The Washington State Arts Commission, ArtsWA, nurtures and supports the role of the arts in the lives of all Washingtonians. As the Arts in Education (AIE) Program Manager at ArtsWA, Tamar Krames oversees a variety of programs and partnerships with a focus on equitable access to quality arts learning. Krames is a multimedia artist, National Board-Certified teacher, and arts administrator. Supporting innovative, community-based practices in schools has been at the core of her work for the past 20 years. Current projects include managing Arts in Education grants, providing support for teaching artists and PreK-12 arts teachers, and amplifying the creative practices of youth and educators. Krames holds a Master in Teaching degree from The Evergreen State College and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
How did you get into arts education?
I grew up in a multicultural family in San Francisco, California, with creative parents and artists all around me. My father taught me how to draw from observation and I spent days wandering through the San Francisco Botanical Garden, finding a sit spot, and drawing the plants around me. This was the beginning of a life-long practice of slowing down, looking closely, and noticing (and honoring) my own perception of the world. I have had many creative mentors since then and followed that path to an arts degree, a master’s degree in teaching, working in teacher education, and now my role in statewide arts administration. Gratitude for my mentors and the cross-cultural opportunities I have had inspires me to work for equitable access to culturally responsive arts learning for all students.
What is your approach to arts education programming to connect with the range of communities in Washington State, from cities to small towns to rural areas?
Statewide work in education requires many partnerships and loads of humility as no two counties, schools, and classrooms in Washington State are the same. My work as an arts administrator intersects with many long-standing systems such as PreK-12 schools, early learning organizations, nonprofit organizations, and arts funding mechanisms. All these systems operate from historic legacies and embedded practices that while flexible, also reproduce persistent inequitable outcomes. Some efforts to connect with a range of communities include a statewide collective impact project that intentionally includes rural, youth, and Indigenous leadership, a new youth arts leadership program, building a regional arts-learning asset map, and meeting with teaching artists throughout the state. It is vital to include educators, youth, and families into the decision-making arena and to honor and compensate folks for the expertise and lived experience they bring to the work.
Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students. What’s involved with managing that program for all of Washington State?
Our primary goal for the Arts in Education at ArtsWA program is to support statewide access to arts education for all PreK-12 students. The Washington State Poetry Out Loud (POL) program is central to that vision. Poetry Out Loud invites students, educators, families, and community members to be transformed by a magical combination of powerful literature and youth voice and courage. The AIE team at ArtsWA manages the Washington State POL program in collaboration with many statewide partners. We build relationships with schools, teachers, statewide Arts and ELA programs, regional partners, teaching artists, and art organizations to work toward common goals for student empowerment. Our Washington State Poetry Out Loud goals include increasing the geographic reach of the POL Program and expanding opportunities for youth and teacher leadership within the literary arts field.
COVID-19 and remote learning has changed the way we approach and view education. How is ArtsWA centering equity in arts in education?
COVID-19 and the many profoundly challenging events of the last two years highlights many persistent system-wide inequities in every field and arts education is no exception. While providing arts programming to students through this time is great, we must also honor and sustain the brilliant work of a diversity of educators and mentors. Teaching artists and arts educators working in the PreK-12 schools must be involved in the design of new approaches and this includes making sure they can plan, collaborate, continue to learn, and lead. There is profound work to do as research continues to affirm opportunity gaps that can largely be predicted by race, geographic location, and socio-economic status. Our approach is to increase and support youth and educator leadership pathways and we do that through programs such as our Arts Uplift! Conference, the Teaching Artist Training LAB, Collective Impact work, youth leadership opportunities, and systems of accountability that lead to small and large changes in our practices. While student learning is, of course, at the center of our work, we must remember to celebrate, compensate, and authentically support the health and well-being of the artists and educators in our communities.
You’re also an illustrator and painter. How does your work as an artist inform your work in arts education?
I am proud to identify as an artist and arts administrator and to continue to make time and space for my own creative practices. While not easy as a working parent—I keep the thread going in everything I do. While I engage in many art forms, drawing is my favorite language. When I draw, I feel like I am truly paying attention. My mentors and teachers modeled what an artist does while also having a job and community responsibilities. I was offered pathways for communication outside of (sometimes in tandem with) the common academic pathways of reading, writing, and math. Having a creative practice also has trained me to be less frightened by the inevitable challenges of teaching, collaborating, and building new programs. Practicing “art” has taught me that making things up, refining as you go, and incorporating community feedback is both a beautiful and effective way to “work.”
Americans for the Arts Membership
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