Art Works Blog

Meet Our Arts and Human Development Taskforce Partners

The National Science Foundation established the Science of Learning (SLC) Program in 2003 in order to advance our understanding of how people, other animals and machines learn. In recognition of the complexities associated with the study of learning, the program provides support for the establishment of research centers. The purpose of a center is to provide intellectual, organizational, and physical infrastructure to enable experts from different disciplines to work together---to address problems of the scope, scale, and complexity that require resources beyond what is available to individual investigators or small groups.

 The goals of the SLC Program are to advance the science of learning through integrated, interdisciplinary research; to connect the research to specific scientific, technological, educational, and workforce challenges; and to enable research communities to capitalize on new opportunities and discoveries that enable them to respond to new challenges.

 Engagement in life-long learning is an integral part of human development. Experiencing the arts is enriching, and arts learning (music, visual arts/drawing, dance and theater) provides multiple pathways for maximizing human potential through creative expression of one’s experiences with the world. Not surprisingly, there is considerable interest in understanding how people learn the arts (including music, visual arts/drawing, dance and theater), how they become experts in these areas, and whether exposure and training in the arts enhance abilities in other domains such as mathematics and language, in other life skills such as creativity and problem solving, and in improving overall well-being.

 There is opportunity to build on the momentum of interest and to capitalize on advances in technologies that allow for rigorous experimentation to achieve a better understanding of the neural and cognitive underpinnings of arts learning. For a variety of reasons, the studies to date tend to be scattered, limited by small size of study populations, are mostly correlational in nature, and are not usually published in mainstream scientific journals. There is little systematic work on the issue of transfer from arts learning to enhancement in other areas of human activity and development, from early childhood, adolescence, adulthood to older adults. The breadth and complexity of challenges have been significant, and new strategies are warranted to achieve a more coherent and deeper understanding of arts learning.

 The establishment of the federal interagency task force in arts and human development is timely and an important step forward to coordinate the interests of several agencies in arts and human development. As a member of this Task Force representing the National Science Foundation, I look forward to sharing information about NSF’s investments in research about arts learning and education, as well as the integration of the arts with other science, technology, and engineering efforts.

This Wednesday, the NEA Federal Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development will host a live webinar featuring a presentation on The Gamelan Project and collaboration between an ethnomusicologist/composer and neuroscientists that explores cognitive development. The webinar takes place Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., EST.

The webinar is free and open to the public.  No registration is required.  To join the webinar, go to and check the "Enter as Guest" button. Type in your name and click hit "Enter Room" to join. Visit our News Room to learn more about the Interagency Arts & Human Development Taskforce.

Sign up for notices of future NEA Task Force Webinars at

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