Grantmakers for Education Forms Arts Education Impact Group

Stan Hutton

For more than a decade, members of GIA have urged the Grantmakers for Education membership to better recognize the positive impact arts education classes and programs afford to good teaching, good learning, and an overall well-rounded education for students. Arts education advocates hoped to see more sessions at Grantmakers for Education conferences highlighting the value of arts education and more collaboration between arts education funders and education funders.

Until recently, this effort had peaked in 2007, when GIA and Grantmakers for Education held a joint one-day meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A report on this gathering, “The Arts and Education Weekend,” by Richard Deasy, is available in the GIA Reader library on the GIA website. Most of the issues discussed in 2007 remain issues today, for example, the need for more equity in education.

Now, Grantmakers for Education has created an Arts Education Impact Group. The group’s mission is “to encourage understanding among Grantmakers for Education members of the benefits of a quality arts education to drive improvement. Its vision is to have arts as a pathway to learning for all students.” By sharing the knowledge that the arts can be a valuable strategic resource, the Arts Education Impact Group will urge education funders to consider arts in education as a means to help students develop skills needed to be successful in careers and in life.

Interest in arts education seems to be growing among Grantmakers for Education conference attendees. At the 2015 conference, the sole arts education-themed conference session attracted overwhelming interest — over fifty participants and a packed room. In 2016, three arts education-themed sessions and two site visits brought newcomers to the conversation. In future years, a partnership between GIA and Grantmakers for Education members will be critical to growing the number of funders in this space.

We know that a wealth of research has demonstrated that arts education contributes to improving academic and social outcomes for students. GIA members who work in arts education already know its value in developing critical thinking skills, increasing student engagement in school, and connecting parents to the schools their children attend. If you want to review the literature about the worth of arts education, the Arts Education Partnership maintains an arts education research database at

Going forward, the Arts Education Impact group will encourage more arts education–related sessions at annual conferences, develop webinars and white papers about issues in arts education, and encourage greater collaboration between arts and education funders. Creative youth development, a field in which arts education plays an important role, will be the focus of the Arts Education Impact Group through 2018.

Grantmaking organizations making up the organizing steering committee for the Arts Education Impact Group include the following: National Endowment for the Arts, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Panta Rhea Foundation, and the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation. The steering committee is currently recruiting additional members.

The Arts Education Impact Group gives arts education funders the opportunity to become more involved in Grantmakers for Education. Arts education needs a strong voice in this community of grantmakers who work to ensure quality and equitable educational opportunities for all children. I urge GIA members to consider attending the Grantmakers for Education annual conference, which in 2017 will be held October 16–18 in Washington, D.C.