Reflecting Back & PROJECTING FORWARD​

of the Arts Education Partnership

Introduction

Over 25 years ago, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts partnered with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and Council of Chief State School Officers to create the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) to ensure that all students have equitable access to an excellent arts education.​

From the beginning, we believed that a well-rounded education includes the arts as a core academic subjectproviding students with experiences that build their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, enhance their social emotional development and improve academic achievement. Through its work over the last quarter of a century, AEP has coalesced a network of more than 100 organizations to become the nation’s hub for arts education research, policy and practice.   

Through AEP, we have engaged thousands of arts partners, professionals and educators to discuss important challenges about arts in education, and we have created groundbreaking publications, studies and online tools that are used to inform strategies and evidence-based practices both for distinct arts instruction and for integrating arts into the curriculum and students’ learning experiences.     

We celebrate a $17 million joint federal investment in AEP over 25 years. We also celebrate 25 years of a successful partnership by acknowledging the many federal leaders and arts professionals, researchers, foundation leaders, educators and AEP staff members who led the work, and those who continue to lead the work of AEP.  We appreciate the level of professionalism and expanded capacity our cooperator, Education Commission of the States, brings to the management of AEP.   

Through celebrating 25 years, we take the opportunity to recognize what has worked and is working well and why, but we also have an opportunity to look forward to the future of possibilities. AEP has survived and thrived over the last 25 years, and the nation is now faced with historic challenges. Arts education can and will play a critical role in healing the nation, and AEP will continue to coalesce its partners and affiliates to address the new challenges and important issues that have come to the fore through research, reporting, counseling and convening.     

Our work is only beginning. There is so much more to be done to ensure all children have an opportunity to participate in the arts. We will chart and pave a path forward – together.

Ayanna Hudson

Arts Education Director, National Endowment for the Arts

Nancy Daugherty

Arts Education Specialist, National Endowment for the Arts

Sylvia Lyles

Director, Office of Well-Rounded Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

Bonnie Carter

Group Leader, Arts in Education and Literacy Programs, U.S. Department of Education

A Message from AEP Director

Jamie Kasper

About ten years ago, I was standing in the lobby of a hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, grabbing a cup of tea while attending a statewide arts education event. I have a clear memory of Clyde McGeary — a visual artist and educator who was in his late 70s at the time — saying to me, “We have to capture the firsthand modern history of arts education before those who lived it are gone.”

Fast forward to 2019, and I stepped into the role as director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). Almost immediately, Dick Deasy, the first AEP director, reached out to share that there were a group of retired arts education leaders interested in capturing the early work of AEP and policy decisions that led to its founding to commemorate the organization’s 25th year. With Clyde’s voice still in my head, I moved forward working with Dick and the other authors who wrote the first three parts of this history.

Here’s the issue that became apparent to me as we worked on those parts: The policy decisions and early work of AEP were made and done by groups of people who do not represent the rich diversity of America. As of the writing of this document, we’re in August 2020. A combination of the global SARS CoV-2 epidemic that has disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) compared to other populations and uprisings protesting long-standing oppression of and violence against Black people have focused public attention on racism and systemic inequalities. I am feeling tension between wanting to capture memories from the people who lived them while also recognizing that they represent one track of history as remembered by one homogeneous group of people.

With that recognition, the authors offer this document not as THE definitive history of modern arts education, but as a starting point for conversations about how events, policies and people that influenced the formation of AEP in 1995 fit into the larger context of arts education. The authors recognize that AEP’s — and AEP partners’ — work was not the only arts education work happening during this time and that important work occurred in BIPOC-led, rural, grassroots and other organizations simultaneously. In 2020, AEP staff members are working to build authentic, lasting relationships with these organizations and look forward to collaborations in the future that ensure their work is integral to AEP.

Jamie Kasper

Director, Arts Education Partnership

A Case for Coordinated Vision & Leadership

1965-1995

As AEP Celebrates its 25th year ...

… it’s important to consider not just the impact of the organization but the rich history that underpins its founding and supports the decades of work undertaken to advance arts education in America to its current state today. To begin, we must consider not only where arts education stood at the time of AEP’s establishment in 1995 but also in the preceding three decades.

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment) had a joint vision to create the unique public-private venture that is AEP. The agencies’ leaders recognized a rare window of opportunity in America’s educational history: Federal education policy encouraged inclusion of the arts as core learning for the first time since the establishment of federal education policy in 1965; national voluntary arts standards brought long-needed clarity to the question of what all students should know and be able to do in the arts; and a national assessment would soon prove that arts learning can be assessed. Given America’s decentralized control of educational policy and practice, this trio of national developments would require implementation at the state and local levels. As learned over decades of experience, change happens only with a chorus of diverse stakeholders’ voices and the “usual suspects” — arts education advocates — and “unusual suspects” — principals, school boards, legislators, and parents, among others — turning a federal promise of inclusion of the arts into new policy and practice.

The journey logically begins in the 1960s when AEP’s founding federal agencies were created and began to provide grants and other support to states and local communities for arts education. Along with federal funding and the evolution of both federal education and arts policies, individual leaders – both in the agencies’ executive leadership and at the program level – used their federal bully pulpits, program missions and goals and collaborations to envision improvements to arts education, catalyze changes and champion a consistent message of equitable access to arts education for all.

It is an honor to look back at some of the people whose vision, leadership and stewardship of federal policies and programs helped to make AEP and its accomplishments over the past 25 years.

Federal Collaboration from the Start

Federal involvement in arts education began in 1965 with the establishment of two national laws as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society”: the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965.

ESEA was a broad-sweeping set of policies and funding primarily intended to address longstanding inequities in access to K-12 education. While ESEA did not contain a discrete arts education entitlement, several prominent titles in the act included funding for arts education or for the arts as a strategy to support other educational objectives, including Title I (compensatory education for poor and disadvantaged students) and Title III (innovation and exemplary programs, including partnership of arts organizations with schools and service providers primarily for cultural enrichment). (1)

The new ESEA also contained Title IV, which provided the U.S. Office of Education (USOE) — the precursor to USED located in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare until it became its own cabinet agency in 1979 — with funding for demonstration projects. Katherine (Kathy) Bloom, who directed the Arts and Humanities Program in USOE’s research bureau, received support from Education Commissioners Francis Keppel and Harold Howe to use ESEA Title IV funds for a research program to improve learning in the arts and humanities. Bloom and her successor, Harold (Bud) Arberg, oversaw grants for basic research in arts and humanities, as well as demonstration projects and convened leaders from the arts education field to stimulate interest in these grants and general progress in arts and humanities. (2)

Through the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, Congress created the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment) as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). While the initial authorization of these agencies did not call for attention to K-12 arts education per se, one of the stated congressional purposes included that “Americans should receive in school, background and preparation in the arts and humanities to enable them to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic dimensions of our lives, the diversity of excellence that comprises our cultural heritage, and artistic and scholarly expression.”

In 1966, the Arts Endowment, NEH and USOE cooperatively created several programs that laid the groundwork and intergovernmental relations to enable future collaborations. First, they created a laboratory theatre project with involvement of state and local school boards to develop new audiences of all ages and to improve the quality of secondary school instruction in dramatic literature. An Arts Endowment grant to the Academy of American Poets that same year led to poets-in-schools projects in five states. With a $100,000 transfer from the USOE in 1969, the arts agency placed visual artists in six school districts; a subsequent $900,000 USOE transfer in 1970 expanded the projects to include dance, music and theatre. Congress provided direct funding to the Arts Endowment in 1971, stabilizing the fledging residency program. By 1974, the Artists in Schools program was underway in all 50 states, and its budget grew to nearly $5 million by 1979. (3)

This collaboration between the USOE and the Arts Endowment, which allowed the arts agency to pilot the artists-in-schools concept, came about through vision and leadership at both federal agencies, and especially from Kathy Bloom, who also served as a special advisor to the education commissioner. (4)

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Endowment) had a joint vision to create the unique public-private venture that is AEP. The agencies’ leaders recognized a rare window of opportunity in America’s educational history: Federal education policy encouraged inclusion of the arts as core learning for the first time since the establishment of federal education policy in 1965; national voluntary arts standards brought long-needed clarity to the question of what all students should know and be able to do in the arts; and a national assessment would soon prove that arts learning can be assessed. Given America’s decentralized control of educational policy and practice, this trio of national developments would require implementation at the state and local levels. As learned over decades of experience, change happens only with a chorus of diverse stakeholders’ voices and the “usual suspects” — arts education advocates — and “unusual suspects” — principals, school boards, legislators, and parents, among others — turning a federal promise of inclusion of the arts into new policy and practice.

The journey logically begins in the 1960s when AEP’s founding federal agencies were created and began to provide grants and other support to states and local communities for arts education. Along with federal funding and the evolution of both federal education and arts policies, individual leaders – both in the agencies’ executive leadership and at the program level – used their federal bully pulpits, program missions and goals and collaborations to envision improvements to arts education, catalyze changes and champion a consistent message of equitable access to arts education for all.

It is an honor to look back at some of the people whose vision, leadership and stewardship of federal policies and programs helped to make AEP and its accomplishments over the past 25 years.

Two Decades of Public and Private Support

By 1970, federal education agency funds for the arts or arts-related projects had increased significantly, which required a deeper engagement with the nation’s cultural sector. Through this period, federal investments combined with private philanthropy and growing advocacy nationwide for the arts in K-12 schools.

Those investments totaled as much as 10% percent of all Title I funding, with approximately 200 million Title I dollars spent in the first three years for “instructional programs in categories labeled Art, Music and Cultural Enrichment” and $80 million for innovation efforts under Title III. Junius Eddy, an arts education specialist at USOE in the 1960s, characterized that federal support as “an unprecedented collective experience on the part of teachers, artists, students and administrators” that unfortunately failed to be analyzed for probable insights and lessons learned. (5)

That same year, the Associated Councils of the Arts (ACA) — now Americans for the Arts — focused its annual conference on Youth, Education and the Arts, because “the educational needs and functions of the arts had … become crucial enough” to ask this question for the first time: “Should the arts … become fundamental to the education of every American child?” (6) Looking back on that ACA conference a decade later, Eddy observed that it “appeared to have been a kind of catalyst for further development of the arts education movement during the ‘70s.” (7)

In addition to federal investments through Titles I and III, private-sector funding — particularly from the John D. Rockefeller 3rd (JDR 3rd) Fund’s Arts in Education Program — explored structures and experimented with school- and district-wide strategies to develop comprehensive arts in education programs.

