Ready. Set. Be an Arts Ed Advocate!

Tara StaffordIt's back-to-school season. For us here at Arts for LA, that means it's time to launch our pilot arts education advocacy teams in 5 school districts by getting YOU and your communities involved!

A lot of exciting developments have taken place since my last blog entry. In partnership with Arts for All and their, 5 school districts have been invited to participate in the 3 new Arts for All initiatives

The three Arts for All initiatives include;

1. The Leadership Fellow Program. This program will bring three high-level leaders from each of the 5 school districts together in a professional development setting in order to build their understanding of quality, access, and equity in arts education and to share best practices.

2. Evaluation. Arts for All will work with the Griffin Center for Inspired Instruction and the 5 school districts to design and pilot a system to collect data that will address gaps in knowledge such as the number of students engaged in arts education, the quality of the instruction and the equitable distribution of arts instruction. This data will then be shared with stakeholders and key decision makers.

3. Developing Community Advocates. Arts for LA is the lead partner on this piece. The purpose of this initiative is to bring together, train, and develop a dynamic group of community members - parents, students, community and civic leaders, arts organizations, and business leaders - to advocate for and monitor the implementation of long-range plans and programs for arts education in the school districts.

The 5 school districts we'll be partnering with are:

Burbank USD
Culver City USD
Montebello USD
Paramount USD
Santa Monica-Malibu USD

During the last several weeks, Arts for LA and Arts for All have met with District leadership, and we are thrilled to announce that they are all enthusiastically on board and ready to launch!

We are now in the process of reaching out to the communities in these districts and setting up the first team meetings. We have been and will be going to District Advisory committee meetings, PTA meetings, Community Arts Team meetings, open houses, community events, chambers of commerce meetings, and other local commission meetings in order to generate support for and interest in participating on the advocacy teams.

We have also been hard at work developing virtual meeting places for these teams through an on-line chapter system right here on our site. You can find the advocacy team portal here.

This is the opportunity for you to leverage your voice and spend your energy in a meaningful way. We want you to play a part in this exciting initiative!

So get in touch, join a team, or better yet, come to one of the first meetings. You can find the dates, times, and locations for the meetings that have been set up below. We will update this as more meetings are scheduled.

Burbank USD

September 22nd
9-11am, and again at 6-8pm
Cartoon Network
300 North 3rd Street
Burbank, CA

Culver City USD

September 29st
Actors' Gang Theatre
Ivy Substation
9070 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA

Paramount USD

September 25th
Progress Park
15500 Downey Blvd
Paramount, CA

Santa Monica-Malibu USD

September 24th
District office Board testing room
1651 16th St
Santa Monica, CA 90404


More arts please. Too many schools are dumping their arts program and its a terrible idea. It should be promoted.

colleague from other coast

Hi, I'm Gretchen Walker from Philadelphia's Arts Rising, an arts for youth initiative in Philadelphia. I'll be following & learning from the steps you all take in trying to ramp up community support and advocacy for arts ed in Philly. Ciao for now.

colleague from other coast

Hi, I'm Gretchen Walker from Philadelphia's Arts Rising, an arts for youth initiative in Philadelphia. I'll be following & learning from the steps you all take in trying to ramp up community support and advocacy for arts ed in Philly. Ciao for now.

September 24th meeting follow-up

Dear Tara,
It was wonderful to see so people from the arts community attend the September 24th meeting!  Some of them have been regular attendees at the monthly "Arts for All" meetings over the past 6 years, and others have not. As a result, not all the attendees are familiar with the "Arts for All" 9-year strategic plan which the committee developed, and which the SMMUSD Board of Education adopted in January 2005. It's posted at
I wish that I had the "Introduction" to the plan on my computer so I could include it in this letter. Written by Kathryn Kert Green and another AFA committee member, it beautifully encapsulates many of the ideas we discussed at the September 24th meeting.

