The Alabama Institute for Education in the Arts (AIEA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1995 to provide professional arts development for classroom teachers and art teachers. The organization is headquartered in Montgomery, Montgomery County, at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
AIEA was initiated by a consortium of the Selma City Schools in Dallas County; Saint James School, a private college preparatory school in Montgomery; and the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts in Chattanooga, Tennessee (a branch of the Getty Institute for Education in the Arts). Several school officials from Selma and Saint James School had attended training at the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts, around 1991 and were soon encouraged to create a similar program in Alabama. The Southeast Center could not accommodate all the teachers who wanted training and sought help establishing a satellite training program in Alabama.
Since its inception, AIEA’s philosophy has been that arts education is valuable and essential to the education of all children. AIEA’s goal is to provide kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers with arts content knowledge in music, visual arts, dance, and theatre, specified by grade level in The Alabama Course of Study: Art Education. These state standards provide the instructional framework for all AIEA professional development. The Alabama Course of Study recommends 60 minutes of arts instruction per week for elementary students, but most schools in Alabama do not have art teachers, so classroom teachers must provide art instruction.
AIEA instructors model lessons that teachers can adapt for use in their own classrooms. In addition, teachers return to their schools with the arts content knowledge and strategies to provide standards-based instruction. Because schools often lack money for resources, AIEA also provides participants with curriculum materials on compact discs, fine arts prints, musical instruments, and books to support the lessons they will implement. Most AIEA training takes place during the week-long annual Summer Institute held in Montgomery. Schools generally send a team of two teachers and an administrator to learn arts implementation strategies, and some 125 educators participate annually. Teachers pay a modest tuition and earn professional development credit, and administrators attend for free and earn up to two professional leadership units for attending the program and completing several other requirements. Teachers may select from sessions in theatre, visual arts, music, or dance taught by master teachers, arts specialists, and professional artists. Noted Alabama artists Frank Fleming and Charlie Lucas, for instance, have served as institute presenters. Institute faculty and staff also visit schools to provide additional support to teachers, introduce new arts content, and implement innovative teaching strategies.
In addition, AIEA sponsors Integrated Curriculum Design workshops to help teachers develop lesson plans that combine arts standards with those from other curriculum areas. An instructor might, for example, teach Civil War-era spirituals that contain code words relating to the Underground Railroad and that connect with a history unit. The teacher deepens the learning experience in both history and music by using the songs and concepts to generate discussion as well as to stimulate further exploration by the students. The institute also offers several “SuperSaturday” workshops per year to provide additional arts instruction for participants who have already attended AIEA training.
In 1999, AIEA was profiled in Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts That Value Arts Education, a publication from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Arts Education Partnership. In 2004, AIEA initiated a Teaching Artist training project to prepare professional artists to lead workshops and residencies on state arts standards in schools throughout the South. This successful pilot project led to continuation of the project with funding from the philanthropic Dana Foundation’s Rural Initiative in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 2010, AIEA received approval from the Alabama State Department of Education to provide PLUs, which administrators must earn for continued certification. In addition, AIEA conducts site-based professional development for individual schools and school systems.
AIEA collaborates on many projects with other state organizations, including the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Alabama Alliance for Arts Education. Collaborations have resulted in joint presentations on arts education at the Alabama Arts Summit, the Alabama Department of Education’s Mega Conference, and shared Teaching Artist training projects. In addition, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts provides space for AIEA training, and the Alabama Dance Council co-sponsors a dance workshop. The University of South Alabama and AIEA jointly design and manage “Comprehensive Arts Education: Alabama,” a project funded with federal money through the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Other institutions of higher education, including Judson College and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, promote AIEA training for their pre-service teachers, and Auburn University’s Truman Pierce Institute contracted with AIEA to write an arts training manual, ArtsSmarts, for teachers to use in after-school programs.
AIEA is funded by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Alabama Department of Education, and private and corporate foundations. It has also received grants from the Dana Foundation, the Daniel Foundation, and the Central Alabama Community Foundation. AIEA’s staff consists of an executive director and a program manager. The organization is governed by a board of up to 25 members who are appointed by the existing chair with the consent of other members. Its operating budget varies from year to year.
- President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and Arts Education Partnership. Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts That Value Arts Education, 1999.