The Arts in a Democracy

The arts have shaped and been integral to cultures across the centuries. National, state and local government support and fund the arts, but not without scrutiny. Media has many approaches to inform citizens of fine and performing arts events.

The role of and need for the fine and performing arts in a society form the overarching theme of this month’s NIE curriculum guide. We examine them in our lives, in budgets and in the pages of The Washington Post. Creativity and free expression take many shapes — in line, color and form; in vocal and instrumental music, in dance, in poetry and prose, comedy and tragedy, paintings and photographs; in our national conversation and in our local schools.


While entertainment value and artistic expression come to mind first when the fine and performing arts are mentioned, they have a significant place in healing. We read of an ancient art form — masks — employed in art therapy to benefit civilians and service members. We explore how science and art meet to form new products.


Funding for the arts and arts organizations is a national, state and local government as well as individual matter. National Endowment for the Arts grants and state and local programs come under scrutiny and raise questions of the legitimate role government should play in supporting the arts. How have administrations supported the arts scene and how might a new administration influence the arts? At the center of the issue is the value we place on art and artists — and if a society can afford not to support artistic endeavors.



January 2017

Fine Arts Resources
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A Career in the Arts?
Art, Career Education, Fine Arts, Photography, Theatre Arts, Visual Arts

Costume designer, director, set dresser and cinematographer begin a list of career possibilities in the arts. These are behind-the-scenes jobs, but essential to the success of a production. Teachers might place students in genre groups (dance, vocal music, instrumental music, theatre, film). Within these groups, students could use a current work (see the Lively Arts and Going Out Guide in The Post for examples) to brainstorm all the jobs required to produce a performance. Teachers could also run the credits at the end of a movie to illustrate the many jobs and people who worked to make the film. Students who have been involved in a school play or concert could lead brainstorming of the many tasks/jobs required before and during the event.


Develop Vocabulary
Arts, Dance, English, Fine Arts, Journalism, Social Studies, Theatre Arts, Visual Arts

In the Know” defines many terms related to the fine and performing arts. Before reading articles reprinted in this curriculum guide or found in Style, Arts&Style and other entertainment sections of The Post, you might review the terms. Many of the definitions come from Maryland and DCPS standards glossaries of fine arts terms.


Do a Crossword Puzzle
Art, Dance, English, Fine Arts, Visual Arts

Two types of crossword puzzles are provided in this guide. Both contain terms associated with artists and the fine and performing arts. Answers to both are provided.


Play with Words” is an example of a jumble puzzle that has scrambled letters to help students determine the answers. Teachers might discuss the bonus word and have students brainstorm examples to help them understand the concept of a “genre.”


The Fine Arts in Words” is a traditional crossword puzzle. Students might be asked to use as many of the terms as possible in a coherent statement about the arts or to relate an experience they have had with the fine or performing arts using the terms.


Read in Another Language
English, Foreign Languages, Social Studies

The e-Replica edition of The Washington Post has a number of special features to aid teachers in making the newspaper more accessible to their students. Support for English as a Second Language and foreign language teachers is found in the translate option. Give students “Read in Another Language | How to Use the Translate Feature.”


Students may also listen to Post articles with the e-Replica listen feature. Introduce students to this option with the handout “Hear All of It | Use e-Replica Listen Feature” found in the “Monuments, Parks and Sanctuaries” resource PDF in the From Yellowstone to Acadia and Zion curriculum guide.


Explore Entertainment
Art, English, Fine Arts, Media Literacy, Technology, Visual Arts

The Post has a large staff of writers who cover the arts, style and entertainment beat. Within this larger category, writers specialize in genre coverage such as architecture, art, dance, theatre and television. Give students “Explore the Performing Arts in The Post.” Through this activity, they will become acquainted with the content and the different manners in which this information can be presented.


Instructions have been general so that teachers may determine the approach, the depth and the manner of feedback they want students to provide. For example, do teachers want students to include date, headline, summary of articles; an information graphic of the genres covered; select one event for which they will plan an evening and budget. 


Teachers may practice Internet research skills by asking students to do this activity at The Washington Post website. Online The Post’s Entertainment section covers books, movies, comics, theater and dance, TV, puzzles and games, horoscopes and the Going Out Guide. 

Teachers may give students "Leaving indelible marks." This is an example of a feature article that takes readers behind-the-scenes at the ballet.