Begun in 1967, the JDR 3rd Fund program’s mission was “to make all of the arts integral to the general, or basic, education of all students in entire school systems.” On a $500,000 annual budget, the program’s staff supported local- and state-level projects and developed national networks of projects in six cities and nine states by 1976. They evaluated projects, disseminated results and engaged network members in cross-site technical assistance. Federal arts and education officials, as well as other foundations, arts associations and local and state education agencies, consulted the Fund’s staff in arts-education-related matters. (8)

In 1974, the National Council of State Supervisors of Music and Art — with funding from the Arts Endowment and assistance from the JDR 3rd Fund — met at the Kennedy Center with top officers of the national arts education professional associations and more than 150 arts educators, artists, state Alliance for Arts Education representatives and state and local arts council leaders to develop comprehensive arts education program plans. The convening promoted idea sharing and job-alike discussions about strategies and practices, resulting in state and local implementation plans. (9)

The next year, USOE created a new Arts Education Program and established a cooperative relationship with the Kennedy Center’s Alliance for Arts Education (AAE). The new program managed a portfolio of planning, development and “saturation” grants to both school districts and state education agencies to make the arts an integral part of K-12 schooling. At the outset of the program’s alignment with the AAE, USOE and Kennedy Center leaders promoted comprehensive arts education programs at regional conferences and workshops. (10)

In the late 1970s, the nationwide call for learning in, about and through the arts received new energy from a blue-ribbon panel of artists, educators and concerned citizens convened by David Rockefeller, Jr. The panel’s report, “Coming to Our Senses: The Significance of the Arts for American Education,” made a case for the combined efforts of educational institutions, local arts agencies and the public to ensure that the arts were part of basic education and integral to every child’s learning in or out of school. The report, which was reprinted in 1987, contained almost 100 recommendations.

Looking Back on the Investments of the 1960s

So, you may ask, where did these substantial federal and private investments leave the arts education field 15 years after federal funds and assistance began? The answer is clouded because, on one hand, many federal dollars invested in “demonstration” projects under Titles I and III were experimental in nature and did not result in approaches with evidence of either their effects or transferability to other schools or districts, much less to states and beyond. On the other hand, the projects that sprouted in the second half of the 1960s created significant interest among arts educators and arts organizations in the seeming potential for the arts to gain a greater presence in America’s schools.

For the 1970 ACA conference, Junius Eddy authored an article, “The Upsidedown Curriculum,” as part of ACA’s summer issue of Cultural Affairs in order to share “some notes, queries, and reflections on the arts in general education” with the conference attendees. Eddy borrowed the title from the observation of a respected education researcher and astute observer of American education reform, John Goodlad, dean of the UCLA College of Education between 1967 and 1983 who later co-created the Goodlad Institute for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington. Goodlad observed that as Americans gained increasing time for “non-remunerative pursuits,” it was “necessary that we examine immediately the imbalances in the curriculum.” Citing a “culture explosion” in the country, it was counterintuitive that “the schools (continue) to neglect arts, music, drama, dance, sculpture, and, in fact, almost everything that smacks of being nonutilitarian.” Goodlad offered this prophetic thought: upon reaching the dawn of the 1980s, “we may discover … that in the 1960s and 1970s we had an upside-down curriculum, with what was considered then to be of most worth proving to be of little value to the masses of people.” (11)

As Eddy shared in his 1970 article, there were “interesting, sometimes exciting, and often valuable things … going on.” However, “in relation to the nation’s 20,000-odd schools systems, and to the 51 million children in those systems,” one generalization applied: “The arts, even ‘Art’ and ‘Music,’ are uneasy guests in the house of education, no matter how many field trips the fourth grade takes to nearby museums.”

No doubt many of those “interesting” and “exciting” efforts were because of an infusion of federal Title I and III funds, nascent projects that pioneered new comprehensive arts education approaches funded by the USOE’s Arts and Humanities program, or the growing metropolitan and state networks of the JDR 3rd Fund. These were among a mosaic of school improvement designs that flourished in the 1960s, from the “open classroom” to the interdisciplinary Aesthetic Education Program model beginning to take shape at the Central Midwestern Regional Educational Laboratory (CEMREL).

The 1970s: A Decade of Lost Potential and a Search for Common Ground

The arts education (or arts in education, as it was often called) field began the 1970s on both an optimistic and a cautious note. There were efforts underway to carve out a bigger piece of the K-12 pie for the arts, but, as Eddy asked: where were the strategists? Yes, in 1970, there were plenty of tasks to go around for everyone from conceptualizers to experimenters and researchers to “artists who enjoy relating to young people” to teacher trainers and disseminators. However, using a football analogy, Eddy lamented that strategists were critical “to devise a series of game-plans for the arts-in-general-education movement, people who can force us to keep thinking about goals even as we keep on being pleased with ourselves for racking up those first downs.” (12)

Strategy, as well as common ground among various arts stakeholders, increased in importance as the country experienced an oil embargo between 1973 and 1975, further complicated by stagflation, a term economists use to describe a volatile mix of stagnant economic growth, high unemployment and high inflation. A second oil crisis ushered in the end of the decade and spilled over into the early 1980s.

At USOE, arts education continued to benefit from both funding and the education commissioner’s bully pulpit. A succession of the agency’s top officials championed the arts; Dr. Ernest L. Boyer, commissioner from 1977 to 1979, described art as humanity’s “most essential, most universal language.”

In 1981, the Alliance for Arts Education asked Junius Eddy to re-issue an updated version of “The Upsidedown Curriculum” with margin notes describing what had changed in the 10 intervening years. He described multiple changes in the 1970s: federal education grants for arts education; the honing of philosophies of arts-for-arts-sake instruction, arts in general education and aesthetic learning, all with pilot projects; curriculum plans; instructional resources; and support networks. In addition, he noted these national-level developments: the launch and growth of the Arts Endowment’s Artists-in-Schools Program; advocacy and program development help from the Alliance for Arts Education; the publication of “Coming to Our Senses” with an organization, Arts Education and Americans, Inc., created to put the panel’s words into action; and development in many states and districts of “Comprehensive Plans (and Programs) for Arts Education.” (13) Eddy’s conclusion: “The more things change, the more they stay the same;” at the dawn of the 1980s, with some noteworthy exceptions scattered in a handful of school systems, “We still find that the arts are ‘uneasy guests in the house of education.’”

In an Education Week retrospective on the 1980s, Diane Ravitch, education reformer and former federal education leader, contended that “[a] bevy of surveys and studies [in the 1970s] debunked the ambitious reform programs of the 60s.” The most influential of these studies, according to Ravitch, suggested that schools had relatively little influence on students’ success in life compared with family background. She noted, “This determinist view of schooling led many to conclude that if schools don’t matter, then what you do in school doesn’t matter either.” This thinking, she reasoned, justified “deconstruction of the curriculum … and undercut those who believed that all children should study science, mathematics, history, literature, foreign language, and the arts.” These content areas would become the “challenging subject matter” roster in goal 3 of President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 national education goals. (14)

The decade of the 1970s began competing notions of what arts education philosophy should be reflected in America’s K-12 schools — e.g. art-for-arts’-sake, Aesthetic Education — with no compelling evidence to favor one philosophy or model over another. This multiple-choice approach to the arts gaining a nationwide stronger profile in schools proved a deficit in the face of a general view that the curriculum’s quality didn’t make a tremendous difference for students’ success.

However, as Ravitch pointed out, as the next decade began, “effective schools” research by educational philosopher and researcher Ronald Edmonds, combined with other studies of school climate, changed policymakers’ thinking, especially considering a steady decline in SAT scores since the mid-1960s. In 1979, a national commission on science and mathematics education sounded an alarm: Both subjects were in “dire condition because of declining enrollments and low achievement.” (15)

Quality Over Mediocrity, But Without the Arts

The 1980s also brought with it the new Reagan presidential administration and a new secretary of education to manage the now cabinet-level U.S. Department of Education. For arts education, the National Endowment for the Arts would become the federal champion of its worth in the face of the arts’ absence in a “return to education excellence” agenda.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan came to Washington, D.C., with a perspective that less government — particularly at the federal level — was best. Among the targets for elimination were the Arts Endowment and USED, which had become a cabinet agency just two years before. Reagan’s secretary of education, Terrel H. Bell, discovered that elimination of the agency wasn’t possible without congressional action. Bell advised the president to appoint a commission to study the quality of America’s K-12 education; the commission was in place by August of that first year.

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education released “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” Headlines announced that American schools were amid a “rising tide of mediocrity.” According to the report, American students’ achievement in the “basics” were in decline compared to other countries; the report warned, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” The remedy? More focus on five “new basics” — English, mathematics, science, social studies and computer science — lest we fall further behind other countries. While the report did not specifically target the arts for diminishment or elimination, they were not part of the recommendations.

While USED remained in place, some grant programs were eliminated, including a small but innovative arts grant program to support local districts in bolstering their course offerings across the arts disciplines. At the Arts Endowment, Chairman Frank Hodsoll determined that the small agency (annual budget of $146.6 million in 1981 and $162.5 million in 2020, or .003% of the federal budget) offered the country a much-needed service by supporting artists and arts organizations. Its education program primarily invested in artists-in-education programs through support to all of the state arts agencies and, beginning in 1980, a “Special Projects” category that supported projects to “demonstrate and further the knowledge of the value of the arts and artists in the education process.” (16)

By 1985, Chairman Hodsoll had convinced the Reagan administration to keep both the Arts Endowment and National Endowment for the Humanities in place, and Congress, in reauthorizing the agencies, demanded reports from both on the condition of arts education and humanities education nationally. The arts report would be the second such report in history; the 46th Congress required the report, “Art and Industry, Instruction in Drawing Applied to Industrial and Fine Arts,” to be completed in 1984. (17)

The Arts Endowment Chairman Hodsoll assembled a blue-ribbon committee of educators, artists and civic and corporate leaders to interpret the results of a national survey of school districts on the conditions of the arts, with research overseen by Dr. Brent Wilson, professor of art education at Pennsylvania State University. The committee garnered input from an extensive list of artists, educators and other K-12 stakeholders.

The Arts Endowment published the resulting report, “Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education,” in 1988. The report examined the roles that leaders in the governance, education, arts and business sectors could play in making the arts once again “basic” to education for all students, as well as strategically addressing the role of the Arts Endowment.

The preface of “Toward Civilization” reflected on “A Nation at Risk,” observing that since that report’s release a number of books and reports focused on a “glaring lack of cultural knowledge and awareness on the part of most high school graduates,” noting agreement among the studies that “while time must be set aside for students to master modern skills, such as computer sciences, achievement of computer literacy must not substitute for literacy in the culture that all Americans share.” (18)

The central finding in “Toward Civilization” was that arts education was in triple jeopardy. First, the arts were considered a “frill,” not in the same realm of importance as math, reading and science. Second, there was little common agreement across districts or states about what all students should learn and be able to do in the arts. Finally, the focus of arts instruction — where present — was often on production and performance, and the report called for a more complete approach, advocating for students to achieve arts literacy by their high school graduation.

