The Case for Arts Education

An Executive Summary of recommendations in a report of the Commission on the Arts

The arts should stand at the heart of a strong public education, and yet, access to arts education has declined in recent years and shows clear racial disparities. Art for Lifes Sake: A Case for Arts Education, a report released by the Commission on the Arts, at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, calls on parents, teachers, and governments at the national, state, and local level to recognize the value of arts education and put in place changes that will assure access to every student.

Over the course of its work, the Academy’s Commission on the Arts gathered personal narratives from students, parents, teachers, and other Americans about their experiences with arts education and considered them alongside other research into its benefits. The Commission found ample evidence for the attributes, values, and skills that come from arts education, including social and emotional development, improvements in school engagement, as well as more vital civic and social engagement. While 88% of Americans agree that arts education is an essential component of a well-rounded education, a range of indicators document a persistent decline in access, particularly for families that cannot finance it on their own. At the same time, the number of college graduates earning degrees in arts education fell sharply over the past decade. The impact of the pandemic will likely widen these gaps.

To reverse these trends, the Commission recommends changes in 6 key areas:

  1. Make the Arts an Important Part of Every Child’s Education by offering a diverse set of arts classes and including arts among the core distribution requirements.
  2. Elevate the Role of the Arts through Data, Research, and Accountability at the federal, state, and school district level, and reforming accountability systems to incorporate arts education into the range of outcomes schools cultivate.
  3. Ensure Arts Education Funding Is Adequate and Equitable through substantial economic support for public education and adequate funding mechanisms at the state and local level.
  4. Recruit, Develop, and Support Arts Educators by establishing policy and funding priorities to increase the availability of arts educators, especially those from underrepresented groups.
  5. Foster Collaboration within the Arts Education Landscape through adequately funded arts-based school-community partnerships.
  6. Restore Federal Leadership in the Arts through increased funding, the reinstatement of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and a national celebration of arts education.

The Commission on the Arts draws together the talents of 44 artists, scholars, activists, and leaders in the sector, under the leadership of John Lithgow (actor, author, musician), Deborah Rutter (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), and Natasha D. Trethewey (Northwestern University and former Poet Laureate of the United States).

Information about the Commission and its focus on arts education is on the Academy website, as is the entire report: