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Turnaround Arts Initiative: Arts Education is Education Reform

Posted on: May 1, 2012

The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) is embarking on the most exciting new arts education initiative yet. Turnaround Arts, created in cooperation with the US Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, is a public-private partnership designed to transform some of our country’s lowest performing elementary and middle schools using intensive arts curriculums.  Turnaround Arts will work in eight “turnaround schools” over the course of two years bringing arts education resources and expertise to primary and middle school children. An external evaluation of the program will measure the success of this new arts education approach.

Participating schools were competitively selected from nominations by state and municipal authorities. Every school had to be a recipient of a School Improvement Grant. The eight public elementary and middle schools represent a diverse student demographic in both urban and rural settings. Presidentially appointed artists on the PCAH,Chuck Close, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, Yo-Yo Ma, Damian Woetzel and Alfre Woodard, will “adopt” one or two of the schools for the full length of the program, working closely with the students, faculty and surrounding communities highlighting their success.

Turnaround Arts initiative will provide comprehensive arts education curriculums to eight public schools as part of their turnaround strategy. The schools were announced on Monday, April 23rd shown in the chart below.

Turnaround School


Grade Level

Turnaround Artist

Batiste Cultural Arts Academy at Live Oak School

New Orleans, LA


Alfre Woodard

Findley Elementary School

Des Moines, IA


Forest Whitaker

Lame Deer Jr. High School

Lame Deer, MT

7, 8

Damian Woetzel

Martin Luther King, Jr. School

Portland, OR


Sarah Jessica Parker

Noel Community Arts School

Denver, CO

6, 7

Alfre Woodard

Orchard Gardens School

Boston, MA


Yo-Yo Ma

Roosevelt School

Bridgeport, CT


Chuck Close

Savoy Elementary School

Washington, DC


Kerry Washington

“We think Turnaround Arts will show that arts education is a solution that has been hiding in plain sight,” said Sarah Jessica Parker, actress and PCAH member. Watch this four minute clip of SJP explaining the new initiative on Good Morning America:

The Turnaround Arts initiative comes after a number of recent arts education reports and the release of the PCAH funded report Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools back in May 2011. In Reinvesting, the PCAH recommends increased funding and more research on arts education and its effects on the brain and social development of children.

Did you know, according to the Reinvesting report, music training is closely correlated with the development of phonological awareness—one of the most important predictors of early reading skills? The Turnaround Arts initiative will test the PCAH’s hypothesis that  investing in arts education is one of the solutions to reviving low performing schools.

Remember to support candidates who have shown that they are arts-friendly when it comes to funding arts education programs as seen in the second bullet of the Arts Action Fund Policy 2012 which urges Congress to retain arts as a core academic subject and to stress equitable access to arts learning. It takes you, citizen, to join and enlist others to be Arts Action Fund members and let your mighty voice be heard.

Sarah Jessica Parker on Good Morning America