Welcome to this living and evolving resource! 

In late 2020, the Arts Education Partnership began exploring intersections of arts education and literacies. Traditionally, literacy has been defined as the ability to read and write text. From the beginning of our work, we wanted this project to expand the narrative of literacy to be inclusive of the different ways people make meaning, beyond just reading and writing. The arts education field is active in supporting a broad concept of literacy that includes media, movement and sound, and it was our goal to bring together a group of people to build on this work and surface different perspectives across communities and fields.

The interactive journey you are about to engage in captures the insights and reflections of attendees who joined AEP for our Arts and Literacies Thinkers Meeting Series.

This resource incorporates art and text to support different experiences and interactions as you explore the relationships between art, arts education and literacies.

The Arts and Literacies

Throughout life, individuals use multiple  literacies to make meaning of what they observe and engage with in the world around them. Meaning making supports them to develop knowledge, awareness, appreciation and empathy of different cultures, experiences and interpretations beyond their own.

Literacies do not exist in isolation, and there is no single story. Literacy as a concept is nonbinary, and people develop literacies through the continuous evolution of shared decoding and narratives.

Inquiry Questions

Inquiry Questions

As you journey through this resource, you will encounter inquiries that prompt further engagement with the content.

We hope these inquiries offer space to reflect on your own experiences and environments as ways to create meaning and learn about the lives and interpretations of others.

Click on the animated question marks to show the inquiries.

Arts Education, Art and Literacies

Arts learning cultivates inclusive, dynamic literacies by creating multiple access points for learners to both share their stories and perspectives, and engage in ways that are responsive to their needs and preferences.

Arts education and art can center individuals as both creator and observer in an inclusive process that focuses on the necessity of personal and shared decoding and creation.

Q1. What catches your attention in the circle graphic above?

Q2. Where did you start exploring in this graphic? We invite you to try another approach.

Q3. What differences in interpretation exist based on the directionality of the information in the graphic?

Q1. How did you notice yourself reacting to the broad concept of literacies?

Q2. What do you want to know more about?

Q3. What implications might the concept hold for students, teachers, or communities?


Moving away from a single-story approach to learning and exploration enables us to actively seek out the experiences and interpretations of others and to consider narratives, perspectives and access points that are different from our own.

Now that you have journeyed through this resource, we invite you to venture through it again, and think about what you are engaging with in a different way.

Get Involved

This resource is not meant to be a conclusive interpretation on this topic but rather a prompt to activate conversations, ideas and further inquiries. Recognizing that we are all part of a community of people, who are learning and working independently and collectively, this resource will remain responsive and adaptable.
Inquiry Questions

Inquiry Questions

Engage your community in this conversation. Share the resource. Start the conversation. And grow together!

Connect With Us

Your reflections and insights help us build on this work. Please use this form to share your thoughts, ideas, etc., with us!

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Join the conversation on Twitter using @aep_arts and #ArtsEdLiteracies.


The Arts Education Partnership is grateful to the following individuals for participating in the Thinkers Meeting series, for their contributions to this work and for creating with us in this shared learning and collaborative space:

About the Facilitators

Cassandra Quillen

Project Manager

As a project manager for the Arts Education Partnership, Cassandra contributes to reports and publications for the Arts Education Partnership and provides support for AEP convenings. Prior to this position, she worked as a communications specialist at Education Commission of the States and AEP. With an educational background in art history and a strong belief in the transformational qualities of learning, Cassandra is passionate about her work and dedicated to sharing research and resources on the arts in education with stakeholders across the country.

Mary Dell’Erba

Senior Project Manager

As senior project manager for the Arts Education Partnership, Mary oversees project work plans and supports the development of AEP deliverables. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, she worked for the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, where she served in a variety of capacities in programming, administration and policy. With over 20 years of dance training, Mary is passionate about the arts and education

Tom Keily

Senior Policy Analyst

As a senior policy analyst, Tom works on topics relating to connections between education and workforce development, among other P-20 education policy topics. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Tom worked in financial service policy in New York State and taught middle school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tom is dedicated to providing state policymakers with quality research that supports them in making a positive impact on students’ lives.

Title: A Riddle | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: 2280 Pasos Bajo un Cielo Nublado | Artist: Hernán Jourdan | Medium: Film

Title: What Is Me and What Is Not Me | Artist: Alex Chadwell | Medium: Music

My thinking on arts and literacy centers around the concept of literacies and artmaking as both sense-making and meaning-making processes that organically and inevitably overlap, intersect, and reciprocate. Compositionally, What is me and what is not me is a sound collage of sorts (there is no notation for the piece, and I'd be hard pressed to recreate it accurately) that abstractly and aurally represents the relationships between literacies and artmaking.

When I was asked to create a work of art exploring literacy, I wanted to create a dance but I had no dancers or a studio, so I chose to use my own body in the space I had, my yard. Fluent Nature is video of micro-choreography that explores what cannot be expressed with words, how nature has its own language, and how placing the human body in nature changes the story.

Title: False Binaries | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite on paper with digital edits

Title: Tercera Llamada | Artist: Karilú Forshee | Medium: Audio

La Carpa Theatre is a project that I am currently directing in the Detroit Latinx community. The project aims to strengthen and uplift youth voices through devised theatre, in the style of the Mexican Carpas. This audio was created in the theatrical environment envisioned for our project. The ways in which literacies are re-defined are at the heart of La Carpa Theatre's mission.

Title: A Curious Honeybee | Artist: Gideon Young | Medium: Film

Offering welcome through traditional and digital elements of literacy, A Curious Honeybee provides an experiential learning environment by activating visual, musical, natural, and emotional literacies.

Title: Literaseas | Artist: MJ Robinson | Medium: Graphite and ink on paper with digital edits