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Schools using art as inspiration

Connecticut elementary and middle schools in Bridgeport adopt Turnaround Arts

Elementary and middle school students in Bridgeport, Connecticut, dabble in architecture, play music and learn about fashion design with well-known artists and professionals as part of the national Turnaround Arts program.

Students mocked up buildings under the guidance of world-renowned architect Thom Mayne, learned magic from illusionist David Blaine, and played music with musician and former New York Yankees star Bernie Williams.

Turnaround Arts finds mentors to help children, and provides art supplies, instruments and professional development as a way to address broader school challenges, National Director Kathy Fletcher says.

A key goal of the program—developed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—is to guide educators in integrating arts into everyday instruction.

Bridgeport’s Roosevelt Elementary was one of the first of eight schools to participate in the national program’s pilot in 2012. Turnaround Arts now operates in five of the city’s 30 schools—as well as in 36 districts in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Regional arts organizations have supported Bridgeport’s program. For example, Beechwood Arts & Innovation, a nonprofit based in a more affluent nearby town, galvanized community members in sponsoring 40 students and parents for an August 2016 concert with musicians Joshua Bell and Frederic Chiu.

Across the country, Turnaround Arts programs receive a combination of public and private funding.

“After Turnaround Arts’ infusion of arts and music education, we see attendance rise, discipline issues drop and parent engagement increase in the first year,” Fletcher says. “And in the years to follow, we see math and reading scores go up at most of our schools.”