The Center for Arts Education
When The Center for Arts Education was founded eight years ago, many of New York City's 1.1 million public school students went from kindergarten through high school with little or no instruction in music, arts, dance or drama. The City's cultural community, ranging from performing arts organizations; such as New York City Opera and the Bronx Dance Theater; to museums, among them the Brooklyn Museum; to arts education organizations, such as Studio In A School and ArtsConnection, stepped in, but could not fill the void created by twenty-five years of progressive budget cuts in the arts. Since the Center was created as part of Ambassador Walter Annenberg's Challenge to the Nation for education reform, it has harnessed the resources of the arts, philanthropic and cultural communities, and served as the primary catalyst for the restoration of arts education in the schools.
Consequently, there has been a renaissance in New York City's arts education. Projects and programs that did not exist eight years ago, such as Project ARTS, the first per capita allocation for arts education since the 1970's, are now part of the yearly school budget. Mayor Giuliani created Project ARTS upon seeing the number of applications the Center received in response to its first round of funding. More than 1/3 of all NYC public schools applied. The initial allocation of Project Arts was $25 million per year, which grew to $75 million and currently stands at $65.7 million. In addition, for the first time in decades, the Department of Education is preparing a new arts curriculum.
The cooperation of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, along with the collaboration the New York City Departments of Education and Cultural Affairs, the United Federation of Teachers and more than 200 cultural organizations have enabled the Center to become a resource for best practices. We have learned that schools with quality arts programs tend to have better attendance rates. We have seen school communities strengthened when teaching artists and classroom teachers work together. By funding innovative programs like Partnership grants, which support multi-year arts partnerships between schools and the City's cultural institutions, and our Parents As Arts Partners grants, which increase parental involvement in arts education, the Center has helped increase the quality of arts programs in New York City schools.
The Center continues to fund grants and is taking steps to ensure that the best practices developed with our funding are sustained by providing tools and resources. Our plans for the coming year include A Parents Arts Education Action kit and a Citywide forum for parents, both of which will be made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Center gathers best practices developed in its grant programs. These examples are documented through outside evaluators, yearly reports by the schools, and at gatherings of educators for evaluation and peer exchange activities. At a recent gathering at Brooklyn's PS 156 K, the student body, including special education students, performed the music and dances they had learned for an audience of visiting teachers, who then posed questions about the curriculum. Professional development also occurs at the Center's "Looking at Student Work" sessions, where teachers discuss works of student art and the learning processes that led to them.
The Center will share its findings and provide schools around the country with the opportunity to adapt some of the best, proven arts education practices available. Providing access to resources has been critical to perpetuating these model programs. Schools awarded Leadership grants received support to create study guides, lesson plans and CD-ROMS. El Puente Academy for Social Justice, for example, produced an Integrated Arts Handbook and CD-ROM with sample curricula about the school's projects on sugar and garment workers, biodiversity, the price of peace and the cost of war. The Center will use our website and related links to help make this material available and as a way of disseminating our research.
The Center will continue to work with City agencies and the Mayor's office to bring quality arts education to all of our public school children. To learn more about The Center for Arts Education's programs, visit our web site at cae-nyc.org. Check back frequently, as the sharing of our findings is just beginning and, as with all creative endeavors, will be an ongoing process.#
Laurie Tisch-Sussman is Chairman, The Center for Arts Education.