Bring Music Into Your Classroom
Art, Fine Arts, Music, Journalism, Media Arts, Social Studies, Science

Music Across the Disciplines,” is one of occasional Teachers Notes in which we suggest different approaches or provide background information for use with reprinted articles and activities. If you happen to teach in a school where the music program has been eliminated or cut back, you may find these ideas helpful to giving students music arts exposure. You may find an idea that can also enrich your science, history or social studies lesson and awaken students to themes. 

Tours and (Nearly) Free Events
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Consider How Art Heals
Art, Career Education, Fine Arts, Psychology

Art therapists (a career path that integrates human development and psychological theories with visual arts and the creative process) have found ways to utilize a traditional art form (masks) to address human suffering and communication inability. Read and discuss “Giving their pain a face.” Discussion questions are available in “Art That Heals.”


Another approach to the healing capacity of the arts is Arts in the Armed Forces, founded by Adam Driver. Actors perform theater for all branches of the military at home and abroad. In addition to providing entertainment, AITAF hopes to “use the powerfully emotional shared experience of live theater to open conversations” between military and civilian, the world of the arts and the world of practical action.


 Additional examples of using art to address individual and societal concerns may be found in
• “When lines at this post office are long, relax and gaze at the murals around you”
• “To frame futures for D.C. boys, schools turn to art”
• “Project takes confiscated guns and creates art” 

Teachers may ask students to review the News, Metro, Style and Sports sections for additional uses of art to heal.


Make a Mask
Art, English, Fine Arts, Psychology, Social Studies, Visual Arts
This art project is inspired by “Giving their pain a face.” Give student “Make a Mask.” It is composed of three parts: an introduction to masks (etymology, cultural uses), visual examples of masks that cross borders and years and purpose, and an illustrated, how-to guide to making a mask. 


Cover the Arts
English, Journalism, Media Arts
Brainstorm with students the different fine arts and performing arts classes and events that take place in your school. These would include school plays and musicals, band, out-of-school bands, choir, choral groups, talent and art shows.

• When do these take place in the school day and academic year?
• Have your students been involved in these?
• Do they know students and teachers who teach and organize these activities?
• In what recitals and arts programs outside of school are students from your school involved? Cultural dance, unusual instruments and voice training?


Give students “Cover the Arts in Your School,” approaches for covering the fine and performing arts in your school and community. Using the models given, ask students to create a simple or annotated listing of the activities held this term. If your student media (print, online or broadcast) does not cover these activities, your students could take the arts beat to inform your school community. Discuss why the arts are an important part of a student’s education?

For additional examples of how to organize lists (simple, annotated, chronological or by genre) read The Washington Post print and online editions. The Going Out Guide is published every Thursday in Local Living (Fairfax, Montgomery, D.C. and other editions) and online. 


Check on Technology and the Artist
Art, Engineering, Technology, Visual Arts

While 3-D printing does not necessarily come to mind when thinking of art, there are more people and products in which the worlds of engineering, art and creativity are collaborating.  Read "This pen prints 3-D as you draw" for innovations in creating art.

Read “Fifth-grader tests 3-D printed robotic arm to help other kids” to learn about the benefits, and drawbacks, of having a prosthesis as well as how prosthetics can influence how artists can hold brushes, mold clay and stamp images.

Two other articles may be read in conjunction with Munz’s article:
• “Why being able to 3-D print glass objects is such a big deal” 
• “14 Ways 3D Printing Has Changed the Art World

Teachers may ask students to read science and feature coverage for innovations in 3-D technology and use.


Read About a Book, Author and Book Signing
Art, English, Journalism, Media Arts

KidsPost introduces a new book by author and illustrator Nick Bruel. In addition, through interview questions and answers, readers get to know Bruel. In the seventh paragraph, readers learn about a talk Bruel will give at a local bookstore. Discussion could include:

• What is a “chapter book”?

• Where did Bruel grow up?

• Did he have pets? Why is this pertinent to the article?

• This article is a book review: What do we learn about the book?

• This article is an author introduction: What do you know about influences on Bruel?

• What question would you ask the author who illustrates his own books?

Read About Fine Arts

Support or Repress the Arts?
Art, English, Social Studies, Theater Arts, U.S. Government

To introduce this research project focusing on the relation of government to the arts, teachers could begin with an event in the news in which a government figure or department is supporting, collaborating with or in conflict with an artist or artistic endeavor. As a class or in groups of two to three students, ask students to think of recent examples from the news of artists who are speaking out against authority, being boycotted because of their support or lack of support for an authority figure, or enjoying popularity or success for the political stands they are taking. Share each group’s example with the class as a whole.


