By Elda Pineda, Senior Education & Programs Manager
P.S. ARTS was founded in 1991 as a response to the massive cuts to arts programs in public schools. We started with 1 school district, 1 school, 285 students and 1 professional artist that had a passion for sharing art with kids. It was an effective and simple model for arts education, and for many years, we stuck with it. Our mission statement then was, “to restore arts education to public schools,” in order to fill a gap until the economy righted itself and the arts were once again part of every child’s education. We were fulfilling our mission and doing it well.
Fast-forward to 2008 and P.S. ARTS is in 5 school districts, working with 26 schools, serving 11,000 students and has 25 Teaching Artists… and the economy is even worse and public schools still don’t include the arts as a core subject. As the demand for our programs continued to increase and the needs of our community were changing, we recognized that we had to change, too. We asked ourselves, “How can we be more efficient? How can we engage more deeply? How can P.S. ARTS better serve our students?”
With the guidance of our Board of Directors (now our Board of Trustees), our Executive Directors and staff put together a strategic plan. We sought input from our stakeholders, our principals, district superintendents, students and their parents. We quickly realized that we do a great job of teaching the arts during school, but a child’s education doesn’t end at 3 o’clock when the last bell of the day rings. Our students are surrounded by teachers and parents and siblings that have even more power to affect their lives than P.S. ARTS has. Shouldn’t we be reaching out to them?
Who We Are Today
Our mission today reads, “P.S. ARTS is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing arts education to underserved public schools and communities.” Our focus is still the provision of high-quality arts education to students in low-income schools, but we also work with the communities in and around our schools to build awareness and appreciation for the arts. How we do it:
- Student Families and School Community: Last year, we held 15 Family Art Nights in our schools’ cafeterias. Students and their families spent 2 hours creating art and learning about the benefits of arts education. This year, 30 Family Art Nights are planned.
- Neighboring School District Communities: Through initiatives like TakePART, P.S. ARTS facilitates partnerships between multiple school districts and encourages districts to work together to align arts curriculum for kindergarten through high school. Last year we held our first annual TakePART Arts Festival, a celebration of student achievement in the arts.
- Arts Community: We want more for our students, but we can’t do it all. So we partner with other nonprofits that provide services that we don’t. Inside Out Community Arts, Harmony Project, Diavolo and The Broad Stage are among our strongest partnerships.
- Online Community: That’s you! If you’re reading this, you’re connected to P.S. ARTS through our social media.
- Volunteer Community: Our newly launched volunteer program had 100 active volunteers that helped out at our festival and Family Art Nights. Comprised of parents, teachers, artists, executives, high school students and more, our volunteer corps has become an invaluable addition to the P.S. ARTS community.
P.S. ARTS of the Future
Since we hope to always respond to the shifting needs of our students, the P.S. ARTS of the future will be different than it is today. The only thing we can say for certain is that we’re never satisfied with “good enough” and we count on you, our P.S. ARTS community, to let us know how we’re doing, how we can help and how we can do more for our schools.