Why mastery-based arts education matters


We believe every child in Greater Cleveland should have access to enriching, immersive arts programming. Cleveland is a city renowned for its world-class arts and cultural resources, but children in low-income neighborhoods don’t necessarily have access to the wellspring of artistic talent in our city. We’re working to change that, by supporting increased access to mastery-based arts education programs for underserved young people in our community.

Why it’s important

High-quality immersive arts education programs play an integral role in positive youth development. When young people commit to deeply studying a skill or craft, they learn lessons about perseverance and gain confidence in their potential to succeed. To quote Eric Booth, the featured speaker at last year’s Art + Kids Fred Talk, “We don’t need a whole bunch of new violinists, but we need a whole bunch of people with the fortitude it takes to become a masterful violinist.” As a member of an orchestra or theater group, kids learn to collaborate and communicate to achieve a shared goal – and have fun doing it. Through artistic exploration, children can re-imagine the world around them and are empowered to tell their stories in creative ways. High-quality, immersive arts programs also provide a safe and positive option for out-of-school time – a vulnerable time for children in underserved neighborhoods.

What’s being done in Cleveland

Last year, we announced our new mastery-based arts initiative, which merges two of our top priorities – youth development and the arts – in an effort to promote immersive arts programs for youth in Greater Cleveland. We kicked off the initiative this year with a $500,000 grant to expand Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre program, which engages youth living in Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) properties in the creation and production of plays at CMHA sites.

The Center for Arts-Inspired Learning’s ArtWorks program is another example of an immersive art education program that nurtures valuable skills in Greater Cleveland youth. For more than a decade, ArtWorks has offered teens paid apprenticeships, in summer and during the school year, with master teaching artists for full immersion in an artistic discipline. Students develop their artistic portfolio while also participating in workshops focused on financial literacy, resume writing, financial aid applications and interview skills.

Students at Rainey Institute are also learning vital skills through the arts. The kids at Rainey range in age from 1 to 18 and come from some of the least advantaged neighborhoods across Cleveland and the inner-ring suburbs. At Rainey, they learn to play, create and perform, from painting and costume design to dancing and playing music. Rainey’s El-Sistema program is part of a global movement of community-based orchestras for kids, teaching students to listen, collaborate, solve problems and strive for improvement as they play their instruments together.

These are just a few examples of the organizations across Greater Cleveland already leading the way in helping our children explore the arts and discover their talents. With more support for high-quality mastery-based arts education programs, every child in Greater Cleveland can have a chance to learn and grow through the arts.