Research to inform the report evidenced apparent commitments to the arts in states and school districts, as well as sufficient resources to provide instruction in some arts disciplines for some students at some grade levels. However, the nationwide survey data revealed that “in few if any school districts … are these stated commitments and resources translated into the kind of actual teaching and learning in the arts that would give all students sequential opportunities to understand and contribute to their civilization, to participate in and develop a sense of the creative and problem-solving process, to communicate and understand communication in visual and aural as well as words, and to make wise choices among the products of the arts.”

Basic arts education, the report contended, required all students to experience a balanced curriculum, characterized by four “Cs”:

Civilization

Understanding the role of the arts in history and the multiple cultures of Americans.

Creativity

Acquiring the sequential skills and habits of mind of arts disciplines and forms to create a personal vision through the arts.

Communication

Learning the “languages” of the arts in order to express ideas and emotions in words, images, sounds and movement.

Choice

From among the products of the arts as well as the ability to make critical assessments of what one reads, sees and hears. (19)

“Toward Civilization” offered recommendations aimed at the federal, state and local levels, spanning a wide range of areas including curriculum and instruction, research and assessment. Among the federal actions needed would be returning the arts to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the last such assessments in art and music having occurred in the 1970s. The report called for partnerships between and among education, arts, government, corporate and philanthropic sectors to “convince parents and political and education leaders … that education is complete and acceptable only when the arts are included as essential components sequentially taught.” At the local level, schools, arts organizations, teachers and artists needed to work together, recognizing the political nature of making education policy changes, to make the arts a core part of basic education.

National Endowment for the Arts Recasts its Arts Education Goals and Support

Even before “Toward Civilization” was released, with the 1985 congressional reauthorization’s emphasis on the national state of arts education, Chairman Hodsoll, the National Council on the Arts — the presidentially appointed advisory body to the Arts Endowment — and agency staff instituted new program goals and grant programs to foster and sustain state- and local-level arts education partnerships.

In 1986, the agency’s renamed Arts in Education Program “refocused to encourage states and localities to make the arts a basic and sequential component of the school curriculum, from elementary through high school, while continuing to support artists residencies.” The longstanding Arts Endowment support to state arts agencies — $3.4 million of the $5.5 million Arts in Education budget in 1988 — enabled state and local projects to focus on making the arts a more basic and sequential part of education. (20) In addition, by 1988, the Arts in Education program worked with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) to support the professional development of arts education managers at these agencies, including new opportunities to re-envision their roles as partners of their counterparts in state education agencies and stewards of grants for arts education efforts.

The program’s refocus included a new funding category for state arts agencies, Arts in Schools Basic Education Grants (AISBEG). These planning grants challenged state arts agencies to develop joint plans with state education agencies for policy changes and support to make the arts part of core curriculum in schools. In its first year, $1 million was allocated for the AISBEG incentive effort. (21)

While several state arts agencies questioned the need to become involved in education policy concerns statewide, given the longtime Arts Endowment support for their artists-in-residence programs, 42 of these agencies applied and 16 were awarded AISBEG planning grants — up to $20,000 — in 1987. The following year, the Arts Endowment added larger three-year implementation grants, each up to $50,000 per year. By 1991, 33 state arts agencies had participated in the planning and implementation phases of the grant program.

The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) was among the first recipients of an AISBEG planning grant, which began a statewide arts education improvement effort that continues today. The effort tapped the vision and leadership of two people who eventually would play critical roles in AEP’s founding. The planning grant required state arts agencies to partner with their state education departments to appoint an arts-in-education planning committee that determined what South Carolina leaders representing education, the arts, state legislature, higher education and business needed to do to help the state achieve the AISBEG goals. The SCAC invited the South Carolina State Department of Education to jointly create the South Carolina Arts in Basic Curriculum Planning Committee, which included the leaders of more than 60 state organizations. All participating organizations approved the resulting plan, which was then incorporated into the state’s new education improvement legislation, Target 2000, along with funding to the S.C. Department of Education to help support its implementation.

The SCAC also received a three-year AISBEG program implementation grant from the Arts Endowment to support the work of the S.C. Arts in Basic Curriculum Committee, and that group is still viable more than 35 years later. In turn, the committee and its partners have helped catalyze state funding and collaboration over all those years to support more and stronger arts education opportunities across the state.

Unknowingly at the time, a second very important result of the Arts Endowment’s original AISBEG grant was the impact of the learnings from those partnerships and activities on a state arts leader, Scott Shanklin-Peterson — then Scott Sanders — and an education leader, Terry Peterson. Almost 10 years later, they were serving in similar national positions with the Arts Endowment and USED, respectively, and were instrumental in helping form AEP.

National Goals Take the Stage

The national “return to excellence in education” effort took an historic leap forward at the end of the 1980s. As beliefs that declines in America’s economy were directly linked to our inability to compete internationally intensified during the decade, calls increased for better education to prepare the American labor force.

President George H.W. Bush came to office in 1989 with a goal of being the “education president.” He quickly found allies in governors whose growing concerns for K-12 education reform to meet changing labor force demands aligned with his. In September 1989, President Bush, working closely with the National Governors Association, convened the 50 governors for an Education Summit with Governors in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they discussed the pressing need for educational improvements to increase America’s international competitiveness.

The meeting produced a draft set of six national education goals. In their joint communiqué at the summit’s conclusion, the federal and state executives agreed that “a better educated citizenry is the key to the continued growth and prosperity of the United States. Education has historically been, and should remain, a state responsibility and a local function, … And as a Nation we must have an educated workforce, second to none, in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive world economy.” To meet the international competitive challenge in educational achievement, the governors and President called for “clear, national performance goals.” (22)

President Bush announced six national education goals in the 1990 State of the Union address. Goal 3 focused on academic content: “American students will leave grades four, eight, and twelve having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, history, and geography,” but not the arts. And, the goal continued, “Every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy.” Arts education advocates wondered: How could students learn to use their minds well without the arts?

The goals announcement was followed that summer by the creation of a National Education Goals Panel, an independent executive branch agency, whose mission included reporting on the national and state progress toward the goals over a 10-year period. Colorado Governor Roy Roemer chaired the panel and presided at eight regional forums in the spring of 1991. More than 3,000 people attended the forums, and at every forum, arts education advocates spoke to the need for the arts in goal 3. The consistent message from advocates was that “[y]ou can’t have a genuine goal for challenging subject matter without the arts.” That testimony led Governor Roemer to announce at one forum that those ready to testify about the arts need not bother; the panel had gotten the message.

At a forum in Annapolis, Maryland, the Arts Endowment Chairman John Frohnmayer testified, asserting that for students to use their minds well and be prepared for life, they needed self-esteem and the confidence to express themselves — qualities the arts instill. He debunked the notion that learning in the arts is not assessable, pointing to portfolio and performance assessments as standard arts education practices, as well as a planned NAEP assessment in the arts. In fact, the Arts Endowment was largely responsible for the planned NAEP assessment, having provided $1 million to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), supplemented by $250,000 from the Getty Center for Education in the Arts. NAGB was willing to schedule an arts assessment in the mid-1990s but lacked needed funds to implement the initial phase, a consensus process to create needed assessment frameworks. Once the frameworks were in place, NAGB and USED’s Center for Education Statistics would fund the remaining phases.

In his testimony, Frohnmayer cautioned against narrowness in subject assessments. He observed, “It is the broad ability to reach all of the fields of knowledge that is the DNA of real genius”; he concluded that the world that students are dealing with is a “seamless web of the Arts and Sciences.” The consternation over the arts’ absence in the national goals prompted the music education community to coalesce its forces across several sectors of educators represented by the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) — now the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), — the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and other public and private music support organizations to convene the National Commission on Music Education. “Growing Up Complete: The Imperative for Music Education,” released by this coalition March 1991, outlined a case for the role of music and the other arts in the national goals.

Also in 1991, President Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander launched a national strategy, America 2000, to achieve the national education goals. Among the 10 operational concepts this strategy advanced were “New World Standards” for what young Americans needed to know in English, mathematics, science, geography and history; a voluntary nationwide examination based on these five “core” subjects; and rewards for schools that made notable progress toward the six goals.

Less than a year later, viewers of the 1992 Grammy Awards ceremony heard about the arts not being included in the national education goals when Michael Greene, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, criticized the lack of arts education in the America 2000 strategy. “The very idea that you can educate young people in a meaningful way without music and art is simply absurd,” Greene told the ceremony’s more than 1.5 billion viewers. In the week following the Grammy Awards, local arts education advocates in Secretary Alexander’s Tennessee hometown scheduled a concert to protest the arts’ absence in the national education goals and the local funding cuts in school music education programs.

The Arts Endowment and USED collaborated to form the America 2000 Arts Partnership to implement several recommendations in “Toward Civilization” and further partnership efforts between the two agencies. In the Partnership’s May 1992 brochure, Secretary Alexander wrote, “If I were helping to rethink the curriculum of a school in my hometown, I would want instruction in the arts to be available to every student.” The brochure outlined efforts including a national center for arts education, the coming NAEP assessment and developing world-class standards in the arts.

Secretary Alexander also turned to the leaders of The Kennedy Center — James Wolfensohn — and the Getty Trust — Harold Williams — to initiate the America 2000 Arts Partnership Working Group, which convened subcommittees to consider issues including arts and education reform, advocacy, partnerships, standards and assessment. David O’Fallon, the Arts Endowment’s Arts in Education Program director since 1989, became the working group’s coordinator and reported to Wolfensohn.

Additionally in 1992, the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations, taking note of the America 2000 emphasis on world-class standards, successfully approached the USED, Arts Endowment and NEH for a grant to determine what the nation’s school children should know and be able to do in the arts. The consortium, managed by MENC and a steering committee, undertook a consensus-building process and review of state-level arts education frameworks and standards from other countries. This preliminary work would inform the first set of voluntary national arts standards in 1994.

A New Administration Codifies Education Goals That Include the Arts

The November 1992 election brought a new president to Washington, D.C. President Bill Clinton arrived ready to further the national education goals by formalizing them in federal legislation. Clinton and his secretary of education, former South Carolina Governor Richard Riley, were familiar with the advocacy around what constituted “challenging subject matter” in goal 3, and both were personally interested in arts education.