Social Studies teachers could also ask students to think of examples from U.S. or world history of government support or oppression of arts and artists.


This activity is suggested as a two-part exercise: Distribute, read and discuss “Power and the Arts: Support, Challenge and Question” for background and to introduce main topics for research. Teachers may find it helpful for students to read in a “popcorn” style — students taking turns reading one paragraph aloud.


Research the Role of Arts in a Democracy” lists ten topics for further research of governments and those in power who support or repress artists and their work. This may be done individually or in ten groups, each with a different topic. As time allows, research may take two days to two weeks. The assignment may be to present the areas of research to the class, write a summary of the research with a personal reaction, write an informative article for school media, or include the research in a column written for online student media or commentary for a student broadcast.


To provide perspective on the topic, teachers could give students "Is it better for the Obamas to support or be visible on the D.C. arts scene?" Discussion questions are provided in "What Is the Best Way for the White House to Support the Arts?"


Read an Editorial
Art, English, Fine Arts, Journalism, Social Studies, Visual Arts

The removal of an award-winning student artwork after complaints provides a case study. Read The Washington Post editorial “Censorship comes to the U.S. Capitol.” Discussion of the case could include:

  1. In what ways did Congress give its support to the arts and, in particular, to student artists?
  2. Who is David Pulphus?
  3. Describe his painting. How long has it been on display in the U.S. Capitol?
  4. Why was Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) involved? What did he do?
  5. Who complained about the student painting?
  6. What is the position taken by The Washington Post editorial board?
  7. What do you think of the actions and words of the following?
    1. Missouri 1st Congressional District art competition judges
    2. Alt-right blogger and conservative commentators
    3. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)
    4. Architect of the Capitol
    5. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)
    6. David Pulphus


Write a Theatre Review
Art, Economics, English, Journalism, Media Arts, Theatre Arts

Reviews influence whether films, exhibits or performances are attended. With limited time and money, people have to decide what to see and experience. "Write a Theater Review" provides guidelines for content of these critiques.


“Voices raised ebulliently, passengers of ‘Titanic’ head for the deep,” a theatre review is provided for students to annotate. Ask students to read Marks’ review in pairs or a small group and annotate for guideline items. Discussion would include:
• Is Marks’ point of view clear? Is he recommending attendance of the play or viewing of the movie?
• What theatric elements is he highlighting?
• Which performers does he recognize?  

Students may attend a school play and review it. There may also be options to attend local drama productions or for the teacher to show a taped performance.


Teachers may also refer to two previous Washington Post NIE curriculum guides for additional review writing guidelines: “The Movie Reviewer, Film Vocabulary” and “Guidelines for Movie Review Writers” in Harry Potter and “Writing a Book Review” in Reviewing a Whirl of Books.


Teachers may ask students to read pages 10 and 16 in the Reviewing a Whirl of Books curriculum guide. Students could make a list of the questions that are relevant to writing the review of a play and a list of those that are not.


When publishing a play, movie, book or movie review know what is copyright and fair use of photographs and other images that you may wish to use. Go to the official website and check for material that is provided for promotional purchases. For more details see the Student Press Law Center "Know Your Rights" section on copyright law.


Be Inspired
Art, Drama, English, Fine Arts, Music, Visual Arts

Lawrence Block invited 17 writers to write a story inspired by an Edward Hopper painting. The result is the anthology In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper that was selected by Book World’s Michael Dirda in his Book World picks of the season. 


Stephen Sondheim was inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. He wrote the musical Sunday in the Park with George that won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and two Tony Awards.


A number of playwright festivals call on playwrights to write a short original play based on what they see or on the works/series of particular painters or photographers.


Use these ideas to get your students to write short stories, one-act plays or interior monologues inspired by paintings or photographs. These may be the works by students enrolled in your school’s art program or those of well-known artist/photographers. If you publish or exhibit these new works, be sure to indicate "inspired by" to creadit the original work.


Nominate a Cabinet Member
English, Social Studies, U.S. Government

Sometimes characters from fiction and drama can be powerful role models. They exhibit traits of character and conduct themselves in admirable manner — or are the antithesis of what civil society would condone. This activity is based on an essay written by then-Secretary of State John Kerry. He argues that Rosalind from Shakespeare’s As You Like It is an admirable model for a diplomat.


