The Creative Schools Initiative is an ambitious effort to help every CPS student receive a well-rounded education that includes the arts. The Creative Schools Initiative places an Arts Liaison in every school, uses data and information to plan more effectively, and expands the pool of financial resources to help schools bring the arts to more students throughout their school years.

The Initiative’s four leading components address needs identified during the development of the CPS Arts Education Plan.

Arts Liaisons

Arts Liaisons serve as on-site arts leaders and champions in their school communities. In every CPS school, the Liaison:

  • serves as the primary point of communication between their school, the CPS Department of Arts Education, Ingenuity, and community arts partners
  • works to ensure that students, educators, and administrators have access to vital arts-related information across all disciplines (visual art, music, theatre, dance, media arts)
  • acts as an advocate by seeking actionable ways to expand and improve arts education and programming in their school and in the broader community

Arts Liaisons must be (re)nominated every school year by their administrator. 

Learn more about the Arts Liaison role.

Creative Schools Data

Arts Liaisons are also responsible for completing the Creative Schools Survey for their school every year. The Survey asks for detailed information on arts instruction in every school, including staffing, minutes of instruction, disciplines taught, and partnerships. Designed and managed by Ingenuity, the Survey results are used to identify each school’s Creative Schools Category (see below) and provides a clear picture of the distribution and availability of arts education throughout the district. 

Completion of the survey also makes the school automatically eligible to receive Arts Essentials funding ($1,000 annually to be applied toward arts supplies and resources) and also eligible to apply for larger Creative Schools Fund grants (see below).

The Creative Schools Certification

The Creative Schools Certification (CSC) identifies the level of arts instruction in each school in five categories from Emerging to Excelling. It creates a clear picture for principals, teachers, and families about arts instruction in their school and serves as a roadmap for expanding the quality of, and access to, arts education. The Certification appears on school progress report cards along with other indicators of academic performance. The five CSC categories are described in detail in the graphic below:

The documents below provide an overview of the process by which Categories for High School and Elementary Schools are determined.

Creative Schools Certification – Scoring Rubric

The Creative Schools Supports 

The Creative Schools Support System is a collection of reports and opportunities that directly relate to the Creative Schools Certification. This includes the Creative Schools Roadmaps, Creative Schools Fund grants, Creative Teachers Fund grants, and Arts Essentials. 

The Creative Schools Roadmaps are customized school reports that outline how a school scored on individual components of the most recent Creative Schools Certification, identifying areas of strength and growth, and suggesting support strategies available to that school. These Roadmaps will be shared with school leaders and Arts Liaisons around November each year, in order to facilitate strategic planning to improve access to and quality of arts education in their building.

Grants and Funding

The Creative Schools Fund (CSF) is a grant-making partnership between Ingenuity, the City of Chicago, and the CPS Department of Arts Education to support the expansion of arts education in schools. Arts Liaisons apply for grants on behalf of their school, and include awards for Art Partner Residencies / Student Learning Experiences, capital improvements for Dedicated Arts Spaces, revamping master elementary school schedules to improve Minutes of Instruction, and high schools offering greater arts course Disciplines and Depth.

The Creative Teachers Fund grants are administered exclusively through the CPS Department of Arts Education and are designed for individual arts teachers to apply for support relating to their curricular and instructional practice. These supports include the Arts Curriculum PLC, Foundational Professional Learning, and Instructional Coaching. Application opportunities will be sent via email to arts teachers annually.

Arts Essentials provides $1,000 annually to all CPS schools that have fully completed the annual Creative Schools Survey and have an active Arts Liaison. Schools do not need to apply for Arts Essentials funding, which is provided by the CPS Department of Arts Education. Funds must be used for the purchase of materials, supplies, and equipment for visual art, music, dance, theatre, and media arts programming or instruction during the school day.

Annual Creative Schools Calendar

Questions about the Creative Schools Initiative can be directed to