Madison joins Any Given Child youth arts program

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Volunteer docent John Young leads a group of third-grade students from Madison’s Emerson Elementary School on a tour of artwork at the Chazen Museum of Art. — Photo: Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison students will find more art in the schools this year — lots of it, in all forms.

In July 2013, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., chose Madison as the 12th city to take part in its Any Given Child program. It seeks to improve elementary and middle school arts education, combining resources of the school district, local arts groups and the Kennedy Center.

“All of our Madison Metropolitan School District students need involvement in the arts as an outlet for creative expression and a pathway to success in the 21st-century world and workforce,” says Ann Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, an arts-advocacy nonprofit. “That’s why it really is a great thing that Madison was chosen to participate in this national program.”

The involvement of Kennedy Center and its ongoing partnership “is crucial as we continue to work to foster creativity confidence in our children,” says Mayor Paul Soglin. “Madison remains deeply committed to equity and equality in our schools and neighborhoods. That certainly includes access to and appreciation for the arts regardless of status or income.”

With the assistance of Kennedy Center staff and other professionals, community leaders have been developing a long-range plan. A comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources was conducted, and recommendations were recently made to provide a tapestry of arts education by strategically weaving assets together. The Kennedy Center is making its resources available, including professional development opportunities for teachers and teaching-artists, as well as online interactive learning for students.

“This past summer, a program committee comprised of teachers and community members has been working to identify, in more detail, what the elements of an arts-rich K-8 education might be,” says Barbara Schrank, chair of the Madison Arts Commission. “The results of the community committee and the program committee will be shared with the larger Madison community this fall.”

Other communities taking part in the program have been able to add arts teachers in schools, raise significant dollars for performance and museum experiences, and coordinate the efforts of arts organizations providing education programs so that more students are served. 

“There’s been a lot of support and involvement from the city, school district, Overture Center (for the Arts) and so many other community partners, to move this forward,” Katz says. “The result of this program over time will be a strong and sustainable infrastructure for learning through the arts and creativity, and more opportunities for participation in the arts for all Madison students.”

“As a member of the community committee this past year, I’m encouraged with the progress I’ve seen so far, and I look forward to seeing an art-rich curriculum develop further,” Schrank adds.

Other communities taking part in the program include Baltimore, Maryland; Sacramento and Fresno, California; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas.

For more information about Any Given Child, visit kennedy-center.org.

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