The Hills (and Country) are Alive with Arts Education!

Posted by Ms. Lauren S. Hess, Aug 28, 2015 0 comments

I returned home from the Americans for the Arts 2015 Annual Convention in June with information and ideas swimming in my head, and hope rising in my heart for the optimistic future of arts education. There are numerous areas of the country where great things are happening to provide access to quality arts education for all children in a district, city, or county, depending on the location and size of the program.


Our host city of Chicago provided presenters that shared their great work towards access for all students and development of arts partnerships in their comprehensive plan, begun in 2012 (Check out this blog to better understand what is going on in Chicago!). Incredible resources have been developed by Ingenuity, the organization that is focused on data, strategy, advocacy and partnerships to strengthen arts education in every Chicago public school. The AFTA Arts Education Advisory Council members were also lucky enough to visit Herzel School of Excellence, part of the Turnaround Arts Initiatives by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. We had the opportunity to see two teaching artists from Urban Gateways working with first grade students. It was so energizing to see body percussion being explored in one classroom and creative movement in a second classroom. Students were engaged in their learning and wanted to share their work with us. The arts are alive and well in Chicago!


In 2009, Boston launched its public school arts education work with the BPS Arts Expansion Initiative. Their focus is on providing access to arts offerings - currently 89% of PreK-8 students receive weekly arts instruction, building capacity in administrators and teachers, and developing quality partnerships with arts organizations. Their goal of 100% access is clearly in reach!

New York City

New York City has the Center for Arts Education organizing its access plan in response to a study recently completed by the city comptroller. That study showed in dramatic terms where the gaps were for arts instruction within the New York City Schools. An arts education plan has been created and in the first year 84 arts teachers were hired.


Seattle is just starting work on their Creative Advantage initiative to collaborate with Seattle Public Schools, the Office of Arts & Culture, and the Seattle Foundation to provide access for all students to learn through the arts. Lara Davis, Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture’s Arts Education Manager, who received the American Express Emerging Leader Award at this year’s convention, wrote an inspiring blog in early June about the journey the city is embarking on.

What’s the Common Thread?

Each community has brought its own unique combination of people and resources together and developed plans to strengthen arts education. The common thread is access to certified arts specialists in the schools, arts integrated experiences in non-arts classrooms, and building strong partnerships with local arts organizations who can help to deepen and broaden arts experiences for students. (otherwise known as A Shared Endeavor).

We don’t have a coordinated plan like this where I live and work yet. Learning about all of this incredible collective action has me feeling empowered to start asking the hard questions, sharing this information with key stakeholders and working to make this vision for the arts happen here in Cincinnati, OH.

I want the exciting opportunities for our students that other communities are experiencing across the country. 

I want all of our students to experience high quality arts learning and develop their creative brains.

Who wants to join me and be a part of positive change?

Please login to post comments.