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Jarrod Hartzler

Jarrod Hartzler Discusses His New Role as Ohio Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director

Jarrod Hartzler fondly remembers the best history class skit he and his peers ever put together. After assembling their set—a 2D façade of a ship cut out from poster board—Hartzler and his crew proceeded to perform a riveting reenactment of the Boston Tea Party, complete with props such as empty Lipton tea boxes that the students threw overboard.

“It was so historically accurate,” Hartzler said with a laugh. “They had Lipton back then, I’m sure.”

Anachronisms aside, this story shows the importance of the arts in education, Hartzler said. The experience of creatively acting out this historic event stuck with him longer than the accompanying paragraph in the textbook did. Now, as executive director of the 
Ohio Alliance for Art Education (OAAE), Hartzler is eager to use his passion for the arts in education to ensure students have similar opportunities to learn through arts integration and arts learning. New technologies, resources, and partnerships make for a bright future for arts education in Ohio, and, as he shares in this Q&A, Hartzler can’t wait to get started.

You recently joined the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education as the organization’s new executive director. What led you to this position?

It all stems from years of community arts education work. I’ve served on the OAAE board for eight years, and before that, I previously worked as a project coordinator for the Alliance. I was the education coordinator for the Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster, Ohio, and the programs director for the Arts Castle in Delaware, Ohio. I also worked a lot with the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education programs and was part of the team in Wooster and Wayne County.

While I was the executive and artistic director at Tuesday Musical, we probably quadrupled our education work with projects like the Escher String Quartet residency that served nearly 2,000 students a year in and out of schools. We also provided art education resources through our scholarship program and the ongoing Kennedy Center
partnership, which we brought to Akron. For this, we were working with K-12 teachers, providing arts integration strategies and all of those things.

So, somehow the past 19 years—it’s crazy that it’s been that many—have led me to this point where I am the person leading the cause for the Alliance.

Your background working in various arts education programming seems to have prepared you well for leading a statewide arts education service organization. Looking ahead to some of the Alliance’s upcoming programs or initiatives, what’s in store for OAAE?

Ohio has some of the best arts education practices in the country, and that is not by accident. It’s because of the work of the Alliance and the partners that we work with. Making sure that we are continually advocating and pushing for qualified arts teachers in schools and student access to art education.

Some of the things that I hope to see us do in the future are outside of the policy work here in Columbus. We have some afterschool programs that we would like to try to replicate in other communities around the state. I want to see if we can figure out how to have those programs in Akron or Athens or Toledo and sort of make a template to help other communities figure out how to do that.

What do you envision those programs or other outreach efforts looking like in practice?

One of the programs that I was so pleased with at Tuesday Musical was the Escher Quartet residency. We were able to impact communities that don’t always have access to that kind of high-quality music with the educational components of the residency, which included working with music educators in the schools.

We recently had a perfect pilot example with a Fund Every County grant through the Ohio Arts Council. We were in Holmes County for three days, and the quartet musicians worked with every elementary school and every high school band, and then had public performances for the community. At the end of our three days there, we’d reached around 3,000 people.

At the same time, the Holmes Center for the Arts was also working with the Fund Every County program, and within six months of that Escher residency, they started a string program. Before, there was nothing—no string program, not in the schools, not in the community—and so, you can see the long-lasting impact.

You recently shared in an interview your belief that “the arts are education.” Do you see a creative approach to instruction becoming more widely used to integrate the arts into other subject areas?

Arts integration strategies amaze me. The first visit I ever made to the Kennedy Center was when I was in the Partners in Education team, and I went to a three-hour workshop with a dance artist incorporating dance into social studies. I realized 20 minutes into the lesson that I had had teachers who used arts integration strategies whether they knew it or not. And I could remember every single lesson that had been taught that way.

I think we’re learning the skills we need students to have once they finish school. We keep hearing, “What does the workforce want?” and we keep talking about the things that can’t be automated, that technology can’t take over.

And that is creative thinking, problem solving, all of those skills that are not just “yes” or “no” datapoint answers. Those skills are learned through the arts.

In what ways can readers expect to interact with the Alliance in the future? What are some resources that you offer?

The Ohio Arts Education Data Dashboard is one of the most important things. It is a partnership between the Alliance and the Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Department of Education. We are one of the first states in the country where all of the Education Management Information System data from the Department of Education is downloaded into a searchable dashboard.

If you’re a parent and you’re looking for where you’d like to send your children to school, you can see what art opportunities are offered, how many students participate, when they are offered, and what other schools offer in comparison. Then this information can help inform your decision.

It’s just something that you never would have had access to before this dashboard came to be.

Looking at the arts education data available on the dashboard now, what is Ohio doing well? Where can we improve?

Music is doing well for itself, and it always has. Almost every high school has a band program. But almost no high schools have dance programs or drama. So, I think these data show where those shortfalls or inequities in arts disciplines are.

Everyone always says, “show us the data.” Years ago, it was, “Show us that the arts help learning.” So, everyone did studies. And we continually showed that yes, students learn faster and learn more, students retain knowledge better because of the arts. So, we’ve proven all of that, but now we have to prove the next thing.

Tell me about your most meaningful arts education experience.

There have been a lot that have been impactful, but one that I always tell because it was such a great example is one of our Kennedy Center teaching artists in Wayne County. She had taught the water cycle to a class full of students through dance. So, the students danced the water cycle—they came down as rain, they evaporated, they did all of the steps.

The teacher had one student who had never scored above average on an exam, but she watched this student get up during the exam, stand next to the desk, dance the water cycle, and get 100 percent on the test.

The teacher cried. She’s told this story over and over because she realized that she had been trying and trying to reach this student, and she’d been failing the student. But here’s this resource that really works.

There have just been so many examples like that. We give teachers tools and we hear them report back about how useful the instructional strategies have been in their classrooms.

What do the arts mean to you?

The arts to me mean everything. They mean quality of life, pleasure, education, economic development. There’s not a facet of life that isn’t enhanced or made more impactful by the arts.


The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on 
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Interview by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist


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