Showcasing the Arts

Education Award

Jane Dewey

Boyle County

Jane Dewey is an arts educator, arts advocate, and theater artist, with more than 35 years in the field. Her foundation in the arts was solidified early by a supportive family and a public school district that valued the arts. Today she is in her 22nd year as the director of arts education for Danville Independent Schools and her 27th year as an arts educator in Kentucky. She serves as the facilitator of the Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education, and on the boards of Kentuckians for the Arts and the Art Center of the Bluegrass. Dewey is also an adjunct instructor for Centre College, a Kentucky Peer Advisory Network consultant for the Kentucky Arts Council and has taught for the Governor’s Scholars Program, Lexington’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts, the Richmond Area Arts Council, Upward Bound, Arts for Kids, has coordinated and taught arts academies for Kentucky Performing Arts and the Kentucky Department of Education, and has been an adjudicator for the Governor’s School for the Arts. Dewey enjoys working with her colleagues from around the state, and has served on the Arts Education Advisory Committee and the Gifted and Talented Advisory Committee for the Kentucky Department of Education. She’s received awards for her acting, teaching and arts administration work, including earning a scholarship to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Summer Teacher Program, being named Danville’s Arts Citizen of the Year, and having her district receive the Kennedy Center and National School Boards Association 2019 award for outstanding arts education. Jane holds a Bachelor of Arts in Acting from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies in Arts and Education from Skidmore College. She lives in Danville with her husband, dog, cat and sometimes her adult children.

What does this distinction mean to you?

I am honored to be this year’s recipient of the Governor’s Award in the Arts for Arts Education. In recognizing my work as an arts educator, this award also recognizes thousands of visual and performing arts educators in Kentucky. I am grateful to the Kentucky Arts Council and to Governor Beshear for recognizing the value of arts education for hundreds of thousands of public school students across the Commonwealth with this award. It places me among past recipients in this category, all of whom trumpeted the value of arts education and all of whom have impacted the lives of our children. Having my work in arts education honored in turn honors those who have mentored me along the way, those who have worked alongside me day in and day out, and those who nominated me for this award. This distinction honors the value of arts education in our Kentucky schools and the value of arts education for all Kentucky students.

What is an accomplishment in arts education that you are most proud of?

Accomplishment is a broad term for any arts educator. We measure our student’s successes every day. No success is too small, and certainly navigating hybrid learning has been an accomplishment. Zooming out, I am proud that I keep my focus on providing arts opportunities for students. That’s my touchstone, my mission. Whether I’m serving on a review group for the National Arts Standards, mentoring a student, revising curriculum and disaggregating standards, writing a grant, teaching a class, directing a play, partnering with community groups, even when I’m doing my own work as a theater artist, I still reflect on what I bring back as an arts educator. While I can point to specific accomplishments: being a founder of the Frank X Walker Literary Festival, initiating the Southeastern Theatre Conference K-12 Teacher Institute, hosting Yo-Yo Ma in our district’s theater, it’s my focus on providing students the opportunity to create, perform, respond and connect in and with the arts that matters most.

What are the benefits of making arts accessible to all students at all grade levels? What is missed if the arts are not accessible to students?

The arts are essential. We must demand that every student receive high-quality, standards-based arts education in the visual and performing arts taught by highly qualified arts educators. The arts help us understand who we are. The arts help us consider other people’s perspectives, teach us to work together, teach us that it’s OK to learn from our mistakes. When our students view each other’s artworks they learn more about their peers, and when they view and listen to exemplary artwork, they get a glimpse into what’s possible. Our schools play a pivotal role in developing our next generation of citizens and leaders. Ninety-three percent of Americans want arts education for our students. Seventy-two percent of business leaders name creative thinking as a skill their employees need, and more than 95 percent of superintendents say classes in the arts develop creative thinking skills. Our next generation deserves the advantages of strong arts education that is accessible to all students.