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Every Child is an Artist: Arts education in Milwaukee and insights from other cities

In this report, a follow-up to our June 2013 report: Community-led Arts Education Models in the U.S.: Potential Lessons for Milwaukee, we use a case study approach to delve deeper into the underlying mechanics and structural factors of four successful models: Boston’s BPS Arts Expansion Initiative, Dallas’ Big Thought, Denver’s Think 360 Arts, and Portland’s The Right Brain Initiative.

The report begins by viewing these four models in the aggregate, with primary emphasis on the common processes and key factors by which they engage the community, build momentum, and achieve large-scale reach and impact. Using insights gained from these four case studies, brief research on other cities’ models, and a review of best practices literature, we distill our observations into a conceptual map, or logic model, that provides a snapshot of the general structure and approach underlying successful, sustainable community-wide arts education frameworks. Applying the map to the four cities then allows us to briefly discuss some of the distinctive factors of success in each.

We then provide an overview of the extensive array of arts education efforts already in place in Greater Milwaukee. To do so, we use the conceptual map of large-scale arts education systems to structure an analysis of the major contours of the current state of arts education by highlighting representative examples of Milwaukee’s assets and strengths, as well as areas where there appear to be gaps or room for growth. This report’s emphasis on systemic approaches, it should be noted, is only one type of lens through which to examine the status of arts education in Milwaukee. Smaller-scale approaches abound here and elsewhere, and they can carry advantages relative to centralized, large-scale approaches.

Overall, we seek to inform Milwaukee policymakers and stakeholders about ways in which they might look to established models to generate ideas about how to enhance the quality and availability of arts education in Milwaukee. It is hoped that this report – combined with our earlier research – will be used to guide a community-wide dialogue about the value of arts education and the appropriate role of civic leaders, school districts, schools, arts organizations, artists, funders, business leaders, parents, and other stakeholders in pursuing and implementing systemic improvement.