As an evaluator, I feel so fortunate to get to spend most of my time learning. In particular, I love that I get to spend time with people who are focused on housing, education, health, and quality of life. We have worked extensively with arts organizations and I can say unequivocally that working in the arts has made us better evaluators. Art has:
  • Challenged us. As evaluators, we love puzzling out answers to complex problems. Nothing could be more complex than art: people have debated art, its value and importance for centuries. When arts organizations ask us to identify measures that help them show the value of their work, we have the opportunity to draw on literature, philosophy and history. For example an explanation of art as a primary way humans communicate by Leo Tolstoy has helped us think about the importance of art for expression and description.  
  • Taught us. The art organizations we worked with have given us new ways of understanding our world and the information we analyze every day. For example, when thinking about how youth change when exposed to the arts, we were introduced to a framework – the Studio Habits of Mind – that describes skills that are critical to success in school and in the workplace. This framework is one of many has been helpful when talking with educators about the skills they hope to develop beyond content knowledge.
  • Inspired us. Working with arts organizations have given us the chance to experience the wisdom and creativity of artists, whether they are professionals, dabblers, or youngsters. For example, I went to a performance of No Child in Berkeley, CA, and was immersed in the experience of artists working with youth at an under-resourced school. In our evaluation work with Chicago Opera Theatre, we got to reflect on the experiences of children who watched an opera, reflected on the opera, and ultimately developed an opera about their unique perspectives and time.
Non-arts organizations can also benefit from the arts. Whether looking for a useful framework, a way to communicate ideas, or simply other perspectives on the issues of the day, the arts can help us draw meaning from our work.

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