National Arts in Education Week

In July of 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution #275 designating the second week of September as National Arts in Education Week. The resolution expressed congressional support for arts education:

Whereas arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.

2013 Arts Education Week Logo with copyright 2013

Over the past year, arts education has been the subject of news stories across the nation featuring both the opportunities and the obstacles to ensuring the arts are an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students. AEP asked leaders in arts and education to share their thoughts on “What story about the arts in education still needs to be told?” These are their responses:

Darrell Ayers – Vice President, Education, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Many arts organizations are helping to ensure that the arts are part of a school’s core curriculum—in one school, in the school district, in the state, in the region, in the nation. Depending on the mission of the organization, it could be working at any one or more of these levels. My feeling is that there is plenty of work at all the various levels for everyone. However, we need to find more effective ways to share the myriad of examples, so that people can find the program/initiative/resource that best fits their needs.

Michelle Mazan Burrows – Director, A+ Schools Program

We know that the learning in and through the arts inspires creativity, innovation and empowerment.  We know that every student needs and deserves a well-balanced education that includes the arts.  We know that to keep our nation’s competitive edge, our children must be creative, critical thinkers that can imagine what to do, when they don’t know what to do.  But the story that needs to be told is about achieving equity of access to the arts for every student, at every school, across the nation.  A great place to start making an impact on arts equity and access is with our pre-service teachers, working to provide our new educators with foundational and instructional strategies for teaching in and through the arts.  If we work collaboratively to focus our efforts at the post-secondary level, we could achieve the collective impact of forever changing the American classroom and our student’s access to quality arts education.

James Catterall – Director, Centers for Research on Creativity and Professor Emeritus, UCLA

Many assume incorrectly that if art is in the curriculum, then creativity is on the agenda.  While there are more ties to creative development in art than in science class, both are important.  The untold story?  How can we teach for creativity in the arts and across the curriculum?  At minimum, we need Means (tools for creating), Motive (easy for kids; tougher for teachers), and Opportunity (space during instruction to speculate, be wrong, revise, and understand).  All devoutly to be wished.


Milton Chen – Senior Fellow, George Lucas Educational Foundation

Arts education are the stimulus programs we now need for the American economy. It’s clear that we’ve tried many incentives to restart our economy but we haven’t created enough jobs. The key to creating more new, good American jobs in the coming decades is just that: creativity. Being able to think outside the old boxes, visualize and design new products and services, collaborate with others, and communicate persuasively–nothing teaches these skills better than the arts. Let’s also not forget that American films, television, music, and theater entertain the world and investing in arts education is the best way to assure the future of those industries.

David Dik – National Executive Director, Young Audiences Arts for Learning

The arts prepare our children for a world moving so fast that the knowledge they acquire in school may already be obsolete by the time they graduate. Their path to meaningful, successful lives lies not only in what they learn, but in how they learn it. Learning is not a discrete event; it is an ongoing, continual process and we need to dig deeper to get better at the process. As a nation, we will only be as strong as the quality, abundance and diversity of arts education provided to all its citizens.  The arts are the foundation for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurism connecting to our past and leading to our future.  And nothing will help our children prepare and thrive more effectively than the arts in education and the arts as education.

Andy Finch – Director of Policy, Association of Art Museum Directors

Are there stories about arts education that haven’t been told a thousand times already?  Haven’t each of us told them a thousand times ourselves?  Aren’t they all variants on: Art made my life better / I did better because of art / Or even: Art saved my life? /I don’t think so. Can we tell the stories better?

Sure.  Can we present more and better evidence?  Absolutely.  Can we refresh them as the times demand?  By all means.  And can we continue to show, not just tell?  That’s a must. But let’s not kid ourselves or discount the efforts of those who have gone before us.  The stories are timeless, however we choose to tell them.

Julie Fry – Program Officer, Performing Arts Program, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The story that continually needs to be told is the importance of arts education policy at the federal, state, and local levels.  The Performing Arts Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in partnership with our Education Program colleagues, have developed our arts education strategy through research, program delivery, and, crucially, policy and advocacy.  We recognize that what we have here is an education issue, not just an arts issue. We believe that not only can a well-rounded arts education inspire future artists, audience members, and arts patrons, it also can improve the school experience for students and enhance learning outcomes.  This is why we are supportive of Grantmakers in the Art’s Arts Education Funders Coalition. For the first time, funders who have been supporting arts education in their geographic regions for years have come together to add their collective voices to help develop national education policy strategies, all as part of an effort to increase in-school learning in and through the arts for every child in this country.

Russell Granet – Executive Director, Lincoln Center Education

The story is simple: the arts are a civil right for ALL students, not just those lucky or privileged enough to have the arts in their curriculum. Yes, the arts enhance the educational experience, but beyond that enhancement, the arts also empower and also enlighten.  Arts in education provides the skills needed to remain competitive and compassionate in a global marketplace. Skills such as problem solving, perseverance, grit (perseverance with passion), imagination, creativity, and a basic human understanding that life in our world is complex and the arts help make sense of that complexity. The story that needs to be told and retold is the value of the arts – pure and simple.  And if a subplot of our narrative is articulating the fringe or extrinsic value of the arts, it is only in service of our story’s central thematic question: if the arts did nothing other than provide art, shouldn’t that be enough?

Doug Herbert – Special Assistant, Office of Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education

As we embark on a new chapter in the quest to improve America’s public schools, let us look to the past before moving forward. Specifically to the wisdom of Ernest Boyer, the former U.S. Commissioner of Education, who believed in high academic standards but even more in the need for coherence among the too-often disconnected subjects and disciplines. Boyer’s Basic School: A Community for Learning considered the arts essential to education — he often referred to them as a “majestic language” and a symbol system as important for students to master as those of language and writing, science and mathematics. But he also believed that “connections across the disciplines can be accomplished most authentically though the integrative power of the arts.” Recent efforts to authentically integrate the arts give me hope that Boyer’s vision for a “curriculum with connections” can be realized in this era of Common Core standards. Let’s strive to achieve coherence in a well-rounded education.

Johnathan Katz - CEO, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA)

The story that most needs to be told effectively is why the arts as skill sets are just as valuable a part of the curriculum as English language arts and mathematics.  Students learn everything through the symbol systems of words, numbers and sensory images such as sights, sounds and physical movements. Until education decision makers are persuaded that imagery is of equal importance to learning as numeracy and literacy, they will continue to minimize human, financial and material resources for teaching the arts, thereby denying a large portion of students the ability to do well in any subject, and all students the ability to do as well as they could in all subjects. 

Mary Luehrsen – Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, NAMM Foundation

We need stories about challenges and opportunities in grassroots advocacy for arts education.  How have community members worked together to push back on proposed cuts to arts education programs and how can we work effectively to secure commitments to reinstate programs?  We need this inspiration and guidance to advance advocacy work in communities across the country.  And, we need stories of communities electing and selecting community and education leaders who will act on their commitments to arts education.  As arts education advocates, it is up to us to lean in and compel a commitment that all children must have access to rigorous and high quality arts education as part of a complete education.  (PS – we also need stories of schools that are effectively using federal Title funds for arts education – it is time to finally break this log jam!)

Bob Lynch – President and CEO, Americans for the Arts

Arts Education in America is a complex network of players, partners, and policy makers. And at the center of this network is our most important asset, our children.  The arts (whether dance, media arts, music, theatre, or visual arts) constitute a unique model in education that utilizes an entire ecosystem to support teaching and learning—we have a combination of general teachers that can do arts integration, specialists that teach discreet art forms, and community organizations and artists that provide workshops, residencies, performances, field trips, and a variety of expanded learning opportunities.

As education is rapidly changing due to technology, funding sources, and teaching strategies that are more student-centered, our model in the arts offers the field of education an exciting new way for other curricular areas to learn how to tap into the community, pool resources, leverage opportunities, and reach students in meaningful ways.

It truly takes a broad team today to provide each child with a robust and well-rounded education. The arts should be core to that. Americans for the Arts hopes that schools and districts across the country will look to this broad ecosystem model in the arts as a strategy toward a stronger future that they too could utilize. Our children deserve no less.

John Maeda- President, Rhode Island School of Design

As the academic year kicks off, I am reminded of an encounter I had a few years ago with Steve Rueckert, a Rhode Island School of Design alum who teaches art in Washington DC. In reviewing his own portfolio, he realized it was the work he made as an effort to know something that was often the most successful. So instead of instructing his students to ask, “What do I want to say?” he tells his students to answer “What do I want to know?”

This encounter reinforces the work we are doing to push “STEAM” forward and the momentum it has gained. For the past several years, there has been much focus on boosting STEM ed (Science Technology Engineering Math). I have been arguing that we need to add the “A” for Art to turn STEM to STEAM. I believe we don’t need to “save the arts” but instead we can “save the world with the arts.” Artists and designers are uniquely suited to ask those deep questions that Steve’s story brings up.

Arts education is core to many of the incredible innovations that happen in our world. Thank you to all the teachers out there! And please join us at

Bob McGrath – Singer and Actor, Sesame Street

On Sesame Street we firmly believe that a creative child is a thinking child and that when children use their imaginations they’re not only stimulating their brains in profound ways but shaping their perceptions of the world.
 One of my favorite quotes about the power of music is from Jim Henson, who said, “music is a part of everything we do… and like puppetry it has an abstract quality that speaks to a world wide audience in a wonderful way that nourishes the soul.” 
As Jim so elegantly states, music is life.  Every child should have the opportunity to make music, to expand his or her mind, to understand the world, to live life.  Sit quietly, listen and observe children making or enjoying music, and they will write their own stories.

