What can be done to get more people more involved in the arts? The answer may lie in reversing a decades-long decline in arts education. This report studies initiatives in six urban areas—Alameda Country, Calif. (which includes Oakland and Berkeley), Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles County and New York City—aimed at accomplishing that goal through an ambitious, collaborative approach. These efforts involved building networks of many constituencies, from city agencies and arts institutions to schools and others. According to researchers, the initiatives generally used eight strategies to improve access to and the quality of arts learning, including assessing the state of arts education, building a compelling case for devoting scarce public or private resources to arts education, and ensuring that instructors understood the value of arts education and were trained to teach it.
The report also identified factors that foster coordination, including convening key stakeholders to build support early on, acquiring sustained funding and, most important, ensuring stable, effective leadership. At the same time, while the six efforts shared certain elements, they also varied with respect to their leadership structures, those involved and ultimate goals. For example, Boston focused on afterschool programs for at-risk youth, including but not limited to arts programs, while efforts in Chicago and New York City were led or co-led by the public schools' central offices, emphasizing grade-appropriate, sequential arts instruction.
These coordinated efforts are fragile, the report concludes, but show some promise in making increased and better arts education available to more city children.