At one of his first meetings in the Oval Office after being sworn in, President Clinton met with Secretary Riley and staff from both the White House and USED to contemplate how they might take the education goals and give them the force of federal legislation with some federal funding while still maintaining state flexibility. They knew how hard it was to gain bipartisan consensus among governors to agree on the exact wording of the national education goals legislation. Their initial instinct was to not change the wording of any of the goals. However, the day before the Oval Office meeting, Scott Shanklin-Peterson, deputy chair of the Arts Endowment, met with Secretary Riley and Terry Peterson, the secretary’s chief counselor. Shanklin-Peterson made a strong case to propose adding “just four letters” — arts — to the goals. Secretary Riley liked the idea and implicitly trusted Scott; he knew her from his time as South Carolina’s governor when she was the executive director of the SC Arts Commission.

The secretary asked Terry to make the case for the arts to the president and all staff in the Oval Office meeting. President Clinton knew Secretary Riley extremely well, both having served as governors at the same time, and he knew Terry from the work Terry had done in the South with then Governors Clinton and Riley. At the suggestion of adding arts to the national education goals, President Clinton paused in thought for almost a minute. Terry remembers, “He then remarked something like ‘I hate to change the wording after all those deliberations with the governors and President Bush, but adding the arts to the subject matters listed in the goals really makes a lot of sense.’” (T. Peterson, personal communication)

In March 1994, the new administration’s Goals 2000: Educate America Act passed in Congress, and President Clinton signed it into law at the Zamorano Fine Arts Academy in San Diego. The new law intended “to improve learning and teaching by providing a national framework for education reform; to promote the research, consensus building, and systemic changes needed to ensure equitable educational opportunities and high levels of educational achievement for all American students; to provide a framework for reauthorization of all Federal education programs; … and to promote the development and adoption of a voluntary system of skill standards and certification.”

For arts education advocates, several years of hard work and vigilance had paid off: Goal 3 in the now-codified National Education Goals called for all students to demonstrate competency in “challenging subject matters including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography.” [Emphasis added.]

Turning Promise Into Reality

For the first time in legislation, the arts were now listed alongside math, science, reading and other core subjects. But that amounted to a promise, an encouragement and a sanction in federal education law and policy; the states’ legislatures, governors and school boards as well as local education leaders would ultimately decide if the arts were essential to all students learning to “use their minds well” by tackling “challenging subject matter.”

Secretary Riley provided an interview to MENC after the Goals 2000’s enactment about the purpose of the arts’ inclusion. The interviewer’s write-up included the secretary’s reflection on that purpose:

“Our purpose for including the arts as one of the core challenging academic subjects was to affirm at the national level the critical role of the arts in preparing students to reach their fullest potential and compete in the word marketplace.” But “bold actions will be needed in schools and communities,” if the arts and the goals generally would be reached. Critical to success, Secretary Riley asserted, would be strong leadership at the national, state and local levels for the improvement of arts education and educational renewal.

Two questions remained: How would states and local districts know what arts education goals and objectives should be? Relying on educator expertise is always a good strategy, but there would be no guarantee of continuity among various jurisdictions. Additionally, could student proficiency be measured to assess achievement in the arts? Enter the “National Standards for Arts Education,” released in the same month as the Goals 2000 enactment. Could learning in the arts be assessed? The National Center for Education Statistics, the entity within USED responsible for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — better known as the Nation’s Report Card — thought they could be.

In addition to structures provided by the new national voluntary arts standards and NAEP, the landmark “Toward Civilization” report offered a strong case for what arts education imparts to future citizens of the American democracy, while a growing body of research studies were reporting multiple benefits of learning in, about and through the arts. Unlike the decades that preceded it, the early 1990s found common ground on which to stake a claim for arts education and a first-ever affirmation of the arts as academic content at the federal level

Vision and Leadership

Coordinated vision and leadership were missing ingredients at the national level moving into a new administration. Scott Sanders (Shanklin-Peterson) was appointed as the Arts Endowment deputy chairman under Chairman Jane Alexander, and Terry Peterson was appointed to USED as chief counselor to Secretary Riley. Their experiences creating the SC Arts in the Basic Curriculum Project, enabled by the Arts Endowment’s AISBEG planning and implementation grants, gave them confidence to take that state-level partnership effort to the national level.

Their vision was to call together national-level stakeholders in K-12 education — both the “usual and unusual suspects” where arts education was concerned, lay out the case for turning the promise of the arts in the national goals into state and local realities and gain buy-in from leaders of more than 100 national organizations from arts, education, state and local governance, parents, business and philanthropy.

The two agencies employed a knowledgeable arts education consultant and skilled facilitator, David O’Fallon, to help broker stakeholder discussions during several convenings in mid-1994. With the help of education writer Bruce Boston, a task force comprised of that full stakeholder group delivered an action plan. “The Arts and Education: Partners in Achieving Our National Education Goals,” which some nicknamed “the blueprint,” called for moving the arts into Goals 2000 plans and actions nationwide. The blueprint captured a singular vision for arts education and the 100+ national organizations that participated in crafting the action plan were about to provide necessary vision and leadership.

Endnotes for Part 1

1) Jane Remer, Changing Schools Through the Arts: How to Build on the Power of an Idea (New York: ACA Books, 1990), 219.

2) Ibid, 216-17.

3) National Endowment for the Arts, Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education,

4) Jane Remer, Changing Schools Through the Arts: How to Build on the Power of an Idea (New York: ACA Books, 1990), 217.

5) Junius Eddy, The Upsidedown Curriculum (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Arts Education, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1981), 11-12.

6) Ibid, 2.

7) Ibid.

8) Jane Remer, Changing Schools Through the Arts: How to Build on the Power of an Idea (New York: ACA Books, 1990), 223-24.

9) Ibid, 235-36.

10) Ibid, 238.

11) Junius Eddy, The Upsidedown Curriculum (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Arts Education, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1981), 3.

12) Ibid, 10.

13) Ibid, 1.

14) Diane Ravitch, “Education in the 1980’s: A Concern for ‘Quality’: Promising education trends offer a foundation for growth,” Education Week, Jan. 10, 1990.

15) Ibid.

16) National Endowment for the Arts, Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education, 161-62.

17) Ibid, 1.

18) Ibid.

19) Ibid, 13-18.

20) Ibid, 162.

21) Ibid, 163.

22) Vinovskis, Maris A. The Road to Charlottesville: The 1989 Education Summit (Washington, D.C.: National Education Goals Panel, 1999), 40.

How it Began

Interviews with Early Leaders

A Commitment to Arts Education

With their roles at the Arts Endowment and USED, Scott Shanklin-Peterson and Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D., were pivotal in the creation of AEP in 1995. Before coming to Washington, D.C., in 1993, Scott served as executive director of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) and was nationally respected for her state leadership and for her agency’s partnership with the South Carolina Department of Education. The S.C. Department of Education led the Arts in the Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project with the help of arts-in-education grants from the Arts Endowment; the ABC Project continues its efforts today to pursue the goal of quality, comprehensive arts education for all South Carolina students.

After her service in Washington, D.C., Scott served as Director of the College of Charleston Arts Management Program, where in 2002 she helped start — and continues to chair — Engaging Creative Minds (ECM), a national award-winning arts integration education non-profit partnership among three local school districts, city governments, the College of Charleston and local corporations such as Boeing and Blackbaud.

Terry served as counselor to South Carolina Governor Richard W. Riley for his two gubernatorial terms and was instrumental in the passage of the state’s landmark Education Improvement Act. As chief counselor to Riley during his time as U.S. Secretary of Education, Terry was the architect of and co-collaborator on several federal initiatives including after-school programs, E-Rate, education accountability, Pathways to College Network, Advanced Placement expansion, summer Read Write Now initiative and community and family partnerships that included the America 2000 Arts Partnership.

Terry serves as the education advisor to the C.S. Mott Foundation and Riley Institute at Furman University. He co-chairs the national Afterschool Alliance and chairs the national afterschool leadership development initiative and the White Riley Peterson Fellows at Furman University. He has also developed and edited one of the most comprehensive resources on afterschool and summer learning, “Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success.”

The authors interviewed Scott and Terry, asking them to reflect on lessons they each learned about arts education improvement in South Carolina, especially from and with Governor Riley, as well as who was in the room in 1994 when the Goals 2000: Educate America Act included the arts in the National Education Goals, presenting a unique window of opportunity to improve arts education nationwide.

Both of you worked closely with South Carolina Governor Richard (Dick) Riley, who successfully implemented and fully funded a comprehensive set of K-12 school improvements in his eight years as governor (1978 to 1987).

South Carolina was one of just a handful of states to receive a highly competitive Arts in Schools Basic Education Grant (AISBEG) from the Arts Endowment in 1987.

What is the ABC Plan?
The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project was established in 1988 as a cooperative partnership of three institutions: the South Carolina Arts Commission, the South Carolina Department of Education and Winthrop University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, which was awarded a cooperative agreement to house and administer the project. The ABC Project provides leadership to achieve quality, comprehensive arts education – which includes creative writing, dance, design, media arts, music, theatre and visual arts – for all South Carolina students. Schools and districts become ABC sites by going through a rigorous strategic planning process to implement standards-based arts curriculum and integrate the arts into daily classroom instruction.

When President Clinton signed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act in March 1994, what were your hopes for the arts being among the "challenging subject matter" in goal 3 of the National Education Goals? Were those hopes realized?

Terry:

Adding the arts as a core subject in the National Education Goals was a huge step forward, and it was an even bigger step forward to put them into law.

It is important to remember how very difficult in America it is to have any sustained nationwide focus on any specific education initiative, including keeping the arts as a core subject, because education in America is so decentralized. And every two, four or eight years, new federal legislative and executive leaders want to change things to “put their stamp” on new initiatives.

Considering this difficulty, two critical big picture hopes have been realized. First, the arts continue to be included in and defined as a core subject in the two bipartisan reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since 1994, including the most recent one in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Second, the Arts Education Partnership continues 25 years later as an important collaboration of local, state and national organizations interested in expanding and strengthening arts education across America and as a joint project of the National Endowment for the Arts and U.S. Department of Education, now in collaboration with the bipartisan Education Commission of the States.

Scott:

Given the volatility and shifting sands of federal education policies, these two accomplishments are quite exciting and remarkable. There remains, however, much to be done to strengthen and expand arts education opportunities in schools and in afterschool and summer programs. But having the arts in federal statute and having the Arts Education Partnership continually sharing policy, practice and research among local, state and national partners and the public are critical to making progress across America.

Looking back 25 years, what are your fondest memories of the early years of AEP’s work?

Better Together

Jonathan Katz, Ph.D., as CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) in 1994, was nationally recognized for his engagement in arts education. He helped to create the National Coalition for Education in the Arts in 1989, which authored the “Philadelphia Resolution” to clarify shared values and goals of the arts education community. NASAA and the Council of Chief State School Officers, directed by Gordon Ambach, responded to the call for a home for the Goals 2000 Arts Education Partnership and were awarded the federal cooperative agreement.

