Leveraging Change: Improving Access to Arts Education for Rural Communities

North Adams, MA

Contact Name
Lisa Donovan
Project Dates
January 2015- January 2016
Research, Policy, Networking
In creative economy conversations, arts education is rarely mentioned. If it is, it tends to be slated to the margins of the work. Two generations have now graduated from educational systems with limited access to arts education. Leveraging Change is an attempt to reverse this trend.
If young people do not have access to arts education, the creative sector will not be as fully developed. This gap in how creative economy is being conceived of and implemented will eventually catch up with us as a field. Through a combination of research and training this program will share best practices to help rural communities partner with multiple stakeholders in their regions to increase access to arts education through effective policy development and providing arts education experiences.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Ultimately this project seeks to increase access to arts education in rural communities. We will use the principals of Collective Impact to research and synthesize promising practices, and design user-friendly tools to support systemic change in building greater access to arts education in rural areas.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Working collaboratively, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Vermont Arts Council, and the Berkshire Readiness Center will add to the emerging body of literature on rural arts education initiatives by examining and compiling best practices in rural areas of the U.S. that have been successful in increasing access to arts education, and will assess these practices
through the lens of the creative economy.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Work done in the Berkshire Region and rural Vermont helped to inspire this project.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The project is launching in January 2015.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
This is a new project and we look forward to synthesizing best practices and sharing them with the field.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Funding has just been received from the National Endowment for the Arts which has enabled us to launch this initial pilot stage.
We anticipate that additional funding will be needed to support the project as it unfolds.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The new Collective Impact funding from the NEA helped to launch this initiative as well as the support of the many project partners.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Leverage the strengths of cross sector partnerships
Make use of policy as a tool for increasing access to arts education
Draw from best practices in similar contexts to mobilize your local efforts.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
We anticipate a more expansive understanding of the creative economy as a result of this project.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We have developed the following short and long term indicators for success: SHORT-TERM OUTCOMES (1)Increased cross-sector coordination; (2)Creation of common agenda, coordination and resource development across stakeholder groups for increased arts education access;(3)New methods for shared measurement of arts education data across stakeholder groups;(4)Identification of differentiated approaches across sectors that support the common goal of improvements to arts education access; (5)Use of online tools to advocate for improved arts education policy;(6)Use of exemplars or tools presented in pilot training to inspire new programs or initiatives.
LONG-TERM OUTCOMES: Pilot groups will be able to leverage cross sector work to enact vision for arts education in a strategic plan. Pilots will assess the use of tools and achievement of identified benchmarks through an online survey administered 1 year out from the pilot trainings (after project ends).
How did you measure this success or progress?
see above
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
None at this time.

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