We see arts education as an essential component of a comprehensive education. Introducing children to the arts at an early age can change how they see the world, and—more importantly—how they see themselves. We believe in the intrinsic value of arts education and that every student should have the opportunity to cultivate his or her own creative life through high-quality arts education programs and exposure and access to Philadelphia’s best cultural institutions and organizations.
Providing students with the opportunity to develop pro-social behaviors and non-cognitive skills enables them to develop abilities as learners and members of a community, positioning them for future success.
To increase students’ exposure to art as part of their education, we fund arts organizations that demonstrate the capacity to work with economically disadvantaged children, aim to significantly increase the number of Philadelphia’s students with access to arts education experiences, and provide direct delivery of high-quality programs, and/or planning efforts to expand such programs.
As part of this effort, we identify best practices and contribute to the broader learning around high-quality arts education. The Foundation is currently embarking on an evaluation to learn more about the socio-emotional benefits for students participating in arts education programs that partner with Philadelphia schools.
Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial
Studies have shown that integrating art-making into core academic subjects increases student achievement, in both art and related content areas. Fleisher Art Memorial—a century-old community arts organization located in the Bella Vista neighborhood—has extended learning opportunities beyond its campus through its Community Partnerships in the Arts program.
The William Penn Foundation has funded Fleisher for three years of the program, to bring visual artists into 10-15 schools to work closely with classroom teachers developing creative projects that link the school curricula.
Fleisher is a center of creativity in its community and Community Partnerships in the Arts stands out as a high-quality arts integration program that exemplifies how a successful arts education program can partner with schools to support students in multiple aspects of learning.
Photo credit: Dominic Mercier
Wilma Theater's WILMAGINATION
The Wilma Theater created the arts education program WILMAGINATION in 2000, to expose more Philadelphia students to opportunities for learning in the arts. The William Penn Foundation is supporting the expansion of this integrated theater arts residency to bring high-quality theater experiences to students at four Philadelphia high schools.
Using a project-based approach that culminates in a student performance, WILMAGINATION develops students' social and collaborative skills as it supports classroom learning. In English Language Arts classrooms, students learn to analyze and interpret texts. By bringing Wilma Theater teaching artists and professional actors into the classroom, the program provides authentic experiences for students, who learn their craft in conjunction with seeing these same actors perform in main stage productions at the Wilma.
By August 2017, more than 900 new students will have participated in the program. Among the many benefits, students learn skills including playwriting, stagecraft and performance, and simultaneously gain support in core subjects to increase their academic achievement.
Photo credit: Lizzy Pecora and Johnny Van Heest