35 Years of Driving Arts Education Forward

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Are schools preparing students for the jobs of the future? The World Economic Forum believes that the skill sets our children will require to thrive in tomorrow’s workforce include empathy, emotional intelligence, and creative problem solving. Art is proven to inspire the development of all of these areas while driving students’ motivation and improving their performance in core curricular classes. Since our founding 35 years ago, Art in Action (AiA) has empowered students through arts education.

Judy Sleeth, Founder of Art in Action

The beginning of Art in Action

In the early eighties, a teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area was upset to learn that her child’s kindergarten class did not have an arts program. As a mother she wanted to act and as a teacher, she knew how. Judy Sleeth began writing and teaching art lessons for her daughter’s class and as the word spread, she started sharing her lessons with neighboring classrooms and soon, neighboring schools. In 1982, Sleeth founded Art in Action as a response to the lack of arts education in California schools. However, the deteriorating infrastructure for the arts across the country due to school funding cuts quickly took the program into neighboring states. 35 years later, Art in Action is in 30 states and serving over 80,000 students.

Jacob Averbuck, Art in Action parent and docent

Where we are today

Art in Action’s model is built around an effort to bring community together through art in areas of learning. Our program comes together through the collaboration of teachers, students, parents, community volunteers, and school administrators. One parent and Art in Action docent, Jacob Averbuck says that of all the different time commitments that I have in my life, working with my kids in Art in Action is clearly the highlight. It’s a really easy, straightforward way to get into your kid’s class, volunteer, help out and really see them at their best with their peers.” And of course the kids love the community element of the program too. One of our 4th Graders has said “I like art because it makes me feel special because parents from our class are volunteering to take their time to do art with us.” To highlight the engagement of the community, every Art in Action grant school is provided with resources to host an Art Show. It’s an opportunity to bring community together to admire the hard work and well-earned lessons on display.

Over these 35 years, Art in Action’s (AiA) programs have brought arts education to over half a million students nationwide and we are ramping up our efforts. With the expansion of new curricular areas, AiA is empowering students and educators to liven up the classroom with offerings including Art and Healing, Cultural Awareness, Digital and Media Arts, STEAM, and Social Justice. We love the work we do and are reminded every time we run into Art in Action parents, docents, teachers, and students, of the joy that the incorporation of art brings to education and to community.