Arts Education and Learning

Arts Education

Arts education has been on the decline in urban public schools for more than a generation. Since 2005, Wallace has been working with nonprofits and school districts to find out how they might engage more young people in high-quality arts learning during the school day and beyond.
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​Arts Learning Strategy Chart

The Problem

The chances of a city public school student experiencing and learning about the arts, whether in a classroom or after-school program, are slim – and slimmer still for the poorest children and teens. This means that many young people are deprived of the benefits of the arts, such as art’s ability to strengthen empathy, imagination and persistence. Moreover, because childhood participation in the arts is closely linked to adult participation, the marginalization of arts education means that arts organizations are deprived of potential future audience members.

How We Are Tackling It

Since 2005, Wallace has been working in selected cities to find ways to engage more young people in high-quality arts learning during the school day and beyond. Our arts education strategy has three parts:

  • Help selected school districts find ways to overcome a decline in public school arts education that began in the late 1970s.
  • Work with large, national “youth-serving” organizations to develop an array of arts programs that their local affiliates can use for children in after-school and other out-of-school time efforts.
  • Reach teens in cyberspace by developing digital technology for making art.

Wallace has funded efforts in a number of urban areas to plan for introducing more and stronger classroom arts instruction, including, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City and Seattle.

In addition, Wallace is supporting the Boston Public Schools’ Arts Expansion Initiative and Dallas’ non-profit Thriving Minds effort, a national model of a “coordinated approach” to improving arts learning by knitting together the work of groups including school districts, city agencies and cultural organizations. With the William Penn Foundation and others, Wallace has also supported the creation of the Arts for Children and Youth of Greater Philadelphia initiative.

Some of the Research Informing Our Work

Revitalizing Arts Education Through Community-Wide Coordination, from the RAND Corporation, describes initiatives in six cities to reverse a decades-long decline in city public school arts education by coordinating the work of local governments, arts institutions, schools and others. It concludes that such efforts, although fragile, are promising. In Cultivating Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy, other RAND researchers assert that boosting now-lagging arts participation will require more and better arts education, because those who experience the arts as children are more likely to pursue the arts as adults.

Our Grantees
Launched in 2005, this initiative aims to improve and expand arts education for city children. Wallace funding of about $21 million has included support for: the development in Dallas of what has become a national model for coordinating the work of schools, cultural organizations and others to upgrade arts education; planning projects in six other cities; and several research and other reports.