NEA Arts Magazine

Connecting Young People to the Arts

The NEA and Arts Education


Girl drawing a nude figure

Drawing from life is an essential component of the curriculum at Ryman Arts, part of the Los Angeles-based organization's Saturday studio classes. Photo courtesy of Ryman Arts.

The situation of arts education in the United States is serious. When schools drop the arts from their curricula, more and more children are left without the transformative power of the arts.

Arts education offers enormous benefits to this country's students, helping them to develop their creativity, ingenuity, and innovation. As NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said in his commencement speech at Stanford University, "The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society."

The National Endowment for the Arts has been addressing the need for arts education for more than 40 years. Projects funded by the NEA connect young people to the arts in profound ways, and often for the first time. These projects engage students in arts training and appreciation classes as well as explore other academic subjects through a study of the arts. The students learn about the arts, but, more important, they learn to think critically and act creatively.

The projects featured in this issue represent a fraction of the hundreds of arts education opportunities the Arts Endowment supports each year in communities nationwide.

The NEA also supports professional development opportunities to train teachers how to best incorporate the arts into their classroom curricula. In fact, next March, the NEA and the Illinois Arts Council will convene a three-day education leaders institute, in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Arts Alliance, to give school leaders, legislators, policy makers, educators, and scholars a forum in which to discuss arts and education.

In addition to Learning in the Arts grants, the NEA also includes stellar arts education components in National Initiatives programs, such as NEA Jazz in the Schools, a component of NEA Jazz Masters; Poetry Out Loud, a national high school recitation program; and Shakespeare for a New Generation, which brings professional theater productions to students throughout the country.

In the following pages, we introduce you to some of the exceptional programs that are making a difference for students and their communities.

Sarah Bainter Cunningham, Ph.D.
Director, Learning in the Arts