Chris Minnich – Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers

We’ve seen a movement to raise the bar for our nation’s students to ensure that they are receiving critical skills they need for college and life. Arts are essential to a well-rounded education and they boost literacy skills and critical thinking skills we want all students to have. We need to tell the story of educators who are teaching these skills through embracing the arts—complex and rich literature, music, performing and visual arts—to deliver the knowledge and skills that our young people need for the future.

Deborah Reeve – Executive Director, National Art Education Association

Over 3 million students are projected to graduate from high school during this school year. Those able to pursue higher education will have the edge and will add value to the marketplace.  Creativity—the ability to take what is known and put it together in new and different ways to create new and different meaning – is fast becoming the intangible quality that differentiates people.  Arts education is uniquely capable of providing transformative educational experiences for all students, challenging their intellects on deeper levels, and helping young people hone their aptitude for creativity.  In this “Year of the Common Core,” and with the release of the Core Arts Standards next spring, we need to tell the compelling story about why the arts matter to our students and their education, and to our nation’s future; it’s time to challenge others to look more closely at arts education as a powerful catalyst for educational transformation.

Sandra Ruppert – Director, Arts Education Partnership

Every state in the country has adopted standards or set expectations for what students should know and be able to do in the arts. Forty-five states require by law that elementary schools in their state provide arts instruction.  And 32 states define the arts in statute or code as a core or academic subject.  Given these facts, then, why do so many education leaders and school officials still treat the arts as extracurricular, extraneous or expendable when making school staffing and funding decisions?  How do we explain the “policy paradox” of strong policies for the arts in education at the state level but weak implementation of those same policies at the school level?  Let’s see more stories where the commitment from the state house to the school house has produced a coordinated strategy and decisive actions to ensure that all students receive a complete and balanced education that includes the arts as an essential component.

Lynn Tuttle – Director of Arts Education and SEADAE President, Arizona Department of Education

Arts Education (and Standards!) by the numbers…

  • More than 250,000 certified dance, music, theatre and visual arts teachers working in our nation’s K-12 schools
  • 21,000 arts educators, arts advocates, teaching artists and others reviewed the draft revisions to the nation’s voluntary arts standards in the first two weeks of July
  • More than 3,000 of those interested in standards revision provided feedback on the standards via on-line surveys in July, representing all 50 states and 3 nations
  • 61 selected writing team members combed through 1,056,000 responses and comments from the field on PreK-8 draft standards in early August.
  • 6 nationally released research reports from The College Board<> supporting the revision process, including connections between The Common Core and the framework for the Arts Standards<>.
  • 21 days until the next release of draft standards for feedback<> – this time focusing on 9-12 or secondary standards – September 30
  • 6 months and counting<> until the new, voluntary National Core Arts Standards are released in March, 2014.

What story do you think still needs to be told?  Email AEP at with your 150 word response or post it directly to AEP’s Facebook page.

Get Involved

Get the facts about the benefits of arts learning for students and teachers. Did you know that arts learning is linked to positive student outcomes such as engagement and persistence, overall academic achievement, communication and collaboration, and positive behavior, among others? Visit, a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse of arts education research, to learn more about these and other benefits of arts learning for teachers and students.

Find out what is going on in your school, district, and state. What are the policies in place in your community that either support or hinder student access and participation in arts learning? You can use the Arts Education State Policy Database to find out information about your state. This searchable database contains the latest information on arts education state policies and practices. Since 1999, AEP has gathered these data through an annual survey of arts education personnel in state education agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Important Resources

Preparing Students for the Next America (2013): AEP’s latest research bulletin offers a snapshot of how the arts support achievement in school, bolster skills demanded of a 21st century workforce, and enrich the lives of young people and communities. It draws on the research in AEP’s, the nation’s first clearinghouse of research on the impact of arts education on students and their school communities. (Download the PDF)

What School Leaders Can do to Increase Arts Education (2011): As the top building-level leaders, school principals play a key role in ensuring every student receives a high-quality arts education as part of a complete education. This brochure-length guide, prepared by AEP with support from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) offers three concrete actions—supported by low-cost or no-cost strategies—school principals can take to increase arts education in their schools. (Download the PDF)

New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age, The Wallace Foundation (2013): This report delves into “interest-driven arts learning,” that is, exploration of the arts that emerges from children’s and teens’ own creative passions. The report identifies challenges and offers suggestions for future research, practice, and policy that build on current knowledge about interest-driven arts learning to enable more youth, particularly disadvantaged youth, to participate in the arts. (Download the full report)

The President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH): In 2011, PCAH released a major report documenting the benefits and potential opportunities for the advancement of arts education. (Download the full report)

Arts Access in U.S. Schools (2009-10 FRSS): Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10, released by the U.S. Department of Education and its Institute of Education Sciences (IES), reports on data collected on student access to arts education and the resources available for such instruction. AEP and a coalition of partners have developed a toolkit for understanding, communicating, and utilizing the Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools report. (Learn more)