MCLA Logo 125

Above, Dr. Lisa Donovan, second from right, leads a warm-up with teachers in Maine. Below, Donovan and a teacher-made book that explores ideas in assessment of arts integrated work.

FPA Professor Leads Arts Integration Field


As a national expert on arts integration, Dr. Lisa Donovan, an associate professor of Fine and Performing Arts at MCLA, is in demand to share her knowledge of the field with other educators throughout the country.

“It is the future,” Donovan said. “The ability to think creatively and divergently is needed.”

According to Donovan, the arts are an important aspect of education.

“There is so much conversation today about the need for entrepreneurial thinking, about innovation, about solving complex issues, and the way that schools have been constructed in terms of more often rote forms of learning. They’re not necessarily delving into that creative capacity, and the arts do that naturally,” she explained.

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, Donovan was in Maine to work with that state’s Department of Education on how to use the arts as a strategy for formative and summative assessments.

On the heels of her recently completed research on rural education, funded by a National Endowment of the Arts “Collective Impact” grant, she shared those results at the Arts Education Partnership in Denver, Colo., in September, and also in October in Iowa City, Iowa, at the first rural-focused, creative place-making conference in the United States.

Last November, Donovan participated in large professional development conferences in southern and northern California. And, she’ll head to Virginia later this month as the featured presenter at the Art Works for Virginia Renaissance to conduct two connected workshops on the role of evaluation in arts education, and to moderate a panel that will look at ways policies impact arts education.

“The arts don’t just show that a student knows something. They often show how a student knows something, as well,” she explained. “A student can get the answer right on the test, but if they create a visual story board, write a poem, or create a theatre piece – such as a monologue about a scientific process – there’s a lot more information that also comes along with that.”

Donovan pointed out that the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) – a coalition working to position 21st century readiness at the center of the country’s K-12 education – found that graduates did not have the requisite skills to solve complex issues and think out of the box.

As a result of her research, her time living in the Berkshires and her work at MCLA, “I have realized that there is not another place that has the cultural and arts assets like we do, and the openness in terms of what we could create,” she said.

“We should be a national model for regional collaboration in arts education in rural areas. We have everything we need. We just need to connect the dots.”