Build an Arts-Rich School

Build an Arts-Rich School

What You Will Find in "Build An Arts-Rich School"

Click on the cards below to go directly to each section.


Are You an Arts-Rich School?

Click here to return to "Build an Arts-Rich Schools" menu.


Whether you are a classroom teacher, art specialist, district coach, school principal, parent or community partner, you can be a leader and contribute to the development of an arts-rich school. This section covers several strategies for educational leaders to nurture the arts culture within their school(s). Start by assessing your school's art culture with the "Self-Assessment Checklist". The results of this activity will help you navigate the rest of the content for building an arts-rich school. 



The following questions are meant to serve as indicators in the development of an arts-rich school. The questions are based on our 12-year history of work with school-university partnerships, a history marked by notable successes in fostering powerful arts education infrastructure, curriculum, teacher practice, and student achievement.

See the end of this section for a full self-assessment tool that can help you reflect deeper and further your understanding of how these questions can lead to discrete steps in growing an arts-rich school.


  • Does your school have an arts representative on your school community council?
  • Does your school have an arts education plan for your school?
  • Does your school have a School Arts Team that meets regularly, and includes parents, community members, and faculty who provide leadership and support of the arts at your school?
  • Does your school allocate designated spaces for arts instruction?
  • Does your school publicize arts programs, instructional focuses, and products through posters, flyers, newsletters, digital media, websites, and public meetings?
  • Does your school identify and utilize free arts resources, and apply for supplemental arts grants from state and local organizations?
  • Does your school partner with local arts organizations to bring more arts into your school?
  • Does your school select a PTA representative to coordinate and promote arts activities?
  • Does your school use research to advocate for arts education at the school, district and community levels?
  • Does your school engage parents and community members as integral players in your school's arts culture? 


  • Do you encourage hiring of highly qualified arts teachers? 
  • Do you support grade-level teachers in earning an Arts Integration Endorsement?
  • Do you use arts instruction to promote and develop 21st century skills that prepare students to become active citizens in a global democratic society?
  • Do you encourage teachers to attend district level arts training?
  • Do you encourage teachers to use their own background experiences in the arts as a regular part of classroom practices?
  • Do you support a school environment in which arts specialists and grade-level teachers can collaborate to design and implement arts integrated curriculum?
  • Do you engage other teachers to join you in exploring and assessing arts skills according to state core curriculum guidelines?
  • Do you invite grade-level teachers to join you in including arts experiences daily?
  • Do you support teachers in attending professional development opportunities offered by university and community arts organizations?


  • Do students actively engage while developing arts skills and participating in arts experiences?
  • Do students develop skills of creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, reflective practice, and problem solving?
  • Do students have access to arts programs that support diversity, and individuality? 
  • Do students perform and showcase collaborative and individual achievements in the arts?
  • Do students have opportunities to experience the work of professional artists and/or on field trips?


  • Do you work with your district leadership (e.g., district arts coordinator) to benefit from district resources for arts education?
  • Do you disseminate information from the district to teachers regarding arts resources and opportunities? 
Are You an Arts-Rich School? Self-Asessment Checklist PDF

Strategies to Develop and Grow an Arts-Rich School

Click here to return to "Build an Arts-Rich School" menu.



Your vision statement should be short and memorable - easy for all stakeholders in your school and community to remember. Your mission should grow naturally from your vision. The following components can help you include the arts as you fulfill your vision and/or mission. 


The school arts team (or arts committee) collaborates on creating and implementing a school arts plan. The school arts team should include

  • school administrators
  • grade-level teachers
  • arts specialist(s)
  • parents
  • community representatives

The arts team meets to align the school improvement plan with

  • curriculum
  • projects
  • performances
  • showcases
  • complementary arts activities.


This team can work with the local city or state arts council, district arts coordinator, and school PTA, as well as with other organizations who might provide support for key initiatives. The arts team can contribute significantly in identifying sources of supplemental funding, writing grants, and promoting philanthropic giving to support the school arts plan.


Creating a specific plan for the arts at your school helps to ensure that you track the progress in realizing your vision and mission. A school arts plan is created by the school arts team. It could include short-term, mid-range, and long-term goals, and it should be realistic and measurable, but malleable. An inventory must be taken of teachers, parents, community members, and businesses to assess the depth and breadth of support for your vision and mission. This plan can be separate from or included in the school improvement plan.

An arts plan includes strategies for improving the quality and quantity of arts education at your school. Strategies like the following might be included:

  • Raising money for supplies or for an artist-in-residence program
  • Planning a school arts night
  • Hiring an arts specialist
  • Designating and creating a dedicated space for arts instruction
  • Providing teachers with opportunities for professional development in arts instruction


In many schools, teachers meet regularly in grade-level PLCs to develop unified curriculum and settle on important student learning outcomes. Arts specialists can add significant value to these conversations by reinforcing concepts and providing assessment through arts integrated instruction. 


