• Art leads to civic engagement and lifelong arts participation.
  • Art gives students a voice in learning and telling their stories.
  • Art develops empathy, kindness, and cross cultural understanding.
  • Art strengthens students’ ability to collaborate and problem solve.
  • Art encourages risk taking and flexibility.
  • Art nurtures hope and resiliency.
  • Art develops in-demand employees with high career goals.
  • Art builds creative, innovative students who can think outside the box.
  • Art cultivates tomorrow’s leaders.
  • Students who have arts are more likely to pursue and succeed at post-secondary education.
  • Students who have arts consistently test higher in math and reading
  • Students who have arts have significantly better attendance rates.
  • Students who have arts are more engaged and motivated.

Most of us know this already. We live it. We experience it on a daily basis. We don’t actually feel the need to have tons of research to back it up, because we know it in each and every inch of every bone of our body. Some, like me, have even been the researchers uncovering this research and disseminating it. And, yet, we still have to convince principals, superintendents, or school boards using similar talking points. But even with years and years of practice, I still haven’t been all that effective when it comes to changing policy. It has felt like arguing for the importance of arts education is the equivalent of Groundhog Day … the arts education movie!

All that could change. Last fall, the Stuart Foundation invested in San Diego, and I’ve had the privilege of heading up our project which is a collective impact model we hope will be the arts education equivalent to “Got Milk?” It is called ART=OPPORTUNITY. And we want you to take advantage of it. Our campaign has many facets, including mentoring from the business community for VAPA coordinators, summits and anchor events, a teen/youth council, bilingual parent education, and arts integration boot camps. Our goal in the ART=OPPORTUNITY campaign is to change public opinion from “arts as fluff” to “arts as essential.” And, the reason to change public opinion is to directly effect educational policy and budgeting decisions.

Our collective impact journey has a keen attention toward equity and social change. We focus in on arts literacy and literacy though the arts, and the importance of providing arts literacy experiences for all students. We describe literacy as much more than reading and writing—it is also reading and writing paintings, music, dance, and theater. And, perhaps most importantly, literacy is effectively engaging empathy.

One of our first tasks was to hire a publicist and create a brand. Who better to work with to address public opinion than a publicist! We went a local firm, TR/PR Public Relations, led by someone deeply seeped in the arts and these issues. To create a brand, we held a contest among students at California State University San Marcos. Isobel Lawrence, a graphic arts major, designed the winning ART=OPPORTUNITY logo. We’ve since hired a professional designer to create materials such as “playing cards,” a “step and repeat” backdrop, posters, and flyers. We’ve created a presence on social media. This fall, we will have two teams of college marketing majors, seniors in our College of Business Administration, who for their senior projects will develop marketing plans both for messaging and for materials such as the playing cards.

Central to our campaign is our first set of downloadable playing cards that all are directly linked to updated and vetted research around these three “why art” themes: Excellence in Education, Workplace Ready, and Live Life to the Fullest. I started this blog post with the playing card statements.

The research-based playing cards (downloadable here) highlight the significant role arts play in students’ ability to excel in education, attain better jobs, and become empathetic citizens. The linked research repurposes research from the Arts Education Partnership ArtsEd Search tool, as well as the Title I Arts site. So far, the cards have been used as talking points in teacher education classes, at a rally to protest cuts to the arts in the San Diego City budget, in an arts literacy parent education class in Chula Vista, at a statewide conference with CREATE CA, for teacher professional development workshops, and even at a conference on music, language, and computing in St. Petersburg, Russia!

Our core leadership team is comprised of educators, arts providers including Americans for the Arts’ own Arts Education Network council member Matt D’Arrigo, community leaders, and university professors (arts, education, and business), and our broader circle reaches out to business CEOs, parent leaders, and a even a teen council. And, we’ve just got going!

Please check us out. Use our cards. Let us know how you’re using them! Adopt our logo, engage with us on social media (Facebook and Instagram). Art really does equal opportunity.

You can request packets of the cards by sending us email at artopp@csusm.edu.