Arts Schools Network awarded $8.5 million arts learning grant 

HOUSTON, Texas (October 21, 2021) – Arts Schools Network (ASN) has been awarded an $8.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to strengthen arts educational programming in the nation’s schools. In partnership with the University of South Florida’s (USF) Center for Partnerships in Arts Integrated Teaching (PAInT), the grant was written by PAInT director, Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, and David Flatley, Heather Patay, and the team at Complement Consulting Group.

 Titled “Race, Equity, Arts and Cultural History (REACH),” the grant funds a project that will establish a national, replicable model to strengthen arts learning in U.S. schools, harnessing the effectiveness of arts integration as a catalyst for increasing student engagement and achievement across multiple content areas. The project will be funded over five years.

 Founded in 1981, ASN is a collective group of national arts and education leaders, advocates, and supporters. The organization is working directly with Davis-Cotton to implement this new program.

I am grateful to Denise and the team at Complement Consulting Group who made this grant a reality!” ASN President, Dr. Scott Rudes, expressed his gratitude to Denise and the team at Complement Consulting Group for making this grant a reality: "This award will engage emerging and seasoned teachers, teaching artists, principals and superintendents in K-16 schools around the country in arts-based professional development learning activities. Davis-Cotton’s visionary commitment to racial equity in the arts is the driving force behind this innovative project that seeks to make meaningful and lasting change.” 

“I am delighted to lead this national initiative that will reach hundreds of thousands of students across the country,” Davis-Cotton said. “This project builds upon my desire to promote programs and secure resources in the arts for socio-economically-depressed communities. I am excited to share my leadership experience and motivation to help educators and teaching artists build upon their prior, current and future work in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Davis-Cotton, who founded and served as the first principal of Detroit School of Arts, has long enjoyed a collaborative relationship with ASN, where she previously served as a past president. As director of the USF Center for PAInT, Davis-Cotton has effectively leveraged community partnerships across the state to develop innovative art-based programming.

REACH is a collaborative, evidence-based model designed to provide sustained professional development by creating and disseminating arts-based materials and programming. The initiative will involve a multitude of partners on the national level. One partner, the Education Development Research Institute (ERDI), will provide an avenue for engagement with national thought leaders at the superintendent level exploring ways in which education can improve to better support creativity at all levels of instruction and an inclusive curriculum that reflects the diverse citizenry of the United States.

Participating REACH schools will be representative of the current educational landscape, especially as it relates to underserved students and students with disabilities in traditional public schools, magnet schools, and charter schools in urban and rural settings.

Specifically, the grant affords these demonstration schools – including the William Monroe Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication (Elementary) and the William Monroe Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication (Middle), both in Bradenton; the Chicago-based Arts In Motion middle and high schools; and the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics school in Grand Haven – to serve as national models to design instructional practices on racial and cultural equity, while implementing arts education, arts integration, and cultural initiatives in classrooms.

 “I look forward to working with Denise and the many others partnering with ASN for the work included in this project,” said Dr. R. Scott Allen, Interim Managing Director of the Arts Schools Network. “The grant is poised to have a significant impact as Davis-Cotton anticipates it will annually serve 4,000 students, 150 teacher leaders and 100 teaching artists, arts educators, principals, and superintendents per year.”

Flatley, who will serve as lead consultant for the initiative has been deeply engaged in the arts-integration movement since the early ’90s. He commented that “this project seeks to establish replicable best practices around inquiry-based curriculum development and delivery that embrace both the effectiveness of arts integration as well as the importance of cultural inclusion and democracy. 

“The diversity of institutions ensures that our practices can be translated to other contexts and support the development of an effective replication of the model,” Flatley continued. “The lens with which professional development and curriculum will be designed, through the arts, will be a culturally responsive one: exploring race and issues of equity, as well as unpacking hidden histories often not included in today’s curriculum.”