Successful arts-rich schools create a culture where parents and community members are highly visible, routinely contributing their talents and skills in support of the school's vision, mission, and plan for arts integration. Their assistance can take many forms: for example, leading or co-teaching arts projects either before or after school; participating in planning and carrying out arts events; assuming leadership for fundraising initiatives; writing grants; working with publicity; maintaining arts resources on the school website etc.) A parent or community member must be selected to serve as the arts representative on your school community council. (Advocacy materials to share with parents are provided in the Funding and Advocacy section of this handbook.)


Arts-rich schools provide their arts specialists and classroom teachers with ready access to needed supplies, materials, and space. Arts supplies and equipment need to be a part of your school's annual budget. But it is also important to look for ancillary sources of materials and supplies that don’t tax your school’s budget. (Ideas for grants and fundraising are included in the Funding and Advocacy section.)


The arts require specific materials which include, but are not limited to the following.

  • Music: instruments, digital music players and recording equipment (including cameras), music stands, amplification devices
  • Dance: drum, scarves, digital music players and recording devices (including cameras), costumes and accessories
  • Theatre: props, costumes and accessories, movable curtains, digital music players and record-ing devices (including cameras), amplification devices
  • Visual Arts: paper, drying racks, aprons, paint, chalk, tape, glue, pencils, erasers, clay, glaze, kilns, digital music players and recording devices (including cameras)


Arts instruction requires designated spaces that are designed for safety and full student engagement. Students need enough space to participate in both individual and group arts activities, where requisite sup-plies are readily accessible, where walls can display key curriculum ideas and art work, and where "sound bleed" does not impact adjacent classrooms. Students experience significant cognitive and emotional effects when they enter a space designated for arts experiences. The ideal arts space looks different for each school.  Listed below are suggestions to optimize spaces for art making, along with some creative solutions where space is limited.

When the optimal spaces described below are not available, you can adapt arts learning to take place in a variety of spaces such as a gym, cafeteria, media center, hallway, playground, garden, sidewalk, common space or lobby area. Don't let lack of a designated arts space prevent you or your teachers from providing high quality arts instruction. Arts specialists can travel from classroom to classroom, bringing their materials with them (see "Arts on a Cart" in the For Teachers section). Storage space - including drying racks for visual arts projects - will still be required.

Optimal Music Space

Students need a large space for music class, a space where they can use a variety of volume levels. Thus enclosed class-rooms surrounded by walls that contain sound are preferred, as they decrease the potential for disrupting neighboring classrooms but allow students to explore the full range of expression through sound.

Optimal Dance Space

The ideal dance space includes a sprung wooden floor to protect students and teachers from injury caused by dancing on cement or carpeted floors. But a large space free of chairs and desks can also serve as an adequate space for dance instruction. A space with walls separating it from other classrooms decreases the potential for disrupting learning in surrounding classrooms.

Optimal Drama Space

A classroom that doubles as a black box theater is ideal for theatre experiences. A stage space or a classroom can also be adequate. While it is tempting to use the school stage space as an extra storage location, the stage can be valuable for performing arts instruction.

Optimal Visual Arts Space 

Visual arts classrooms need tables and counter space for creating, modeling, dying, drying, and storing - among other things. Availability of a sink is ideal. Tile or cement floors are ideal because they can be washed easily. The visual art space can also be transformed into a temporary art museum or art gallery to highlight student work. Wall space throughout the school that can serve as a gallery for student work, is also important.



Closely interfacing with district-level leadership is essential to the success of an arts-rich school.

District Arts Coordinator (DAC)

Meet with your DAC and find out how this individual and the district can support the arts at your school. DACs have information about arts events, training resources, and arts materials for teachers across art forms. Many of them have budgets to support teachers who want to participate in arts training and professional arts education conferences, as well as supplemental funding for busing students on field trips. Your DAC may have experience writing grants (e.g., to bring artists to your school through the Utah Division of Arts and Museums). Some DACs hold monthly meetings with elementary arts representatives from each school. If these meetings occur in your district, send a member of your arts team to attend and subsequently report back to your school about upcoming arts opportunities in your area.

District Curriculum Consultants

Cultivating positive relationships with district lev-el curriculum consultants in all content areas (e.g., English language arts, math, science, social studies) helps build connections between arts instruction and district goals, curricula, and programs. Close partnerships can be formed to align school and district priorities, thus providing unified sup-port for teachers. Conversations across curricular areas can also reveal enticing possibilities for integrated student learning.


