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AEP LogoBy Christen Boone, Fund for the Arts President and CEO 

Last week, I spent two powerful days in Arlington, VA with national experts in education, youth development and the Arts discussing Arts in Education. We delved deeply into how the Arts help our students prepare for their futures and 21st Century jobs, many of which haven’t even been imagined yet.

We heard from Anya Kamenetz – Educational Futurist, Lead Digital Education Reporter for NPR and acclaimed author of The Test.   She shared the growing urgency to shift models of learning to those which foster natural creativity and innovation in order to produce new knowledge and new answers.

So, what kind of education makes a maker?

What we know is that creativity, imagination and innovation are essential skills for the future workforce – and that these skills are developed and nurtured through the Arts – the creation, the practice and the experience of the Arts.

Think about it; what classes in your educational history encouraged risk-taking?  In most classrooms, there is a right answer and a wrong answer.  However, there is no right or wrong answer in Art class, only the act of creation.  Music and dance training nurture discipline and work ethic. Theatre and performance nurture collaboration.

Now, we know that Arts in Education is not the magic bullet, but it is an integral piece of the puzzle.

In Arlington, we approved the Arts Education Partnership’s Action Agenda – By the year 2020 every young person in America, at every grade level, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, will have equitable access to high quality Arts learning opportunities, both during the school day and in out-of-school time.

“Access to the Arts should not be left to circumstance,” exclaimed Sandra Ruppert, Arts Education Partnership Executive Director. Cathy Parks, Youth Artist Award Recipient, reiterated Sandra’s point that “regardless of where we come from, we all deserve the equal access to education.”

Locally, Fund for the Arts announced last week over $150,000 in grants to 48 JCPS elementary schools through the Fund for the Arts 5×5 program. Grants will create an estimated 50,000 enriching arts experiences for area students. And this is just the beginning- our goal is to expand the 5×5 program to reach every single JCPS elementary school by the end of this school year.

We have a solid foundation for Arts access laid here in our community. With the support of 20,000 donors, Fund for the Arts supports 400,000 Arts experiences for students in our region – from intensive year-long residencies at Heuser Hearing and Language Academy with the Louisville Ballet to fieldtrips for students to experience live theatre or orchestral music in person.

Access is a start but we are most interested in the long-term impact of this access – the impact that drives student achievement, grows our economy and builds community across our diverse neighborhoods and cultures.  We have recruited a range of local impact experts to help us to identify and track this impact – with talented leaders such as Ben Reno Weber of the Greater Louisville Project, Teresa Reno Weber of the Mayor’s Office, Alecia Kennedy of the Humana Foundation and Trisha Finnegan of the Community Foundation of Louisville.  With their help and the help of you in our community, I am inspired by the potential to not just measure impact but accelerate the opportunity- for all of our young people, and all of our neighbors.

#ArtIs accelerating opportunity for our children.

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