SARASOTA, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2017) USF Sarasota-Manatee has appointed Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, founder of the Detroit School of the Arts, as Coordinator for the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-integrated Teaching (PAInT). Her first day was Jan. 13.
Dr. Davis-Cotton is a longtime champion of the arts and arts-integrated instruction, a teaching method that combines academics and the arts. She founded the Detroit School of the Arts in 1992 and served as the school’s first principal, a position she held until 2010.
Among other career highlights, Dr. Davis-Cotton received the Milken Educator Award (1998); is a board member and past president of the Arts Schools Network, a national non-profit group that advocates inclusion of the arts in schools; and is the author of Losing My Mind over Education (Finding My Way back to Me), in which she chronicles the discord between the preparation of her educational journey, what she discovered and what needs to occur to reignite the educational spirit.
The Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-integrated Teaching (PAInT) at USF Sarasota-Manatee is the state’s official resource for arts-integrated instruction.
Designated in July 2016, the Center was established to increase the knowledge and research of arts-integrated instruction statewide, provide analysis of arts-integrated programs and to partner with arts and educational organizations to introduce arts-integrated programs to more Florida schools.
Dr. Davis-Cotton retired to Sarasota in 2010, but quickly became involved in local arts organizations. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Perlman Music Program Suncoast, the Players Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Sarasota County Arts Education Task Force.
“I do not believe the arts are a plus in our schools. I believe they are essential,” she said. “The more students are engaged and the more they collaborate with others in various fields, the more they are able to learn and achieve, and to develop socially and intellectually. This helps to prepare them for success.”
Dr. Terry Osborn, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said of Dr. Davis-Cotton: “We are pleased to welcome an educator of such national prominence as Dr. Davis-Cotton to the PAInT family. I am confident her experience, passion and vision for the Center will result in even greater service to our community and the state.”
Dr. Dina Ciotola, director of USFSM’s Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PACE), said, “I look forward to working with Dr. Davis-Cotton to offer arts integrated courses through the office of PACE and in collaboration with our arts partners in the community.
“We hope to broaden the impact of arts integration by offering the online curriculum to a state-wide audience,” she said. “The Circus Arts curriculum is the first of others to come on the website.”
Dr. Davis-Cotton said she heard about the opportunity at PAInT two months ago while serving on the Sarasota County Arts Education Task Force and quickly applied for the position.
“This is my life’s calling. This is my passion,” she said. “This, to me, is not a job. It’s an opportunity to serve.”
Arts-integrated instruction is a teaching method in which the arts and academics are woven together to strengthen students’ understanding and retention of academic material. Studies show that students’ comprehension significantly improves when classroom lessons are combined with the arts.
USF Sarasota-Manatee, a pioneer in arts-integrated instruction, launched the Center for Partnership for Arts-Integrated Teaching in 2012 after Dr. Terry Osborn, then dean of the College of Education, strongly supported the instructional method in 2011.
Arts-integrated learning was introduced as a content area for USFSM education students and the campus set out to develop partnerships with local arts and cultural organizations, including the Sarasota Opera, Sarasota Ballet, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Venice Symphony, South Florida Museum and the Circus Arts Conservatory.
The Sarasota-Manatee area, with its arts-rich culture, proved an ideal location to launch the program. As USFSM’s partnerships grew, arts-integrated programs sprang up in public schools across USFSM’s service area.
During the 2016 state legislative session, legislation was approved to make the campus’ Center for the Partnership for Arts-Integrated Teaching the official statewide resource for arts-integrated instruction. The center still maintains partnerships with its host communities of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, however its mission now extends to schools and districts across Florida, including public, private and charter schools.
“I strongly believe and advocate that teaching and the arts go hand-in-hand,” Dr. Davis-Cotton said. “When it comes to learning, connecting students to the arts and other content areas will only serve to broaden and deepen their understanding of the subject matter.”