Re "Arts for All" benchmarks for a sustainable arts education program, SMMUSD has achieved the following:
1. an arts education policy adopted by the Board of Education
2. an arts education plan adopted by the Board of Education (our 9-year plan)
3. an district arts education coordinator (our VAPA Coordinator, Tom Whaley)
4. a ratio of at least one credentialed arts teacher per 400 students enrolled in the district
The one benchmark the district has not met is devoting at least 5% of the general fund budget to arts education programs. This percentage has increased from 3.4 to 3.7% over the last few years (I think primarily because of the state Music and Arts Block grant).
So, regarding the categories upon which we were attempting to reach consensus on September 24th (Challeneges, Slutions, Goal, Strategies), and keeping in mind the Board-adopted "Arts for All" plan, I offer the following as a draft:
1. Challenges

  a. Short-term: Due to the current budget crisis, the need to protect the existing VAPA programs from funding cuts in 2010-2011. (For example, Elementary Music teachers could be proposed for elimination, as two of them were in February 2009.)
   b. Long-term: Inadequate funding to make the the "Arts for All" 9-year strategic plan a reality. The plan, adopted by the Board of Education in 2005, would provide equitable access to sequential standards-based VAPA instruction (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts) for all PreK-12 students in SMMUSD.
2. Solutions - Through community advocacy, persuade potential funders/decision-makers to provide adequate funding. Funders/decision-makers could include the following:
   a. Board of Education
   b. Big donors -- corporations, foundations, individuals -- (Re Joyce Smith's suggestion, review the extensive efforts of the "For The Arts" Steering Committee so we don't waste time trying to re-invent the wheel.)
   c. Smaller donors -- parents, other community members, small business owners
   d. Other governmental bodies -- City Council, State Legislature, and Governor
3. Goal

   a. Short-term -- Maintain current district VAPA funding for 2010-2011.
   b. Long term:
       1) Persuade the Board of Education, once the current budget crisis is past, to increase VAPA funding to include a districtwide Visual Arts program for grades 4 and 5 and to increase support for Dance and Theatre programs.
      2) Raise $(TBD)for the "For The Arts" endowment so it can fund current or updated goals.
      3) Advocate at the state level for increased PreK -12 education funding and for again limiting Music & Arts Block Grant expenditures to arts education.
4. Strategies

  a.  Communication with the Board of Education - speak at Board meetings (agendas posted at, 3-minute time limit for public comment)  and e-mail (Brd at

  b. Public Relations
      1) Create a website (Wendy McGinty's suggestion) with information about both school district and community arts events.
      2) E-mail blasts - The Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division used to send out a weekly e-mail blast called "The Palette" which highlighted a half dozen arts-related events, sometimes including school concerts, musicals, art exhibits. Hamp Simmons recently retired, so we don't know if "The Palette" will continue.
      3) Press releases to local newspapers to generate both articles and editorials
      4) Letters-to-the-editors of local newspapers:
        Santa Monica Daily Press -  
        Santa Monica Mirror --  (online only)  (online only)  
        The Argonaut --   
      5) CityTV -- Robin.Gee at
      6) Seascape (city quarterly) -- Rachel.Waugh at
  c. State government - Governor Schwarzenegger, State Senator Fran Pavley (former teacher), Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (former SMMUSD parent and Board of Education member, she serves on the Assembly Education Committee), Superintendent for Public Instruction Jack O'Connell
Best regards,

Zina Josephs
SMMUSD Arts for All Committee

Hi, so... If I don't get it

Hi, so... If I don't get it wrong these meetings are to build teams for advocacy. I live closer to Santa Monica-Culver but I could participate in Paramount, is it worth? or topics discussed have more to do w/ the particular district? By the way, I've done the Arts for All training in 2007(dance) and I am looking to find more schools where to teach. thanks

Keep me in the know

Support the Arts so I can open doors for future even, because I have the influence and desire as an artist myself. Cordially Phil Correa