Elevator Chat: Pat Cruz, Chief Innovation Officer, Young Audiences of Maryland
Pat Cruz is Young Audiences of Maryland Inc., (YA) Chief Innovation Officer, which recently received an Arts Education $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), that will support the Northern Anne Arundel County (NAAC) Equity Initiative. This collective art education impact project will support improved academic outcomes, increased parent involvement, and improve teacher retention. Below she discusses what YA will do with the NEA grant.
YA, the nation’s largest arts education network, began in Baltimore in 1950. During its 65-year history, the Maryland affiliate of Young Audiences has expanded its services to Maryland students, teachers, and artists to give more students the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.
Today, YA’s roster of more than 100 professional teaching artists provided 12,000 arts learning experiences to more than 450 schools and community organizations at every Maryland school district, reaching nearly 170,000 students.
MSAC: Has Young Audiences of Maryland, Inc., received an NEA grant of this size in the past?
PC: YA has never received a grant of this size from the NEA, although we have received smaller NEA grants that were primarily in support of our Rural Access for All initiative providing discounted arts programs to schools and community centers in rural communities. We recognize that the majority of the state’s professional teaching artists live/work in the highly populated Baltimore-Washington Corridor, making time/travel expenses costly to rural schools, libraries, and other organizations. Similarly, bussing students to arts experiences can be prohibitively expensive. To address these barriers, YA raises private and public funds – including NEA funds – to subsidize programs in Maryland’s rural areas.
MSAC: How will this grant help the Northern Anne Arundel County (NAAC) Equity Initiative?
PC: The Art Education grant is a planning grant, and supports the launch of the NAAC Equity Initiative. This planning period will allow us to focus on three tasks in the coming year:
- Increasing our understanding of the unique needs and resources of the targeted schools in Northern Anne Arundel County, and give YA access to the fine arts and to arts-integrated teaching and current school performance measures.
- Building a community around this initiative, and encouraging school and community participation in the planning and decision-making process.
- Increasing fine arts and arts integration resources and programming in schools and communities.
Much of 2016 will consist of the gathering and analysis of school data, the creation of focus groups and other community convening opportunities. All of the organizations involved unite in their belief in the power of the arts to have a positive impact on both schools and the greater community. The year also will include planning and learning, with an increase in fine arts and arts integration resources and programming throughout the year. The NEA supports the contracting of a professional evaluator, who will analyze the baseline data we collect, as well as monitor and expand the impact of the fine arts and arts integration opportunities we provide.
MSAC: Why are arts learning experiences so important to provide to Maryland’s youth in our schools and community centers?
PC: What a great question! Learning in, though, and about the arts, creates inspired learning environments in which children are motivated to take part in their own education. The arts have the unique ability to empower students to think creatively and engage in the learning of all subjects in a new way. Research shows that all children – and particularly children at risk of academic failure – are more likely to thrive in schools that make time for the arts and utilize arts integration, the practice of using the arts to teach classroom subjects.
MSAC: Please give examples of Young Audiences of Maryland programs that engage children in schools and community centers.
PC: YA provides nearly 200 arts-integrated programs, led by professional teaching artists that bring creativity and excitement to the classroom and encourage children to take part in their own education. These programs range from performances to long term artist-in-residence programs led by artists who practice a variety of disciplines, from ballet to pantomime theater to screen painting.