White House Hosts Arts Education “Champions of Change”

As part of its Champions of Change initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities, the White House recently hosted 14 Arts Education Champions to discuss the importance of the arts in the education of every child and to share the accomplishments of their schools, programs, and organizations. The group included artists, teachers, principals, superintendents, and arts education organizational leaders. Among the school districts and arts education organizations that attended the July 19 event, several are recipients of Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grants.

Giselle (Gigi) Antoni, as president and CEO of Big Thought in Dallas, Texas, directs a nationally recognized, multi-pronged effort in partnership with the Dallas Independent Schools to ensure that creativity and imagination are a part of everyday learning. Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, better known as CAPE, works with more than 130 schools, providing teaching artists, offering professional development for classroom teachers, and helping arts educators realize their leadership potential through arts integration. In Anne Arundel County, Md., Superintendent Kevin Maxwell supports efforts to develop rigorous and relevant arts-integrated curricula, including federally supported efforts at the Wiley H. Bates Middle School in Annapolis, which was featured earlier this year at a Departmental Education Policy Briefing on the evaluation results of AEMDD grantees.

Following their participation in the Champions of Change discussion, Gigi Antoni reflected on the nationwide need to break down the silos in schools that separate the arts from other core subjects; Amy Rasmussen, executive director of CAPE, highlighted the key ways that her organizations and its partners are working to have the arts play a leading role in transforming education, “particularly for students who have been left behind by traditional schools;” and Superintendent Maxwell discussed the importance of arts integration to meet the challenges of both fostering creativity and imagination and of “link(ing) our educational curriculum to the real-world experiences of students.”

In addition to the AEMDD grants, the Office of Innovation and Improvement manages competitive grants in the Professional Development of Arts Educators Program and, in September, will announce the award of a new grant in the Arts in Education National Program.