New website gives details on arts education

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A new website was launched Wednesday that gives a glimpse into the art programs at each school, identifying which programs have certified teachers and which outside organizations work inside the school.

The map will help identify schools that lack art resources and add fuel to the argument that more resources are needed, according to organizers.

The map, known as ArtLook was released today by Ingenuity, Inc., a new organization that aims to coordinate different organizations’ arts education efforts around the city.

Among its findings: Schools with an art teacher on staff – which make up 88 percent of the district’s schools – are 12 times more likely than other schools to have ties with outside arts organizations, according to Paul Sznewajs, the group’s executive director. He also notes that schools on the city’s Near West Side and South Side have the fewest art partnerships.

With the longer school day on its way, Sznewajs’ group is collaborating with the CPS Office of Arts Education and reaching out to encourage them to set aside time for arts education, as well as discretionary money to hire arts teachers. On Tuesday, the group will participate in a webinar for principals about the longer school day. 

“What we’d like to see is a doubling of [arts] instructional minutes on a weekly basis in CPS,” Sznewajs says.

One goal of the map is to help existing organizations figure out how to work together and avoid duplicating services.

For instance, Sznewajs says, an organization providing music education for preschool through 3rd-grade students could team up with a group in the same neighborhood that works with 4th– through 8th-graders.

The goal: “Fewer and fewer one-off partnerships,” he says, replaced by those that last “year in and year out.” Former Director of Arts Education David Roche noted in a 2007 Q&A with Catalyst Chicago that partnership programs have often been unstable, disappearing when principals or teachers leave a school.

The map will help arts education nonprofits figure out how to use their resources more effectively, says Jordan LaSalle, director of community programs at Urban Gateways, an arts organization whose programs serve 100,000 young people each year in the Chicago area.

“This helps show us the communities that are lacking the arts, and where other arts organizations are working,” LaSalle says. “Instead of providing redundant services, we can create partnerships with them or move to communities where we’re needed even more.”

Arts and critical thinking

Sznewajs says arts education is particularly important for developing students who can communicate, think critically, and collaborate with others.

Ingenuity, Inc.’s vision of arts education has four components: Making sure every school has at least one full-time arts instructor on staff; using the arts to connect with core subjects and deepen learning; providing students with the opportunity to learn a fine art; and offering out-of-school arts programs.

Right now, it’s not clear how many schools meet all four criteria. However, 82 percent of schools have at least one arts organization offering programs.

“We don’t know the depth of those programs,” Sznewajs says. “Arts partnership programs can come in many forms, some of those being a one-time or twice-a-year performance or field trip.”

Next, the group will analyze how many minutes of arts instruction students are getting per week, as well as what the depth of the arts programs is in each school. It will also create tools to help schools assess what their arts education needs are, and possibly connect with groups that could fill the gap.

Ingenuity Inc. formed in 2011 after 18 months of work by 400 people, including representatives of about 200 arts organizations – most of those working in the city – as well as CPS, foundations and parents. The project, known as Chicago Arts Learning Initiative, was inspired by similar efforts in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.

That project is a continuation of efforts that began in summer 2006, when CPS – at the prompting of a collaborative of foundations, including the Chicago Community Trust – created an Office of Arts Education. Ingenuity, Inc.’s current funders include Boeing, the Chicago Community Trust, the Crown Family Philanthropies, the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, the Joyce Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Milne Family Foundation, and the Polk Bros. Foundation.