The Arts

1 Post authored by: nuit

Greetings, Thinkfinity Friends!


Some of you may have heard already – On January 31st, John Legend joined us at the Kennedy Center to announce a new arts and digital media learning campaign, called What’s Going On…NOW. (If you’d prefer to watch your overview, or see excerpts of John surprising kids from Duke Ellington School for the Arts, or playing at the Press Event, I have links below.) I know this post is long, but we wanted to share lots of details with you, in hopes you and your students will get involved.


The What’s Going On…NOW project centers on Marvin Gaye’s landmark album, What’s Going On, released in 1971, and his performance one year later at the then-newly-opened Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  With the support of artists like John Legend, Common, Smokey Robinson and Sonia Sanchez, we are leading a national conversation that celebrates not only Marvin’s artistic impact and social activism, but inspires youth to add their own perspectives as connected, creative citizen artists.


Using the issues and ideas captured on the album as a catalyst, the campaign invites young people to share their own perspectives on the similarities and differences between Marvin’s “then” and their own “now,” through video, photos, poems, music – wherever they find their creative voice. We hope to inspire them to create media that examines the themes of the original recording—war, poverty, the environment, addiction, personal truth—in contemporary contexts.


To support and showcase this work, we have created a rich digital resource that helps teens to think about the historical contexts, connect with the music, and share their work on a national stage. In addition to featuring the best of their work on the Website, two participants who submit exemplary pieces will be selected to join us in Washington for John Legend’s May 3, 2012 performance at the Kennedy Center with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and the National Symphony Orchestra.


The Teacher-y Part:

WGON is a project that asks students to look at past and contemporary issues through an artistic lens.  Through the web site we have created at, you can find resources to help your students think about the issues, create their own art, and connect with the work of others. We have a For Educators section with things just for you, and also lots of student-centered production tips and ideas, many from the national network of youth media and digital learning groups we have brought together for the campaign.


Our framework is pretty straightforward; we are asking students to:


1)  Spend some time looking at Marvin’s “then” and our “now”—understanding what has changed, and what’s stayed the same, is an important part of this project.


2) Get familiar with the issues, and think about how they touch us today. If they have a personal or emotional connection to the subject, their artistic responses will be that much stronger. A little bit of research will help inform and inspire them.


3) Create their own work. We want young people to tell the world what you think about the issues Marvin raised—and where we are 40 years later. We want them to think like artists not just thinking about the issues, but really pushing their creativity to communicate their ideas.


4) Share it with us, and with others. If they have a great piece, we want them to upload it (to YouTube or Flickr, details on the site) and tell us a bit about it. We are curating only the best onto our Web site – and those pieces will be submitted to the artistic team creating the Kennedy Center events in May to be considered for integration into our performances. 


Oh, and about those pieces that make it to the site— we’ll be reviewing them a second time to select 2 people (and their parent or adult ally) to join us in DC for the May.


I hope you will take some time to look at the site, and more importantly, share your ideas for how you would use this resource with your students. We created an Idea Bank and a series of lessons (targeting teaching artists and informal learning environments, but equally usable in the classroom) – but we would be thrilled to have the Thinkfinity Community adding their expertise and ideas.


Please excuse the length! If you would like more info, or would like us to send you posters for your schools, just drop us a line.


All best,

Nuit and the ARTSEDGE team



For strong overviews of the project, check out the NBC ( ) and BET ( news spots. There was also extensive coverage in the Washington Post ( and call to action on’s Act page (


Please follow -- and like, retweet and share us – on Social Media


Twitter @wgonproject, #wgon


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