A Letter from the President of the American AcademyBack to table of contents
“This report offers a clarion call to parents, teachers, and governments at the national, state, and local level to recognize the vital role arts education plays in developing empathetic, well-rounded, and civically engaged individuals who are prepared to be active members of their communities and participants in our democracy.”
—David W. Oxtoby
The arts are facing a grave threat as this report goes to press. As the report shows, arts education was sorely underresourced even before the pandemic arrived, and that was before educators had to deliver their work through computer screens—a poor substitute for the group and student-teacher dynamics that are so essential to an arts education. And as we look to the future, the devastating financial effects from the pandemic threaten the local and state funding streams that underwrite classes in the subject. The Commission on the Arts was established in the fall of 2018 to address the first issue, but the events of the past year underscore the precarious nature of arts education in our nation’s schools. This report offers a clarion call to parents, teachers, and governments at the national, state, and local level to recognize the vital role arts education plays in developing empathetic, well-rounded, and civically engaged individuals who are prepared to be active members of their communities and participants in our democracy.
Although the arts are an integral part of the membership of the Academy, this is the first Commission and the first report to directly address their interests and concerns. The Commission is led by three indefatigable cochairs—John Lithgow, Deborah Rutter, and Natasha Trethewey—and the arts education work of the Commission has been developed and overseen by a working group chaired by Rod Bigelow and Roberta Uno and comprised of Louise Bryson, Paula Giddings, Olivia Gude, Vicky Holt Takamine, Brian Kisida, and Angela LaPorte.
This report reflects the invaluable efforts of two Commission members in particular, Brian Kisida and Angela LaPorte, who prepared the initial draft with assistance from members of the Academy staff. Their draft was then reviewed and revised, following a series of roundtable discussions with leaders and advocates in the field, by the cochairs and members of the Commission. We are deeply grateful for all their efforts.
Virtual listening sessions with educators, artists, administrators, organizational leaders, scholars and researchers, parents, and students were essential to the report’s development. Alongside those conversations, we gained crucial perspectives from the personal reflections we received in response to a public call for stories about the impact of arts education. We thank all who shared with us or aided in this effort. Your stories inspired us and further affirmed the need for equitable, high-quality arts education in every student’s life.
We also owe our thanks to the funders who have made the work of the Commission possible: the Barr Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and Roger and Victoria Sant. Thanks also go to the members of the Academy staff who served this Commission and shepherded this report to publication: Allentza Michel, Mary Lyons, Tania Munz, Jessica Taylor, Robert Townsend, Paul Erickson, Gabriela Farrell, Phyllis Bendell, Peter Walton, Heather Struntz, and Scott Raymond.
David W. Oxtoby
President, American Academy of Arts and Sciences