Here, Jonathan reflects on the potential he and Gordon Ambach saw in the action plan they and more than 100 other national stakeholder organizations created, on receiving the award as well as memorable achievements in its early years, and the core value that continues to define AEP.

Jonathan Katz, Ph.D., came to Washington, D.C., in 1985 as CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. He had earned degrees in literature and creative writing, taught those subjects and worked for the Kansas Arts Commission as a poet-in-the-schools, supervising its arts education and local arts agency development programs before becoming executive director. Jonathan moved from Kansas to direct the graduate arts management program at the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he was tenured as Professor in Government and Public Affairs, then directed The Children’s Museum of Denver, well known for its innovative learning and earned revenue strategies.

In demand as a consultant since leaving NASAA in 2014, Jonathan has worked with such organizations as Americans for the Arts, the Performing Arts Alliance, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and the National Innovation Collaborative: Networking Arts, Sciences, and Humanities Education. He is currently Professor of Practice in Cultural Policy and Arts Management at George Mason University. He recently published two volumes of poetry, Love Undefined and Objects in Motion.

When President Clinton signed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act in March 1994, what were your hopes for the arts being among the "challenging subject matter" in goal 3 of the National Education Goals? Were those hopes realized?

Looking back at the action plan that emerged from the series of stakeholder convenings in 1994, what potential did you see for state arts agencies to partner with state education agencies to achieve the checklist items contained in “The Arts and Education: Partners in Achieving Our National Education Goals"?

How would you describe the chemistry between CCSSO and NASAA in AEP’s first year? What lessons about partnership did you learn from the start-up?

NASAA and CCSSO co-managed the AEP cooperative agreement for more than 10 years. What is your most memorable event or development during those years?

What core value in the AEP culture has been most critical to its 25-year success?

In Memoriam ...

Gordon

MacKay Ambach

As executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Gordon Ambach was an AEP governance committee member until his retirement in 2001. He passed away in 2018.

Gordon Ambach played a major role in American and international education for more than 50 years. He first came to prominence as the commissioner of education for the State of New York and the president of the University of New York from 1977-87. His Regents Action Plan was judged the most comprehensive school reform in the nation. Early in his career he had a position in the then U.S. Office of Education where he helped develop policies for the federal role in public education.

Gordon returned to Washington, D.C., in 1987 to be the executive director of CCSSO. He became well respected in the halls of Congress for his astute and tenacious championing of laws and policies affecting all levels of public education. In that role he served as the U.S. Representative to the International Educational Evaluation Association where he helped design and advocate for assessment processes to measure and compare student academic achievement across nations.

After his retirement, Gordon continued to play significant roles on the boards of the Smithsonian Institution and the Wallace Foundation.

Here the other three early governance committee members, as well as AEP’s first director, Richard (Dick) J. Deasy, share memories of Gordon’s commitment and service to AEP.

Friends Reflect on His Life and Legacy ...

Gordon Ambach saw the arts in education as an essential for our times. He was considered a premier national leader among education groups and by many members of Congress during much of the 1980s and 1990s. His voice supporting the arts in federal legislation was very important and made a big difference. Because of his extensive experience with working both at the state and national levels, he knew the critical steps needed to take a concept like “arts are now a core subject” and put them into the mainstream of the educational processes, like including the arts in a NAEP assessment.

Terry Peterson, Ph. D.

Chief Counselor to Secretary of Education Richard Riley

Having the Partnership housed at the Council of Chief State School Officers under Gordon’s watchful eye and astute political and education acumen was absolutely critical. It sent a message that arts are really part of the core subjects and schooling. Gordon often became an advisor to not only AEP, but also the key people in the U.S. Department of Education and National Endowment for the Arts on what were the next steps and who might be included to make advances in arts in education. It made a crucial impression on many arts and arts in education leaders that a prominent education leader like Gordon stepped up as a big arts-in-education proponent.

Scott Shanklin-Peterson

Deputy Chairman to the Arts Endowment Chairman Jane Alexander and Senior Deputy Chair to Chairman Bill Ivey

From my viewpoint, Gordon’s decision to identify himself personally and professionally as an AEP leader, in concert with the U.S. Department of Education, helped enable AEP to be perceived as an organization of recognized educational importance. His position and reputation as an educational leader meant that researchers, association leaders, consultants and funders in the education sector — generally more influential and better resourced than their counterparts in the arts sector — would give more serious consideration to the value of arts education. It also meant that the issues and benefits of arts education might be more accepted for inclusion in policy forums and that language allowing for use of funds for arts education might be more generally included in education legislation. Few leaders can elevate the stature of a partnership simply by accepting a leadership position, but Gordon could ...

Jonathan Katz

CEO, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 1985 – 2014

... Gordon stands out in my memories for the gravity of his presence and the deference he received. When he spoke about the value of arts education, people paid attention. He carried with him the experience of decision making on a grand scale and of representing constituents who wielded authority themselves and had demanding expectations. His presentations on all occasions were well prepared and informed by research and experience, and it was clear what his point was and what he wanted you to do about it. But he liked to laugh, his presentations were adorned with humor, he was respectful in hearing out the opinions of others, and he was happy to give credit where credit was due. I observed him go out of his way to create win-win solutions when problems arose.

Jonathan Katz

CEO, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 1985 – 2014

It was clear to me that Gordon loved having AEP housed in the CCSSO headquarters. He installed the office of the AEP director immediately adjacent to his own: a sign to the CCSSO staff and to visitors of the importance he assigned to the role of the arts in education. It also allowed him to casually walk into my office to see how things were going, and to my surprise one day he told me he was a cellist and had hoped to perform with the Yale student orchestra in his freshman year. He said when he saw the competition, he put his cello in its case and walked away. For a gift to him on his retirement in 2001, we conspired with his wife Lucy to have the cello restored and included lessons with a local cello teacher. We didn’t find out if he took the lessons. But in retirement he did serve on the board of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and became active in expanding its performances in city schools. We didn’t ask if he also joined the string section ...

Dick Deasy

AEP Director, 1995-2008

... Three years after his retirement, Gordon sent a letter to our director of research Lauren Stevenson and me congratulating and complimenting us on the book Third Space: When Learning Matters. He included four numbered paragraphs giving detailed analyses of aspects of the book that he thought particularly important. 

The obituary in the New York Times in May 2018 commented that he was renowned for his “meticulous attention to detail.” He was. I still have the letter. 

Dick Deasy

AEP Director, 1995-2008

Early Years of AEP

Priorities & Services Endure

As the Arts Education Partnership set up shop at the headquarters of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), states and local school districts were making plans to respond to the new challenges of the Goals 2000 Act. AEP’s purpose was to rally the efforts of its national partners to turn the promise of the arts as “challenging subject matter” into reality through state- and local-level policy changes. While the more than 100 national organizations that had developed “The Arts and Education: Partners in Achieving Our National Education Goalshad clearly made the case for the arts nationwide, it would take the same vision and leadership statewide to check off the 11 action items in this blueprint. Then, as now for AEP, the key goal was to build leadership capacity and knowledge on the part of state and local arts and education stakeholders, the constituents of AEP’s national partners.

AEP solidified the establishment of the National Dance Education Organization, the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education, and the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards that have been critical to developing the National Core Arts Standards in Dance, Media Arts, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts (2014) and implementing arts policy, legislation, and funding.

Jane Bonbright

Collaboration ethos combines with policy change opportunities

Before AEP, many of us in arts education were pretty ignorant of how policy actually worked on local, state, and national levels. Going to AEP national meetings was a huge education for all of us. We learned how to see policy as interconnected—and something we could influence! It was transformational for us and for the field.​

Steve Seidel

The collaborative action of two federal agencies led to the birth of AEP. Its unique public-private governance structure modeled a guiding philosophy of collective action, and a steering committee of national organization leaders rounded out a management structure that emphasized consensus around areas of opportunity for national, state and local policy change.

AEP’s theory of change was that partnerships — whether at the national, state or local levels — were the most productive avenue to effective policy change.

The governance committee consisted of senior officers at the Arts Endowment and USED, plus the CEOs of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Terry Peterson, chief counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, and Scott Shanklin-Peterson, deputy chairman at the Arts Endowment, represented the federal agencies. The committee met at least monthly to make important decisions quickly.

As presidential administrations changed in 2001, Dr. Susan Sclafani, counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and Eileen B. Mason, the Arts Endowment’s senior deputy chairman, assumed the governance responsibilities on behalf of the federal partners. Other USED and Arts Endowment staff participated in governance committee discussions and worked closely with AEP’s two staff members, Director Richard Deasy and Program Associate Sara Goldhawk. The cooperative agreement — unlike a grant from the two federal agencies — allowed for collaboration between AEP staff and federal agency staff, increasing the fledgling partnership’s capacity to plan and implement Goals 2000 and the arts blueprint.

AEP brought together a cadre of innovative and wise people in all areas of the arts to participate as planners, speakers and researchers. That created a legacy of collaboration, innovation and research that has been its hallmark to this day.​

Susan Sclafani

The steering committee required by the cooperative agreement engaged a number of leaders from national arts and education organizations that had participated in the blueprint convenings in the 1990s. Committee meetings were in person and open to other national partner organizations; a cross-section of organization representatives regularly attended. The committee was both an advisory body to AEP and a think tank.

Task forces zero in on targets of opportunity

As Goals 2000 plans emerged in states and local districts, AEP staff and steering committee members analyzed opportunities for the arts to be integrated into multiple National Education Goals. Goal 1, for instance, called for all children starting school ready to learn, specifically that they “have access to high-quality and developmentally appropriate preschool programs that help prepare children for school.”

With broad agreement that the arts were integral to early childhood learning and development, AEP convened a task force to study available research and emerging findings on the role of the arts in early brain development from birth to age eight. More than 50 organizations participated on the task force, including steering committee members from the Wolf Trap Early Learning Institute; associations of art, dance and music educators; The Kennedy Center and VSA; and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Other members included representatives of the federal Head Start program, USED’s National Institute on Early Learning and Development and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The task force’s report, “Young Children and the Arts: Making Creative Connections,” offered three guiding principles accompanied by examples for putting the principles into action through developmentally appropriate arts experiences. A first-of-its-kind chart delineated developmental benchmarks and stages by age, from birth to age eight, and described arts activities that addressed cognitive, affective and social-emotional outcomes. Recommendations for individuals and organizations in both arts and educational settings were listed as well as for further research, and an appendix presented examples of arts-based early childhood programs.

