A drawing of three women in an array of different colors and patterns.Arts Ed Collaborative one of five Young Audiences grant recipients

Arts Ed Collaborative is honored to be one of five recipients of Young Audience’s Audience Development Fund (ADF) grants for 2021! Our ADF award will support work on an emerging theory of change and an update of our school district self-assessment program through a Culturally Responsive Arts Education (CRAE)/Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) lens. This year’s ADF awards all support projects with a racial equity-centered approach.

“At the heart of the ADF grant program is the expectation that the entire YA Network will benefit from the organizational development of each affiliate, which in turn will advance our collective impact on the young people we serve,” says David A. Dik, National Executive Director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning. “We are excited to move forward on this journey toward greater equity as a network.”

Research has suggested that combining CRAE with SEL increases the likelihood that diverse students are fully seen, teachers acknowledge a range of readiness-to-learn behaviors, and all students can navigate a complex, culturally diverse world. As part of this project, we plan to increase staff capacity in CRAE/SEL, authentically integrate culturally responsive practices, and apply this framework to redesign self-assessment, one of our foundational school district programs.

Self-assessment has been a mainstay of our work since 2007. We’ve engaged with a districts throughout Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, and other Southwestern PA counties to study their arts programs, amplify evidence-based commendations and recommendations, and identify concrete next steps for improving learning opportunities. Over the past two years, AEC staff have implicitly brought culturally responsive practices to school districts facilitations. This ADF grant will help make these implicit practices explicit to our team and our district partners.

AEC is particularly interested in ensuring that Black students benefit from the kinds of learning opportunities they deserve since they are currently experiencing the largest opportunity gaps and negative school outcomes (e.g., Black students are disproportionately represented among out of school suspensions). One goal for this work is for Black students and other students who hold minority identities to benefit from diverse arts learning opportunities that include:

  • Schools offering classes in more art disciplines and/or new courses that expand beyond the Western European canon
  • Diversity of partnership types (e.g., residencies, field trips, etc.)
  • Partnerships with BIPOC-led organizations
  • Diversity of arts educators’ identities
  • Works of art and artists represent a range of identity categories, such as arts discipline, culture, race, geographic region, and time period

“Arts learning develops creativity and the capacity to respond to the unexpected,” said Yael Silk. “These capacities are desperately needed during our current crises and are critical for building a multi-racial democracy.”

Arts Ed Collaborative is looking forward to advancing this work. We’ll continue to advocate for a well-rounded education grounded in arts learning opportunities both during and after the COVID-19 crisis. Please get in touch with to learn more about how we can support arts education in your district!