The establishment of Arts for All represented achievements in data collection, fundraising, and infrastructure building by dedicated leaders. The most important achievement was that school districts in Los Angeles County began aligning themselves with Arts for All and developing and implementing plans to improve arts education. – “Revitalizing Arts Education Through Community-Wide Coordination” RAND Corporation, sponsored by The Wallace Foundation
“Crazy quilt” to shared leadership
When Los Angeles County arts groups came together in late 1990s to address arts education, they realized there was no County-wide data on the subject. They commissioned a study, Arts in Focus: Los Angeles Countywide Arts Education Survey, released in May 2001. It provided the first comprehensive look at arts education in the nation’s largest and most diverse county, encompassing 88 municipalities and 81 school districts. Arts in Focus revealed a crazy quilt of arts education activity with some good things happening in a few places but many barriers at the school district level. There was no central body to coordinate a comprehensive effort to deliver high-quality arts education across the region.
The Los Angeles County Arts Commission hired arts education staff and led a process of engaging a broad range of stakeholders in defining the collaborative’s goals and securing their adoption by County-wide entities. Since Arts for All’s launch in 2002, the collaborative’s extensive network of regional partners has grown to more than 100. Arts for All’s broad base of support and region-wide approach have made it a national model for restoring standards-based arts education in the core curriculum as cited by the RAND Corporation, Wallace Foundation and Boeing Charitable Trust.
Arts for All history
Arts for All had its origins in a late 1990s meeting of Arts for LA, a consortium of leaders of Los Angeles County arts institutions, large and small. These pioneers sought to identify critical issues that could be addressed only by the arts community as a whole. Arts education was one of the issues identified. The ad hoc Los Angeles Arts Education Task Force convened by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission met for the first time in 1999 and commissioned a study on the state of arts education in County K-12 public schools. Arts in Focus: Los Angeles Countywide Arts Education Survey, released in May 2001, was the first comprehensive look at arts education in the nation’s most populous county.
The findings were sobering. Arts in Focus revealed the inequitable delivery of arts education activity across the County, with some good things happening in a few places but many significant barriers at the district level. There was no centralized body to focus on arts education and coordinate a comprehensive effort to deliver a high-quality education that included the arts for every K-12 student in the County. The study provided the baseline data needed to move forward.
In response to Arts in Focus and seeded by a California Arts Council grant, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission hired arts education staff and formed a Los Angeles County Arts Education Advisory Group to develop the collaborative’s goals and strategies through an 18-month planning process. To help guide the development of and broaden support for Arts for All, eight community forums were held early in 2002 with 150 policy makers, implementers and recipients of arts education. In 2002, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Office of Education and Arts Commission adopted Arts for All’s goals and the collaboration was launched.
Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at an Arts for All Progress Report meeting.