Showcasing student achievement in the arts -for peers, parents, and the public - is essential to building the culture and traditions of an arts-rich school. Below are a few ways you can assure that art making and art performing are visible and impactful. (The For Students section of this binder includes more ideas on producing meaningful artistic performances and exhibitions at your school.)


A music, theatre, or dance performance can be presented by students to highlight their achievements in these arts. Performances may occur at a school arts night, during the school day, or at a more formal evening performance for parents and the community. Particular attention should be paid to the aesthetic experience of audiences. The aesthetic impact of a performance could be increased by using interesting and appropriate venues throughout the school (e.g., a classroom emptied of desks, a hallway, a foyer, a playground, etc.).


An informance is an informal (and informing) performance or exhibition created by students that focuses on process--thus is educational, entertaining, and casual. It is intended to showcase students' academic progress in the arts. An informance might involve a grade-level or individual class performing for another grade-level or class, or a class performing for their parents during school hours, or a small group performance within a single classroom.


Students' art work can be displayed in common areas such as hallways, cafeteria, and display cases, or perhaps a classroom or media center can be transformed for a short time into an art gallery for parents and students to enjoy during a school's Arts Week or at an evening event such as School Arts Night. Meaningful arts education yields powerful aesthetic artifacts - worth showcasing, worth sharing, and worth celebrating. But they need to be distinguished from hallway art derived from trivial topics with artifacts that appear as cookie cutter images without individual expression.


In their formative role in shaping the arts culture at their schools, principals can initiate school-wide arts themes, share arts-related books, promote events at staff meetings, select arts topics to be treated in professional development sessions, etc. A looping video display at the entrance to the school might show-case art work and arts performances, inviting visitors to stop and experience a part of the school they might not have seen previously. Transforming school hallways into gallery spaces helps to publicize the arts as well as highlight and honor students' artistic and creative achievements. An arts page on the school website can be similarly informative.

The arts are central to our experience as humans. Publicizing and promoting student creativity provides a window into what students know and can do, helping to demonstrate how important the arts are to student learning.


Educational leaders with influence on hiring can impact the arts culture of a school. To support your arts vision, mission, and school arts plan, your faculty should include qualified arts specialists as well as grade-level teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to pursue high quality arts integration. The following qualifications are important to consider when hiring arts specialists and grade-level teachers at your school.


Preferred experience for Hiring Grade-level Teachers

  • College majors or minors in an art form
  • Completion of an arts integration endorsement or evidence of work toward an arts integration endorsement
  • Prior experience with arts education and arts integrated methods of instruction
  • Background or passion for a specific art form or multiple art forms

Sample Interview Questions for Grade-level Teachers

  • Describe the background or experiences you have had in the arts.
  • How would you use the arts to enhance your students' learning?
  • If you could receive professional development in any art form, what art form would you chose and what would the workshop look like?
  • What is your definition of arts integration?
  • How would arts integration look in your classroom?


Qualifications for Arts Specialists in Order of Preference

  • A secondary license and a K-6 or K-12 endorsement in the art form, or an elementary license with a K-6 endorsement in an art form
  • If candidates with the above qualifications are not in the hiring pool consider a professional teaching artist seeking alternative route to licensure (ARL), or
  • A secondary or elementary licensed teacher who is qualified to pursue a state-approved en-dorsement plan in the art form

Preferred Experience for Arts Specialists

  • Background in teaching the art form in elementary school
  • Passion for teaching arts education and arts integration as part of daily instruction
  • Ability to build good rapport with students and parents and collaborate with faculty and staff

Sample Interview Questions for Arts Specialists

  • What do you believe are the strengths of the current standards in your art form?
  • What does it mean to you to be an arts specialist?
  • When you think about your typical day as an arts specialist, what tasks do you imagine yourself doing?
  • Explain what you believe to be the most accurate definition of arts integration.
  • If you are a successful arts specialist at this school, how will I be able to tell at the end of the school year?
  • How do you see yourself working with professional learning teams?
  • Describe the classroom management strategies specific to teaching your art form?
  • Describe how you will facilitate and assess student learning through the creative process?

Involve Parents

Click here to return to "Build an Arts-Rich School" menu.

Use the link below to download a parent and community focused handbook that was created in collaboration with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

"The purpose of this brochure is to provide information to increase access to arts experiences for children in the state of Utah. This brochure lists community resources as well as ideas for increasing arts opportunities in schools. Utah is home to many quality arts organizations that enrich our lives by providing experiences that refine our sensitivities, inform our cultural literacy, and define who we are as a community. It is important to join together to increase access to these great resources for all children."

Utah Division of Arts and Museums Parent and Community Handbook

Utilize Partners

Click here to return to "Build an Arts-Rich School" menu.