​​​​The Problem

In many disadvantaged urban areas, children and teens lack access to the kinds of rich and ongoing experiences with the arts that are available to young people from higher income communities, both in school and outside of the classroom.

​​How We Are Tackling It

Since 2005, Wallace has been working to develop ways to engage more young people in high-quality arts learning during the school day and beyond. We seek to strengthen both classroom arts instruction and less formal arts experiences, and, through this work, aim to generate information and insights to help policymakers, arts professionals and others in efforts to improve and expand arts learning for the young.

Our arts education strategy has two parts:

Working with school districts to improve, expand and equitably distribute arts instruction.
Helping national organizations that serve disadvantaged youngsters provide more and better arts opportunities afterschool and over the summer.

From 2005 to 2014 Wallace supported Dallas’s Thriving Minds effort, which has successfully knit together the work of groups including school districts, city agencies and cultural organizations to bring more arts opportunities to the city’s young people. Over the years, Thriving Minds has emerged as a national model of a coordinated approach to improving arts learning. Since 2009, Wallace has also supported the Boston Public Schools’ Arts Expansion Initiative, a citywide public-private partnership to expand high-quality arts education in the classroom. Over the intervening years, the percentage of Boston public school students receiving K-8 arts instruction has increased from 67 percent to 93 percent; the percentage receiving high school arts education has increased from 26 to 63 percent. Wallace is currently supporting work to refine Boston’s effort and ensure it can be sustained beyond Wallace funding. Activities include improving high-school arts instruction so every student has access to programs that meet Massachusetts state standards.

In 2014, Wallace launched the Youth Arts Initiative, which supports the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in providing innovative, high-quality afterschool and summer arts programming to underserved young people in their middle-school years. In select Boys & Girls Clubs in three communities—two clubhouses each in Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wis., and St. Cloud in neighboring Minnesota—the initiative is rolling out arts programs that are based on principles of high-quality arts programming described in a 2013 Wallace-commissioned report, Something to Say.