Studio in a School: Filling the Artistic Void in New York Public Schools

Thanks to New York philanthropist, art patron, and art collector Agnes Gund,  art now plays a prominent role in the education of New York’s youth. After reading an article on the lack of art programs in NYC public schools due to drastic budget cuts, Gund decided to fill this artistic void by founding an arts nonprofit Studio in a SchoolCreated in 1977, this nonprofit has brought over 600 professional artists to the classrooms of over 800,000 NYC school children, the majority of whom are from low-income families.

Studio in a School founder Agnes Gund

Gund’s strong belief in art as an educational right (not as an added bonus) and as an essential means of furthering science, math, and verbalization skills prompted her to create this nonprofit, which has contributed over $90 million dollars to its cause.  Currently, Studio in a School operates in over 150 public schools, daycare centers, community-based organizations, and museums and serves students ranging from ages 3 -23.

Artist Jeff Koons teaching students

In addition to bringing art to schools, Studio in a School has helped create jobs within the arts community.  Partnering with the NYC Department of Education, Studio in School trains artists as teachers. Furthermore, Studio in a School, in partnership with the Robertson Foundation, Wallace Foundation, and Estrellita and Daniel Brodsky funds 80% of the budget for supplies and instruction. However, Gund asks that the schools provide the remaining 20% of funding, as she views this as a means of fostering a passion for the cause within the community.  When one is invested in a cause, they often care more about the outcome.

Studio in a School initially collaborated with only 3 schools but instantly became a success.  Tom Cahill, a practicing artist and teacher, serves as the CEO and has rapidly expanded the programs.  In addition to its core program of teaching art in K-12 classrooms, Studio in a School also reaches out to pre-kindergarten students, teens, and college students through outside activities, workshops, apprenticeships, and internships. In this instance, Gund used her financial and social power to support an excellent cause, for, as Tom Cahill states, ‘Innovation and the arts go together.” Thanks to Studio in a School the arts are alive and well in NYC and will hopefully remain so for generations to come.

Information derived from:

Sheets, Hillarie M. “Studio in a School: A Teaching Moment.” ARTnews, March 4, 2013.

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