Since its beginning, Polk Bros. Foundation has placed a high priority on making the arts accessible to Chicago public school students and teachers. In addition to consistent funding to support the development of longer-term, interactive arts education programs by the city’s world-class downtown and neighborhood-based arts organizations, the Foundation has led many collaborative efforts to increase access to arts learning opportunities across the district.
In 1992, the Foundation was instrumental in creating Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE), which researches and facilitates collaborations among school leaders and teachers, artists, and arts organizations. CAPE has helped many of our grantees – and many others – build and evaluate programs that integrate artistic instruction into classroom learning.
In partnership with other foundations in 2006, the Foundation also helped create the CPS Office of Arts Education (now called the Department of Arts Education), which for the first time placed the arts on the same level as the core curriculum areas. The new office soon developed The Chicago Guide for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, a curricular roadmap to help schools and arts partners provide instruction in dance, drama, music, and visual art to students at all grade levels. The Department continues to provide training, and strategic arts education planning with teachers, administrators, and schools.
Foundation staff and financial support were critical in the development of the Chicago High School for the Arts, which opened its doors in 2009, combining pre-professional arts training with a college preparatory curriculum. Ninety-six percent of the ChiArts class of 2014 graduated and were accepted into more than 200 colleges and conservatories. Graduates earned more than $2.5 million in scholarships and merit-based aid.
To address an unequal distribution of arts programs in CPS schools, the Foundation took a lead role in 2009 in creating the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative (CALI), which brought together more than 400 arts and education stakeholders to develop a set of recommendations to coordinate the city’s existing cultural and educational resources. Ingenuity was created in 2011 to oversee implementation of these recommendations and guide district-wide data, advocacy, resource mapping, and strategy initiatives.
In partnership with the CPS Department of Arts Education, Ingenuity is responsible for implementing CPS’s first-ever Arts Education Plan and has launched a $38 million Be Creative Campaign to support the continued development of arts learning and leadership throughout the district.