Who Should Hold This Office?” begins with highlights of his argument. Teachers could ask students to read the entire essay before giving this handout. “As You Like It: The Inspiration of Comedy” is a response to the British Council appeal. Teachers and students should brainstorm the list of Cabinet positions that require advice and consent of Congress. If teachers want every student to have a different position, federal agencies could be added to the options.



Post NIE Guide Editor & Writer | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter

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In The Know 

Acting Choices Determinations made by the actor about how to dramatically represent the character by speech, action and gesture
Aesthetic Qualities or experience derived from or based upon the senses and how they are affected or stimulated; from the Greek word meaning “of sense perception, artistic;” appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about beauty.; a particular approach to visual and performance qualities
Aesthetic Criteria

Standards used for assessing the effectiveness of visual form. (These may include the quality of the physical perception, emotional makeup of the viewer, and the context in which a particular image is being experienced.

Aesthetic Principles

Considerations that guide a choreographer in the creation of a dance: balance, climax, contrast, harmony, proportion, repetition, sequence, transition, unity, and variety

Aesthetic Response 

Viewers’ and readers’ reply, answer or reaction to artwork or performance after studying, describing, analyzing and interpreting the work

Art Form

The shape and structure of fine arts activity, the origin of the components comprising a work of art in to a distinct order; a product or process of dance, music, theatre or visual art

Artistic Choices

Selections made by theatre artists about situation, action, direction and design in order to convey meaning

Art(s) Criticism

Skill of studying, understanding and judging works. (It has four stages: description, analysis, interpretation and judgment.)

Artifice Deception or trickery

The art of planning and arranging dance movements into a meaningful whole; the process of building a composition; a finished dance work


Drama of light and amusing character and typically with a happy ending; a medieval narrative that ends happily (for example, Dante’s Divine Comedy)


Arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music or literature, or its structure or organization

Creative Process The logical progression in the making of dance; choose topic, research the topic, identify important aspects of the topic, devise problems to be solved, ask questions, solve problems and produce material, design artwork, self-evaluate, revise, get and use feedback from performance (concept, investigation, exploration, selection, development, refinement, exhibition).
Criteria Standards, lists, rules used to make judgments; i.e., the established conditions that must be met within any assignment

An evaluation that aids readers and audiences in deciding to purchase the work or tickets, to spend time or to educate about the works qualities. See Review.


Shared ideas, beliefs, customs, experiences, arts, social institutions and achievements of a particular nation, people or social group


Play for stage, film, radio or television; composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or to tell a story usually involving conflicts and emotions through actions and dialogue. There are six major elements of drama, according to Artistotle: plot, character, theme, dialogue, music and spectacle.


 Genre Category of artistic practice having a particular form, content or technique; i.e., still life, portrait, farce, waltz, sit com within different performing and visual arts
Review An educated evaluation of a work (fiction, non-fiction, performing arts, photography) as written and/or performed. May include scope; place within a genre or time period; comparison with other works by the author/creator and others in the same medium; portrayal of imagined and real characters, historic events and themes; performance space and staging; and expected or unexpected audience response.

Dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending; especially one concerning the downfall of the main character; plays of a poetic style with strong moral implications in which the defeat of the protagonist is brought about by an inability to overcome a character flaw or some event beyond human control, such as fate or the will of the gods.


Universal Theme

Dances [and other fine arts] from a variety of cultures that share a commonality based in human experiences and that show the relationships of individuals to each other and within social groups.



Source: MoMA Learning Glossary of Art Terms; Visual Arts State (Maryland) Curriculum Glossary; Dance State (Maryland) Curriculum Glossary; Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Washington, D.C., Arts Standards and Glossary 

ANSWERS. Art That Heals

1. Teachers should review these terms with students. 2. Answers will vary. Be sure students relate their mission to art therapy. 3. Walker was inspired to work with veterans because her grandfather, a Korean War veteran, spent his life struggling with trauma. 4. Answers will vary.

5. The job of the art therapist is to create a safe space for service members to tap into those difficult memories, and then to help them describe what they have created, opening a neural pathway that had previously been shut off. Art therapist Melissa Walker gives each service member a blank mask. She invites them to explore their identities or emotions surrounding their injuries or treatment as they decorate it. “There is something powerful in the mask,” Walker said. “It literally and figuratively encompasses the areas we are focused on here, both the physical and psychological.”

6. Physical pain and literal injuries, metaphorical expression, duality of some symbols as both pride and pain, strength and vulnerability, hope.

7. Leaving the mask may be a sign that the cause of the trauma has been faced and is being left behind in order to move forward.

8. Stowe has good days and bad days, he said. Some days he still hears the bees buzzing in his head. “Those are the days that I paint,” he said. He makes oil paintings at an in-home studio or goes out to the porch with his ukulele. Sometimes he escapes to a glass blowing studio for a few hours. “It’s really cathartic,” he said. “Whatever I was battling, it slowly fades away.”

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.


Arts. HSP.3.1. Use the vocabulary of theatre, such as style, genre, design and theme to describe theatrical experiences.

Arts. HSP.3.3.  Document observations and perceptions on how a specific actor used theatre techniques to convey meaning in his or her performances.

 Arts. HAS.4.1. Analyze the influence of traditional and nontraditional theatre, film, television and electronic media on values and behaviors.


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Fine Arts/Dance. 1. Demonstrate knowledge of how elements of dance are used to communicate meaning. (Standard 1.0 Perceiving, Performing and Responding: Aesthetic Education)


Fine Arts/Dance. 3. Respond to dance through observation, experience and analysis.
a. Compare the physical attributes required by dances representative of diverse genres and world cultures using the language of dance.
b. Describe and perform dance skills and movement sequences that improve technical proficiency.  (Standard 1.0 Perceiving, Performing and Responding: Aesthetic Education)


Fine Arts/Theatre. 1. Describe and interpret characteristics of dramatic forms.
a. Compare the characteristics of melodrama, farce, tragedy, comedy and mixed forms
b. Interpret themes and issues addressed in dramatic works and compare them to personal experiences or historical events (Standard 1.0  Perceiving and Responding: Aesthetic Education: Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret, perform and respond to the development of a variety of dramatic forms over time and the aesthetic qualities they reflect.)


Fine Arts/Theatre. 2. Describe ways that the manipulation of theatrical elements influences aesthetic response
a. Apply vocabulary from dance, music and visual arts, to discuss the visual, aural or kinesthetic elements of a theatrical production
b. Analyze and illustrate ways in which the script, properties, scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound are manipulated to communicate character, time, place, mood, and theme in theatrical productions

Interpret the application of techniques and conventions used in the presentation of characters, settings, and action in film, video, television, and radio (Standard 1.0  Perceiving and Responding: Aesthetic Education: Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret, perform and respond to the development of a variety of dramatic forms over time and the aesthetic qualities they reflect.)



The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at 

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Fine/Dance Arts. The student will identify similarities and differences in dance styles from various historical periods. DM.13

Fine/Dance Arts. The student will compare and contrast observable elements that characterize the dance arts of various cultures (e.g., line, shape, embellishment, use of color, speed) and create distinctions among them.  DM.14

Fine/Dance Arts. The student will describe personal work and the work of others in regard to technique, choreography, and performance, using dance arts vocabulary.  DM.20

Fine/Dance Arts. The student will describe the similarities and differences in composition and style of dance performances, including live and recorded performances.  DM.21

Fine/Dance Arts. The student will identify the role of the dance critic.   DM.22

Fine/Music Arts. The student will analyze music by 

1. identifying instruments from a variety of music ensembles visually and aurally;
2. distinguishing between major and minor tonality;
3.listening to, comparing, and contrasting music compositions from a variety of cultures and time periods;
4. identifying elements of music through listening, using music terminology; and
5. identifying rondo form (ABACA). [4.10 Analysis, Evaluation and Critique]

Fine/Music Arts. The student will evaluate and critique music by
1. reviewing criteria used to evaluate compositions and performances; and
2. describing performances and offering constructive feedback. [4.11 Analysis, Evaluation and Critique]

Fine/Theatre Arts. The student will describe aspects of theatre design (e.g., lighting, sound, costumes, scenery). 6.14

Fine/Theatre Arts. The student will identify theatrical resources in the community.  6.18

Fine/Theatre Arts. The student will define critique and develop criteria for critiquing performances.  6.20

Fine/Theatre Arts. The student will develop aesthetic criteria to formulate personal responses to theatrical productions.  6.25



Virginia, U.S. History: The student will demonstrate economic, social, cultural and political developments in recent decades and today (VUS.15)

Academic Content Standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

English Language Arts/Informational Text. Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.3)


English Language Arts/Reading Informational Text. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.6)


English Language Arts/Anchor Standards, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7)


Common Core standards may be found at