The report was widely hailed in early learning and child development circles, and its release prompted the federal Head Start program to create an arts toolkit for Head Start providers. USED’s Title I Program Director, Mary Jean LeTendre, commended the report to Title I programs and noted that the arts were a vital part of learning for children in under resourced communities and that Title I funds could support arts education programs and activities. A Maryland State Department of Education task force updated “Young Children and the Arts” to release “Creative Connections: Young Children and the Arts” in 2013.

Teaching Partnerships,” a report on the AEP National Forum “Partnerships Improving Teaching of the Arts” held at Lincoln Center in 2001, noted that a critical component of providing quality arts instruction in schools was a highly qualified arts teaching workforce. Based on the forum’s findings, AEP set goals to increase the number and strengthen the capacity of both arts teachers and partnerships to support them. AEP’s strategic plan for 2004-2006 placed a priority on securing the involvement of higher education institutions, as colleges and universities were central in preparing arts educators for their profession. These institutions also had a history of integrating the arts into pre-service general education programs and in-service professional development for classroom teachers, arts specialists, teaching artists and college faculty.

The recommendations in “Teaching Partnerships” remained a focus of and session topic at AEP annual forums, leading to the creation of AEP’s Higher Education Task Force in 2006, which focused on the arts teaching workforce — classroom teachers, arts specialists, teaching artists, higher education faculty and members of arts and cultural institutions who provided arts instruction. The task force’s goal was to identify and document promising practices for engaging higher education institutions in partnership with schools and arts communities in pre-service and in-service professional development of the arts teaching workforce. Task force members undertook four related initiatives:

The 2007 report “Working Partnerships: Professional Development of the Arts Teaching Workforcecontinued to foster discussions among AEP national partners on emerging pre- and in-service issues, and task force members continued collaboration on later case studies of higher education institutions engaged in exemplary arts education partnerships.

Convene, Counsel, Research & Report

The four key services to build leadership capacity and knowledge in the 2020 AEP Strategic Mission have their roots in AEP’s beginnings. Conveningcounseling or consultingresearching and reporting have continually been the hallmarks of the organization’s unique role as the nation’s arts education hub.

Just as more than 100 national organizations convened in a series of discussions in 1994 to produce the action blueprint for the role of the arts in the Goals 2000 legislation, AEP continued to bring national partners together to move the blueprint’s action agenda forward. Initially called Full Partnership Meetings, the quarterly convenings — initially held in Washington D.C. — quickly became “forums” as they offered maximum time for dialogue among the national organizations’ representatives.

The overarching goal of the forums was to offer partnering opportunities among the national-level partner organizations that spanned the arts, education, governance, business and philanthropic sectors they represented. And, because the work of Goals 2000 planning and actions was unfolding at the state and local levels, national partners strategized ways to foster and sustain partnering actions between their state and local affiliates or constituencies.

We learn by working together. AEP’s convenings of arts education leaders nationwide were inspirational. With a focus on research that the field desperately needed, the arts moved into the big league. Confidence grew, connections sparked ideas, and the work exploded on many fronts with a common vision for where arts education could head.​

Pam Paulson

In 1997, forums occurred outside across the country, first at the then-newly opened Getty Museum and Center for Arts Education in Los Angeles. At every forum, representatives of the governance committee’s federal members, usually Scott Shanklin-Peterson and Terry Peterson from the Arts Endowment and USED, presented updates on the latest Goals 2000 policy developments and other federal opportunities for arts education support that included both financial and technical assistance. Gordon Ambach of CCSSO and Jonathan Katz of NASAA joined a regular “Washington Watch” panel to share news from their respective state-level partners.

Beginning in 1997, the winter annual forum incorporated an opportunity for private-sector funders to attend, caucus in working lunches and participate in plenary and concurrent sessions. These efforts increased the philanthropic community’s awareness of both AEP’s efforts and national, state and local arts education improvement needs.

Registration fees for attending partner organization representatives were free or nominal in the early years, set at $60 per attendee after the first year to defray meal costs. Attendance in those early years averaged between 100 and 150, consisting primarily of national organization partner representatives; in later years, forum participation increased as state- and local-level partnering program and project representatives attended in larger numbers.

AEP worked in collaboration with host organizations in forum cities to hold each event in a venue with noteworthy arts education programs that were highlighted during the forums. Among the host organizations in the first decade were Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap Early Learning Institute, Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Heard Museum.

With forum attendance limited relative to the nationwide interest in the discussion and presentations taking place, AEP frequently developed publications to highlight forum content. For example, a 1999 publication, “Learning Partnerships: Improving Learning in Schools with Arts Partners in the Community,” featured presentations from the June forum that year in New York City that examined effective state and local arts education partnerships.

In 2000, the October forum focused on several school districts featured in the report “Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education” to learn about their efforts and strategies to sustain their work and adapt to increasing statewide accountability demands. Thirty-two district teams — comprised of superintendents, school board members and teachers — attended the forum, hosted by the National Education Association. CNN’s “Crossfire” host Bill Press moderated a panel of local board presidents and superintendents, and concurrent sessions exploring the districts’ experiences were documented, resulting in “Gaining the Arts Advantage: More Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education.”

In that same year, the “Learning Partnerships” report prompted AEP, in cooperation with several national partners, to convene arts education consultants from state departments of education, then organized as the National Council of State Arts Education Consultants (NCSAEC), to discuss how to increase collaboration among the key state-level arts education stakeholders. Representatives from the Kennedy Center’s Alliance for Arts Education Network, state arts agency arts education managers, USED and Arts Endowment met to chart a course for strengthening the state arts education consultants’ leadership development network. The attendees developed mutual guidance on how to advance the working relationship of professionals in the NCSAEC network with their state arts agency and state alliance colleagues. The arts education consultants developed a list of critical steps to increase the odds of partnership success as well as mutual actions the state-level partners could take to improve arts education for students. The convening’s discussion and findings were captured in “Strengthening State-Level Arts Education Partnerships.”

AEP was launched just as the internet and email became widespread. In its first year, AEP partnered with the Kennedy Center and its new ArtsEdge online network to create a listserv and website hosted on ArtsEdge. Early on, electronic faxing was a major form of communication with AEP partners, primarily because many did not have email or internet access. Consistent communication was a struggle, so multiple formats were needed to ensure distribution of the most important information. AEP created its own web domain within three years, and eventually all administration and design of the website was moved to the AEP office and managed by a program assistant.


The unique partnership across public education and arts education leaders has been critical to establishing the arts as an essential academic subject. Early AEP work to document the undisputed, research-backed benefits of learning in the arts is the cornerstone of ongoing efforts to force more transparency and policy change to address inequitable access to a complete arts education. ​

Heather Noonan

As mentioned earlier, AEP played a critical technical assistance role for the Arts Education Leadership Fund, analyzing states’ Goals 2000 federal grant applications for inclusion of arts education plans and actions. This provided AEP partners with valuable feedback and examples of inclusion of arts education nationwide. As state legislatures enacted education policy under Goals 2000, AEP monitored changes to determine shifts affecting the arts and shared them with national partners and state-level leaders. Initial systems developed to track state policy effects on arts education focused primarily on anecdotal information sharing. AEP later hired a consultant to design a survey for state education agency arts staff to collect these policy data; this led to the development of a state policy database. In 2014, AEP released ArtScan, its annually updated online clearinghouse of state policies related to arts education.

As states and localities pursued arts education policy and practice improvements under Goals 2000, they sought research upon which to base their decisions. In 1994, the Arts Endowment and USED convened researchers to determine a national arts education research agenda. The following year, the Arts Endowment released “Schools, Communities and the Arts: A Research Compendium,” a collection of arts education research.

With the arts in the National Education Goals, a national assessment in the arts slated for 1997 and increasing numbers of states adopting achievement standards for arts learning, AEP formed a task force of education, arts, business and foundation leaders to address the question: “What knowledge can research create that will help schools and policy makers provide an appropriate arts education to American students?” The resulting report, “Priorities for Arts Education Research,” recommended that research be conducted on five aspects of student learning in the arts:

The report’s recommendations addressed the development and dissemination of information to guide education policymakers in their decisions affecting arts education.

With the research priorities report as a roadmap, AEP accepted a key role as gatherer, analyzer and disseminator of findings that increased the knowledge of national, state and local leaders to make the case for the arts. AEP commissioned researchers and worked within the organization to conduct analyses of existing studies on the impact of arts learning on students, teachers and learning environments, making an essential contribution to the field of arts education. AEP’s work focused on all arts disciplines and how these disciplines impacted students’ cognitive, affective, social and emotional skills and abilities, leaving issues like discipline pedagogy to the professional arts education fields.

AEP Collaborations with Federal and Private Partners

In keeping with its collaboration ethos, an early compendium of research findings, “Eloquent Evidence: Arts at the Core of Learning” (1995) was a combined undertaking of AEP, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), NASAA and the GE Fund. “Although the arts remain undervalued in many school districts, this is changing as the connection between the arts and learning becomes clear and evident,” the report noted. “Eloquent Evidence” summarized studies from the Arts Endowment’s compendium “Schools, Communities and the Arts” that showed sound methodologies categorized by themes including creativity, engagement, academic achievement and work-force preparation.

AEP partnered again with PCAH four years later, along with the GE Fund and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to release “Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning.” “When young people are involved with the arts, something changes in their lives,” the introduction observed. But while arts advocates might use photos of rapt attention by students engaged in the arts to promote arts learning, the report cautioned that in “a society that values measurements and uses data-driven analysis to inform decisions about allocation of scarce resources, photographs of smiling faces are not enough to gain or even retain support.”

Each of the seven research studies in “Champions of Change” was unique, and each explored and reported on the impact of engaged learning in arts on cognitive, affective and social development of students. Several studies focused on differing age levels and art forms in school-based programs taught by certified teachers or, in one case, teaching artists from a nonprofit organization. Some examined the impact of learning in an individual art form. Another study examined arts learning during out-of-school hours, and yet another focused on out-of-school arts learning’s impact on youth in urban settings.

The power and importance of the studies, taken as a whole, was that well-designed and engaging arts experiences could involve all students in learning experiences essential to their personal development. The studies also provided research-based findings that stimulated additional research studies.

Attention turns to school districts’ value of arts education

Goals 2000 emphasized local school districts’ decision-making authority regarding core curriculum subjects and conditions of arts education. AEP wanted to identify and share the conditions necessary for the arts to flourish in districts and approached the PCAH to ask if the council and its funders would be interested in supporting a study. The GE Fund, managed by Jane Polin, agreed to provide primary funding and secured additional financial commitments from the MacArthur Foundation and Binney & Smith, makers of Crayola.

Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts That Value Arts Educationfeatured 91 school districts in 42 states with exemplary characteristics of district-wide arts education programs. Researchers identified 12 “Critical Success Factors” needed to achieve and sustain district-wide arts education. But, as Harriett Fulbright, PCAH executive director, and AEP Director Dick Deasy observed in the report’s foreword, “if there is a single, overriding lesson … it is that the presence and quality of arts education in public schools today requires an exceptional degree of involvement by influential segments of the community which value the arts in the total affairs of the school district: in governance, funding, and program delivery.” The report was the focus of conferences and workshops and of articles in journals such as Educational Leadership, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; Principal, published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals; American School Board Journal, published by the National School Boards Association, and appeared on the Public Broadcasting Service’s Teacher Source website.

“Critical Links” lays groundwork for new priorities and opportunities

The 1997 “Priorities for Arts Education Research” report called for periodic surveys of recent research and compendia to inform researchers, practitioners and policymakers. The Arts Endowment and USED supported that task force recommendation by awarding AEP funding specifically to commission and publish the next compendium.

In 2002, “Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development” presented 61 peer-reviewed studies across five arts disciplines — dance, mixed media (now known as media arts), music, theatre and visual arts — and served two purposes. First, it provided designers of arts education curriculum and instruction with research-based strategies for deepening arts learning experiences required to achieve academic and social effects evidenced in the reviewed studies. Second, the report recommended promising lines of inquiry and study to researchers and funders.

Additionally, Dr. James Catterall of UCLA and The Imagination Project contributed an analysis of the multiple discipline-specific studies to determine the specific cognitive, emotional and social habits and dispositions required to learn in an art form. A new lexicon of those habits and dispositions provided a powerful new tool for supporters of the arts’ impact on student learning.

“Critical Links” demonstrated not only the strength of the field but also the need for and potential of future study. The combined essays pointed to limitations of traditional research approaches and, indirectly, to limitations in the arts research infrastructure. Moreover, James Catterall’s essay pointed to a discrepancy between new understandings of cognitive processes and traditional research in arts and education.

“Critical Links” attracted significant attention among arts and education researchers, practitioners, policymakers and funders. Among them was the American Educational Research Association (AERA), which called the report a “benchmark” for arts education research and offered to chair a task force to propose a new agenda for research on the arts, building on the recommendations in Critical Links.

Convened in the fall of 2002, the new research task force was chaired by Gerald Sroufe, AERA’s government relations officer and included AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine and researchers John D. Bransford, University of Washington; James S. Catterall, University of California at Los Angeles; and Steve Seidel, Harvard University.

The research agenda addressed five categories:

Cognition and expression. ​

Social and personal development.​

Teaching and learning environments.​

Community, democracy and civil society.​

The status and condition of arts education.​

AEP released “The Arts and Education: New Opportunities for Research” in 2004, as states and local districts were getting familiar with the latest revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind. Each section of the report offered justifications for additional arts education research on specific topics, commentaries about the status of existing research on those topics and research-based suggestions for new studies. Each section of the report offered justifications for additional arts education research on specific topics, commentaries about the status of existing research on those topics and research-based suggestions for new studies.

As Gerald Sroufe explained in the report’s introduction, the task force issued “a challenge to researchers, foundation directors, and policymakers … to go beyond traditional educational research approaches applied to the arts to methods requiring a more complex understanding of learners and their environments, more robust research designs, and new disciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives.” The task force, he noted, maintained a central belief that new research approaches “will advance our understanding of the relationships between the arts and education, and even the basic learning processes themselves.”

As America entered a new school improvement era under No Child Left Behind, Sroufe, on behalf of the task force, encouraged policymakers to undertake “a fresh conversation about the contribution of arts education, in order to provide a more robust set of school reform strategies for achieving the nation’s educational goals.” Task force members urged researchers across the arts disciplines and education generally were urged to take up the agenda’s challenges for arts and education research to “provide additional and even more compelling foundations for education.”

The report concluded with a hope that future efforts would focus on achieving and maintaining “a critical mass of researchers developing frameworks of common understanding of central questions and methodologies for addressing such questions, and creating a network appropriate for effective translation of research and for communication with policymakers and practitioners.”

AEP’s increasing sophistication with the internet in the next decade made such a network possible. At its April 2012 forum in Washington, D.C., AEP launched ArtsEdSearch, which replaced future research compendia with one database designed to meet the needs of researchers, policymakers, practitioners and advocates. It was and still is the nation’s digital research clearinghouse focused entirely on learner and educator outcomes associated with arts learning in both school and community settings.

As the field’s go-to knowledge center, AEP has advanced arts learning nationwide. In particular, Artsedsearch.org established arts education as a research-based field of teaching and learning. This dynamic partnership of arts education leaders and organizations has also enabled a greater utilization of proven practices, evidence-based research, and effective advocacy methods.​

Jane Polin

To evidence the value of ArtsEdSearch, AEP published “Preparing Students for the Next America: The Benefits of an Arts Educationin 2013 to showcase study findings regarding the role of the arts in preparing students for school, work and life. It contained 40 citations of studies in the new clearinghouse. Discipline-specific publications highlighting research findings in music (2018) and visual arts (2019) followed, with dance and theatre planned for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

“Third Space”: the arts are transformative

In 2002, No Child Left Behind brought heightened emphasis on student achievement disparities in schools and districts that were under resourced, specifically those supported by federal Title I funds. With one-time funding from USED directed specifically at research on the arts and learners in these communities, AEP mounted an extensive case study investigation to answer the question: How do the arts contribute to the improvement of schools that serve communities that are economically disadvantaged? The GE Foundation once again provided additional funds for the undertaking, as did the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The project also attracted the attention of the Ford Foundation, which provided funding and encouraged AEP to give special attention to the arts’ role in building community.

Every decision I make for my organization is rooted in accessibility, inclusivity, social justice, equity and diversity. Third Space: When Learning Matters revealed how the arts transformed learning environments, especially those in urban schools. Evidence was mounting in our argument for arts education for all children. I literally cried when reading that book because our field needed that information.​

MARY CAMPBELL ZOPF​

Ten schools serving communities that were economically disadvantaged were compared, all of them having integrated the arts across their curricula as a tool for school reform. The researchers found that the arts helped to transform the learning environment in the schools, making it more student centered and more effective in supporting positive academic, social and personal development for students.

The report’s title, “Third Space: When Learning Matters,” came from the researchers’ use of a third space metaphor to describe transformed learning environments they observed in schools: the space between a work of art (in a first space) and a viewer (in a second space) in which meaning, not residing solely with the one or the other, is created in between (in a third space) through their interaction.

This 2005 report was widely applauded for its insight into the potential role of the arts in helping to close the documented achievement gap in America’s schools. At USED, Jackelyn Jackson, Ed.D., director of Title I programs, co-authored a letter with Dick Deasy to state Title I directors providing copies of “Third Space” and urging them to share its findings with their Title I colleagues at the state and local levels. “A central finding across the individual sites was the transformative effect of the arts in high-poverty schools,” Deasy and Jackson noted, “making [the schools] into vibrant and successful centers of learning and community life.”

AEP gauges public’s interest in imagination

AEP commissioned periodic public opinion polling to provide guidance to the field of arts education. Retaining arts in public schools was being challenged by pressures to develop skills deemed needed in the workplace. Based on research reported in “Critical Links” concerning the personal dispositions and habits of mind required to learn in the arts disciplines, in 2007 AEP explored such questions as:

What role might imagination, creativity and innovation play in work settings? ​

Do Americans consider these dispositions important to success? ​

AEP first contracted with Valsin Marmillian and Company to conduct focus groups to identify public desires for learning in their schools. Imagination was a capacity highly valued and considered essential to innovation. AEP conferred with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to incorporate those findings into their list of skills demanded by the national economy.

Marmillian and Company suggested that AEP contract with a polling company to determine the depth of the electorate’s value for imagination, the results to be shared with arts education advocates and policymakers. Lake Research Partners, a prominent political polling company, was selected, and AEP was joined by other national organizations in supporting the polling. The broad finding was that “nine in 10 American adults agree that imagination is a key ingredient in student success,” and “73 percent believe that building capacities of the imagination is just as important as ‘so-called’ basics in schools.”

The early work of AEP, responding to crucial policy decisions from 1965 through the early 2000s, set the stage for AEP’s current work. Education Commission of the States and AEP are proud to be supported by federal partners at the National Endowment for the Arts and US Department of Education, continuing 25 years of support for arts education in America.

Moving Forward

A Vision for a Liberated Future in Arts Education

As this document was coming together, the authors expressed a desire to not only reflect on the past but also to think about the future. AEP Director Jamie Kasper interviewed three current and future leaders to get a sense of their vision for the future of arts education and what we need to be doing now to manifest their ideas. These leaders are people of color, who were not represented in the founding and early days of AEP.

is the executive director of Arts Education in Maryland Schools, a state-level advocacy organization formed in 1992 by the Maryland State Arts Council and Maryland State Department of Education

is an arts learning coordinator at the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency created in 1965 to foster and encourage the development of the arts and assist the preservation of Ohio’s cultural heritage.

is a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia. She was the 2018-2019 National PTA Reflections program winner in the category of Literature Outstanding Interpretation.

Arts education has an opportunity to address the issues of our time: identity, justice and equity. AEP can embrace this by supporting and promoting culturally responsive pedagogy and practice. The arts are a natural vehicle for ensuring that students feel seen and heard, creating environments of inquiry, respect and trust.

Gigi Antoni

Quanice, Chiquita and Anna responded to a common set of questions, and their responses focused on three important aspects of arts education as we move into the next decade: access to arts learning experiences in schools, liberation and creating conditions for the next innovations in the arts.

Access to arts learning experiences in schools

During these interviews, it was apparent that all three leaders care deeply about and have been affected by their arts learning experiences. However, they all reflected that their excellence seems to be more by accident than by design in some ways, especially when it came to their access to quality arts learning in school. Chiquita says, “I dream of a day when children have a clear path from idea to outcome; a girl says, ‘I want to be an actor’, and she has a clear path that has been defined for her to make that happen. That was not the case for me.”

Chiquita had access to arts education in school, but she feels there was a gap in her knowledge about options to make the arts her career. She recalls wanting to be an actor in second grade. She was involved in her school’s choir and took advantage of an opportunity to play the violin, which was offered to a small group of students; she then contributed to her high school’s poetry magazine, serving as its editor during her senior year. Chiquita started her professional career in public television but then migrated into arts administration. She says, “I didn’t even know arts administration existed as a field!”

Quanice took piano and violin lessons after school at a community music school. She remembers that in school, her elementary music teachers didn’t pay much attention to her even though she was heavily involved in music outside of school. The support she got from family and out-of-school music experiences sustained her musical interest.

