Public Policy Forum Blog

A Year of the Arts for Every Child

When MPS staged a recent celebration to kick off the 2017-18 school year as the Year of the Arts, we could trace the moment, in part, to a research project we concluded in April 2014, called Every Child is an Artist. About a year and a half ago, we described a groundswell of stakeholder activity in response to the report.  

Key developments since our last update include:

  • Through the activity of work groups and generous pro bono branding services from two local communications firms, this city-wide collaborative assumed a new name, Cre8MKE, along with its own logo and website, raising the profile and public awareness of its work.
  • A crucial lever to expanding access to arts education is the quantity and quality of educators who are equipped to engage students in creative learning experiences. 
    To this end, efforts are underway to inventory and disseminate existing local arts-education professional development assets for both arts and regular classroom teachers. In addition, Cre8MKE partners from MPS, UWM, Cardinal Stritch, Lynden Sculpture Garden, and Arts@Large secured a three-year $370,000 grant to develop, support, and retain a pipeline of certified visual art teachers to staff schools throughout the city for years to come.
  • In the same vein, MPS devoted a major portion of its annual principals’ institute to discussion of the value of the arts and creativity in the learning process. Throughout the 2017-18 school year, MPS has structured professional development for all of its teachers to focus on integrating the arts, creativity, and design principles into all classroom subjects. In addition, schools will be eligible to receive up to $1,000 per classroom from the MPS Foundation to bring students out into the community to experience arts and cultural offerings.
  • To establish a baseline measure of MPS arts education access, funding, and staffing needs, Cre8MKE conducted a survey of MPS schools. Among its findings, the assessment pointed to a relatively high need for more arts teachers in elementary schools, overall support for arts education from school and district leaders, a need to expand arts-related professional development, and a perception that schools face high barriers to being able to contract with community arts organizations to bring their offerings to MPS students. Additionally, through interviews with over a dozen arts education stakeholders, Cre8MKE documented a history and timeline of past arts education efforts in Milwaukee. Both the needs assessment and history will help guide ongoing strategic planning, programming, and data-collection efforts.
  • Cre8MKE formed a partnership with UNCOM to leverage Bader Philanthropies support to systematically match youth-serving organizations with arts programs that address their individual needs – expanding arts experiences to youth across the city.
  • The Cre8MKE network was a catalyst in the selection of MPS for three competitive national arts education programs – the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities national school reform initiative Turnaround Arts, an early childhood arts integration professional development program through Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, and intensive arts integration teacher training through Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program (in collaboration with First Stage).

Among their earliest efforts, Cre8MKE leaders envisioned a Year of the Arts celebration and public awareness campaign to launch a long-term collective effort to enhance arts education opportunities for Milwaukee’s students. With Cre8MKE serving as convener, consultant, and collaborator, MPS has actively adopted Year of the Arts, elevating access
to the arts and embracing creativity as part of the learning experience for every MPS child.

As these and other developments make clear, Cre8MKE, as a community-wide effort, has taken several instrumental steps toward its vision of a “Milwaukee where all children and youth engage in arts education experiences that unlock their power to envision and create a just and thriving community.” We will continue to keep the community informed as the collective impact of this effort unfolds.

Anne Chapman