Under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel – Chicago published its first Cultural Plan in 25 years.  The plan reflects on the City’s cultural legacy and makes “no small plans” for the future of Chicago and the lives of its residents.

As part of the community outreach process leading up to the plan, residents and organizations alike identified arts education was in listed as one of the top three cultural priorities for Chicago.

Neighborhood after neighborhood echoed the same sentiment: Chicago’s schools and classroom should be full of art, music and movement.

Every major urban school district from New York to Seattle has, or is developing, a plan for Arts Education. Across the nation, the leaders of major urban school districts recognize that lessons in creativity and imaginative problem solving must begin at an early age if our children are to thrive in school and in a global economy.

Today, Chicago Public Schools – the third largest school district in the nation serving over 400,000 students – will stand with its sister cities in adopting a policy and programming blueprint that increases the access to, equity in, and quality of arts education.


The CPS Arts Education Plan builds upon a long, rich history of being on the leading edge of arts education in our city.  Some key milestones include:

Early 1990’s – Arts integration takes hold and begins to flourish in Chicago Public Schools bringing teaching artists and art organizations into partnership with classroom teachers and schools. Today, Chicago is home to some of the world’s leading arts education programs.

1999 – The Magnet Cluster Initiative is launched by Chicago Public Schools, including the Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster Program. (Today, 1 in 10 CPS Schools have the arts as their leading educational focus.)

2003 – 2006 – The Chicago Arts Education Initiative Demonstration Schools are launched in an initiative designed to provide sequential arts education – visual arts, dance, drama and music – to every child in all Chicago public elementary schools. Funded by the Chicago Community Trust, this initiative is one of the first attempts to bring all elementary students equal access to the arts.

2006 – CPS Department of Arts Education is established at the district level to anchor arts instruction across the District.

2009 – Arts at the Core is Released   In 2009 Arts Alliance Illinois releases Arts at the Core: Every School, Every Student was the first and only audit of arts education in Illinois public schools. Despite almost all principals and superintendents agreeing that the arts are essential to a well-rounded education, Arts at the Core discovered 1 in 5 schools in Illinois offered no programming in the arts.

To assist teachers, administrators, and parents in strengthening arts education in schools, Arts Alliance Illinois publishes Arts at the Core: A Guidebook and Planning Tool.

2009 – The Chicago Arts Learning Initiative (CALI) Unites Arts Educators
This community-wide effort brings together 400 individuals from leading arts and cultural institutions, CPS leadership, principals, teachers and funding organizations. The goal is to coordinate the city’s existing cultural and educational resources in an effort to create sustainable access to innovative arts learning for all Chicago Public School students.

The seminal Chicago Guide for Teaching and Learning in the Arts is released by the CPS Department of Arts Education, offering schools an effective roadmap for providing arts instruction to students at all grade levels.

2011 – Mayor Rahm Emanuel Elected    As Rahm Emanuel, an arts advocate and former dancer, campaigns for office, he makes clear his thoughts on the importance of arts in CPS schools,  stating,

One of my goals is to spread arts education throughout our public schools so that every child, no matter where they go to school, is exposed to the arts from kindergarten through high school. Student exposure to the arts is currently determined by where individual arts organizations decide to do outreach, the amount of private funding available to those schools in any given year and luck – that has to change.
— Mayor Emanuel

2011 – Chicago Community Trust Arts Convenings    The Chicago Community Trust undertakes an extensive survey of community arts partners who provide services and programs to Chicago Public Schools.  Surveyed through the lens of the four artistic disciplines—Dance, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts—the report further underscores gaps in the arts delivery model and highlights strategies for success.

2011 – The VIVA Project report gives voice to the arts In a project designed to dramatically increase classroom teachers’ participation in important state and national public education policy decisions, the VIVA Project issues a report sanctioned by both the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools.  Through this report, teachers provide strategies for expanding arts programs throughout the schools.

2011 – Ingenuity Incorporated is established through the recommendations of the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative (CALI) community. Ingenuity is charged with forging a vision for utilizing the arts to improve public education for each child, in each school throughout the city.

2012 – CPS’ Department of Arts Education gets a new team Mario Rossero is appointed Director for the CPS Department of Arts Education for the Chicago Public Schools and selects a new team designed to support teachers and schools across the district in an effort to deepen art instruction.

2012 – Chicago Cultural Plan is Released
For the first time since Harold Washington was in office, Chicago undertakes the development of a new vision for the city via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan.  Art in the schools becomes a leading priority when thousands of residents give voice to the importance of arts education.

2013 – CPS Arts Education Plan Released
Building upon 15 years of momentum and citywide efforts around improving arts education for all Chicago Public School students, CPS announces a new master CPS Arts Education Plan approved and adopted by the Chicago Board of Education. Arts Education becomes a core subject in grades K-12.

2013 and Beyond
Chicago Public Schools and Ingenuity Incorporated will work together and with arts partners city-wide to ensure full implementation of the Arts Education Plan across the district. Included in the Plan are a Creative Schools Initiative, guaranteed weekly minutes of arts instruction, and an Arts Liaison in every school.


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