Anna also remembers her arts experiences starting with music; her family had a piano in the living room, and she started guitar lessons in third grade because there was a college student living nearby who gave lessons. She says that she didn’t have many in-school experiences in the arts and relied on her family and community to fill that gap. She reflected on this uneven access to arts education in schools, saying, “A lot of people have this idea of arts education as something people should do on their own. They mischaracterize the arts as a luxury. However, public school is the most fundamental way of leveling the playing field, and we should make sure that students have access to the arts as a conduit for freedom of expression and processing our emotions.”

Liberation

When asked about what arts education leaders should keep in mind moving forward, Quanice, Chiquita and Anna talked in different ways about the necessity of working toward liberation. They defined liberation as a state where all people feel free and have freedom. In an arts education context, that means we’ve eliminated gatekeepers and guardians, we’re honoring all forms of artistic expression equally and we’re embracing the inherent humanity and contributions of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

Quanice’s undergraduate experiences at Howard University, an Historically Black College and University or HBCU, influenced her wishes for liberation. Howard’s music program focused on African music and history, which caused her to think critically about her K-12 music experience. Quanice says, “We need to rethink what arts education is. We can’t say that opera and classical music, for example, are the top echelon of the music world.” She believes liberation will be achieved when we not only address inequities but also emphasize the achievements of BIPOC in the same way we highlight contributions by white, European artists.

Over the next 25 years, AEP will be challenged to confront the social, economic, and racial inequities that still plague every facet of American life. It's difficult to conceive how AEP can extend its leadership role in this regard without embracing and embodying the disempowered.

Richard Bell

Anna mirrors Quanice’s thoughts; “Many people think about ‘fine’ arts as those that are Eurocentric and set aside ‘ethnic’ arts as something different and of lower quality. I only remember one instance of doing something not in the European tradition in school — coil pots — and I had a perception that my teacher thought this art form was of lower quality than the others.”

Chiquita shared her experiences in an undergraduate drama and film program. She recalls being only one of a few Black students in the program and remembers when one of her Black classmates experienced trauma from being typecast as a maid in a school production; the classmate turned down that role. Chiquita moved her emphasis to film, remembering that “I realized that substantive theatre roles for Black students were virtually non-existent except the opportunities we created for ourselves.” Her hopes for liberation include increasing people’s comfort with recognizing that the arts are transformational and understanding the substantial and essential contributions of BIPOC in the arts.

Creating conditions for the next innovations in the arts

In July 2020, The Walt Disney Company collaborated with playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda and his fellow creators to release the film version of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” “Hamilton” is widely regarded by critics as an innovative piece of American musical theatre. In the book “Hamilton: The Revolution,” Miranda credits hip hop culture and rap music, starting with DJ Kool Herc’s work in the Bronx, as his inspiration for “Hamilton.” Growing up, he didn’t listen to Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Mobb Deep, Big Pun, Jay Z and other rappers with the intent to fuel his adult career. Instead, exposure to this innovative, high-quality music organically influenced every facet of his life and set the stage for the innovations and success of “Hamilton.”

The greatest impact in the coming decades will come from being relevant and woke to the new challenges that face a world torn by pro-science/knowledge progress and fundamentalism.​

VALSIN MARMILLION​

Like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quanice, Chiquita and Anna also talked about the importance of connecting the lives and work of previous generations with their own lives to fuel innovation. Quanice says, “Intersections between my ancestors and other generations in my life are very important.” Chiquita recalls that connecting with others helped her to develop as a whole person and to cultivate a creative practice as a writer and actor in addition to her work in arts administration. She says, “I read works, talked to people, went to conferences and events. Those experiences helped me to communicate, connect with and work with people. I developed empathy, which helped me connect with my own vulnerability.” In turn, each of these leaders relies on connections to feed their innovation in different ways. For example, in her work at Arts Education in Maryland Schools, Quanice is innovating by supporting arts education practitioners to run for elected positions. She lives by a quote shared by one of her mentors: “You have to learn to infiltrate from the inside of the outside.”

The future of arts education

When asked to project a future for arts education in 2045 — 25 years from now — each person talked about how we might focus on policies that ensure access to arts learning experiences, achieve liberation and foster the next innovations in the arts. 

Anna hopes for a level playing field in arts education. “I want children to have access to all of the arts. My sister learned to draw by watching YouTube videos, and I wonder if she would be a much better artist now if she had access to a visual arts education.” She believes policy decisions that not only support but also require and incentivize arts education will be most effective. Anna specifically sees value in better connecting the arts in schools to the arts in society. She says, “One of my friends creates digital art and sells it via Deviant Art, and another just entered a web-comic contest. Those are very different experiences than what they have access to in school. There is a disconnect between arts at school and arts in the real world.”

 

AEP should catalyze the weaving of the arts education community with other powerful efforts focused on the future of public education and equity/justice. The aim should be that in 10-20 years, the arts are understood as a sine qua non of public education and a central ‘non-negotiable’ equity issue.​

Cyrus Driver

Quanice sees the future of arts education rooted in change, and she believes we need policies that recognize and fix harm that has been done to specific groups of people. She reflects on the role of arts education in the broader education landscape, saying, “Arts education isn’t a silo that’s separate from the rest of education. If there are inequities in education more broadly, there are inequities in arts education.”

Chiquita aspires to a future where policies support increased funding to employ artists, teachers, and community workers in the arts, as well as contribute to strong communities that serve as arts hubs for their citizens. She wishes for systems that sustain arts involvement across life spans, focusing on celebrating the diversity of communities and art forms. She says, “I want art to be recognized as a holistic way to help us become whole people, supporting heart, body, mind and spirit.”

To build upon the work of the past 25 years, the Arts Education Partnership — staff members and more than 100 partner organizations — will be working toward a future that honors these ideals. We are grateful for the work of past, current and future leaders who offered their expertise and insight to this history of AEP.

AEP is grateful to the following for making this retrospective possible:

Dick Deasy

for the original idea for this publication; research to document activities, events and the details of projects, research studies and reports; for initial drafts of part 3; and for editing the memoriam to Gordon Ambach.

 

Doug Herbert

 for serving as the main collaborator with AEP and researching much of the early history, as well as writing part 1 and editing part 3.

 

Jonathan Katz

for helping to shape the vision and final outline for parts 1-3, for providing substantial background information from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and many other sources and for contributing initial drafts of part 3; also for his time and remembrances shared in the part 2 interview. 

 

Scott Shanklin-Peterson 

for support of the vision, encouragement and critical feedback on outlines and early drafts of parts 1 and 3 and for her time and remembrances shared in the part 2 interview.

 

Terry Peterson 

for support of the vision, encouragement and critical feedback on outlines and especially on early drafts of part 1 as well as his time and remembrances shared in the part 2 interview.

Sarah Goldhawk

for reviews of original documents concerning AEP’s management, programming and research reports in its first decade and communications with the Council of Chief State School Officers to document AEP’s early staff and private-sector funders.

Jeff Poulin

for providing source material and serving as a reader for the draft of part 1.

Many arts education leaders who provided quotes to enhance this written history:

Chiquita Mullins Lee, Quanice Floyd and Anna Chung for participating in the part 4 interviews and reviewing a draft of that part of the document.

Former directors of AEP Dick Deasy, Sandra Ruppert and Jane Best for shepherding the organization through 25 years, including a transition from the Council of Chief State School Officers to its current home within Education Commission of the States.

Ayanna Hudson, arts education director, and Nancy Daugherty, arts education specialist, of the National Endowment for the Arts and Sylvia Lyles, director of the Office of Well-Rounded Education Programs, and Bonnie Carter, group leader of Arts in Education and Literacy Programs, of the U.S. Department of Education, who continue to provide federal leadership for AEP. Many thanks also go to their predecessors, without whom AEP’s work would not have continued for 25 years.

Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, for their leadership at their respective federal agencies. We’re also grateful for the leadership of their predecessors in supporting AEP from its founding through the present.

Jane Remer, for her prolific documentation of the arts in education field in “Changing Schools Through the Arts” (1982 and 1990) and “Beyond Enrichment: Building Arts Partnerships with Schools and Your Community” (1996). Jane’s unwavering dedication to arts education — from her service to the field as associate director of the Arts in Education Program of the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund and senior administrative posts at the New York City Board of Education’s Learning Cooperative, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Harkness School of Ballet — is matched only by her skills as an author, editor and critical friend to all she collaborated with, debated the state of the field and offered invaluable counsel based on her unmatched grasp of the field’s history.

To past arts education leaders who captured the theories, philosophies and approaches to arts education, arts in education and comprehensive arts education in the 1960s through the 1990s. Their journalistic efforts have saved valuable information and data concerning school-, district- and state-level programs and projects from which the field has evolved and matured. Their broad shoulders provide a solid understanding of our past — both success and failures — from which to draw lessons for the present and future.

NOTE: The authors offer this list as a starting point, primarily focused on the early years outlined in part 1. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

Academic Preparation in the Arts: Teaching for Transition from High School to College. 2nd ed. New York: College Board, 1975.

Beyond Creating: The Place for Art in America’s Schools. Los Angeles: Getty Center for Education in the Arts, 1985.

Bloom, Kathryn, Junius Eddy, Charles Fowler, Jane Remer and Nancy Shuker. An Arts in Education Source Book: A View from the JDR 3rd Fund. New York: The JDR 3rd Fund, 1980.

Boyer, Ernest. The Basic School: A Community for Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishing, 1995.

Chapman, Laura H. Instant Art, Instant Culture: The Unspoken Policy for American Schools. New York: Teachers College Press, 1982.

Eisner, Elliott. The Educational Imagination. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan Company, 1985.

Fowler, Charles B. Can We Rescue the Arts for America’s Children?: Coming to Our Senses — 10 Years Later. Washington, D.C.: American Council for the Arts, 1988.

Gardner, Howard. Arts, Mind and Brain. New York: Basic Books, 1982.

Gardner, Howard. The Arts and Human Development: A Psychological Study of the Artistic Process. New York: Wiley, 1973.

Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

Goodlad, John I. A Place Called School: Prospects for the Future. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1984.

Hirsch, E.D. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.

McLaughlin, John, ed. Toward a New Era in Arts Education: The Interlochen Symposium. Washington, D.C.: American Council for the Arts, 1988.

Remer, Jane. Changing Schools Through the Arts: The Power of an Idea.  New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1982.

Sizer, Theodore R. Horace’s School. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992. 

Stake, Robert, ed. Evaluating the Arts in Education: A Responsive Approach. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1975.

Wilson, Brent and Harlan Hoffa, eds. The History of Arts Education: Proceedings from the Penn State Conference. Reston, VA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985.