click here to read Rocco Landesman’s statement about Sarah’s tenure.

Okay, out we go today with Sam and Dave’s super swell song Thank You:

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