President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Partners with Turnaround Arts CA to Expand Turnaround Arts into 2 LA County Schools

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 10:29am

LogoPresident’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) co-chairs George Stevens Jr. and Margo Lion today announced the expansion of PCAH’s successful Turnaround Arts initiative – a program designed to help turn around low-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap, and increase student engagement through the arts.  The program is expanding to 6 additional states this year including ten California schools. The Committee also announced that Turnaround Artists including Jason Mraz, Forest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, Frank Gehry, Rashida Jones, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Marc Anthony, Tim Robbins, Chad Smith and Russell Simmons will “adopt” California Turnaround Arts schools and work directly with students to support their arts education.

"Every child should have access to art and creativity in school. No matter what career path they choose, this creative play sets them up to trust their instincts, believe in themselves and to solve problems,” says world-renowned architect and artist mentor Frank Gehry. “I was afforded this as a child, and it changed my life.”

Turnaround Arts is funded through a public-private partnership, receiving more than $5 million over the next three years from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and other private foundations and companies to bring arts education into low-performing schools.  Local program partners will provide an additional $12 million to hire new arts and music teachers; bring teaching artists, art supplies and music instruments into schools; and support arts integration into other core subject areas such as reading, math and science.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Chair of the President’s Committee said, “The Turnaround Arts program has exceeded not just our expectations, but our wildest hopes and dreams.  With the help of this program and some School Improvement Grants, math and reading scores have gone up in these schools…attendance is up, enrollment is up…parent engagement is up…suspensions have plummeted…and two of the schools in our pilot improved so dramatically that they are no longer in turnaround status.  And today, the students in these schools are engaged in their education like never before.”

In California, Turnaround Arts CA will be the local program partner for Turnaround Arts, working directly in California schools statewide. Los Angeles County schools selected for the Turnaround Arts program include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary and Warren Lane Elementary. These schools will receive arts education training and resources like arts supplies, music instruments, teacher training, and funding for partnerships with community arts education and cultural organizations to address individual school needs.  High-profile artists will also “adopt” Turnaround Arts schools for the length of the program, working with students, schools and; communities to highlight their success. 

“This is an exciting time for Turnaround Arts CA and the schools we will be serving,” states Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Executive Director of Turnaround Arts CA, who flew with Gehry to take part in the Turnaround Arts ceremony held at the White House. “California is unique among the Turnaround Arts affiliates participating due to the fact that we have a high level of diversity across California. These students benefit the most from arts education and too often get the least access."

In May 2012, the President’s Committee, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, launched Turnaround Arts as a pilot program in eight “turnaround schools” across the country—public schools in the lowest-achieving five percent of their state that are receiving School Improvement Grants through the U.S. Department of Education. Over the last two years, Turnaround Arts  has brought intensive arts education resources and expertise into the pilot schools and worked with school leadership to incorporate the arts a part of their reform strategy. Interim evaluation results show that participating schools are demonstrating improved academic performance, increased student and parent engagement and improved culture and climate. 

“We are proud of the progress Turnaround Arts schools have made so far and thrilled to be able to expand the program into more schools across the country,” said PCAH Vice-Chair Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “Thanks to the hard work of our artists, program partners and school educators, we have been able to demonstrate that high quality arts education can positively change young lives and turn around failing schools.”

The expanded program will be working in 35 schools in districts in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Washington D.C., with plans to expand to up to 60 schools across the country. Studies show that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPA/SAT scores, are more engaged and cooperative with teachers and peers, and are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas. These benefits are particularly pronounced in high-poverty, low-performing schools. 

California Turnaround Artists join other artists across the country who have committed to work in Turnaround Arts schools.  These include Chad Smith, Clarence Greenwood (aka Citizen Cope), Doc Shaw, Elizabeth Banks, Elton John, Josh Groban, the Silk Road Ensemble and Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty). These artists join PCAH members who are currently working with the program, including Alfre Woodard, Chuck Close, Damian Woetzel, John Lloyd Young, Kerry James Marshall, Sarah Jessica Parker and Yo-Yo Ma.

National partners in Turnaround Arts include the  U.S. Department of Education, National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford  Foundation,  the  Herb  Alpert  Foundation,  the Rosenthal Family Foundation,  the Keith Haring Foundation, Crayola  LLC,  the  National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation and Music Theater International. The program is administered in partnership with Americans for the Arts.  Local program partners include:  Academy of Urban School Leadership, Chicago, IL; Boston Public Schools, Boston, MA; CREATE CA, Los Angeles, CA; Des Moines Public Schools, Des Moines, IA; George Rodriguez Foundation of the Arts, Baton Rouge, LA; and Perpich Center for Arts Education, Minneapolis, MN. 

Participating schools were competitively selected by program partners according to national guidelines. Selection criteria included demonstrated need and opportunity, strong school leadership with district support and a commitment to arts education. Turnaround Arts schools represent elementary and middle schools from across the country and encompass a diversity of student demographics and urban and rural settings. In California, they are:


  1. Avenal Elementary, Kings County
  2. Barton Elementary, San Bernardino County
  3. Burbank Elementary, Alameda County
  4. Burbank Elementary, San Diego County
  5. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Los Angeles County
  6. El Camino Real Science and Technology Academy, Monterey County
  7. Hoopa Valley Elementary, Humboldt County
  8. John C. Fremont Elementary, San Joaquin County
  9. Meadow Homes Elementary, Contra Costa County
  10. Warren Lane Elementary, Los Angeles County


For a complete list of Turnaround Arts schools in the U.S., please visit