Students in D.C. will see their arts education opportunities expand as District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) team up with a local arts and cultural powerhouse.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative and DCPS made the announcement of a first-ever long-range plan for bolstering arts education in grades K-12 on Friday, Sept. 29 at the Columbia Heights Education Campus in Northwest.
The city has been selected as the 25th site for the Kennedy Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child initiative.
“Today is truly a celebration,” said Lissa Rosenthal-Yoffe, executive director of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative. “There has not been a more significant moment in the history of arts and humanities education, cultural planning and public-private partnerships here in the District of Columbia.
“This is our moment for inclusivity, for government to be supportive and for all to work together to provide equitable access to arts and humanities for D.C. students,” she said.
Rosenthal-Yoffe said the new partnership will benefit students in DCPS for decades to come.
“As we begin to do this work, we look forward to expanding through the Kennedy Center,” she said. “This will provide the District of Columbia an opportunity to nationally showcase what we are doing here.”
Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, hopes that the arts for DCPS students will help them in ways it did for her many years ago.
“The arts gave me the opportunity to figure out what I really loved,” she said. “It is through this program Any Given Child that we believe every child deserves that opportunity. Every student in this District deserves to have the opportunity to learn about themselves through music, how to express themselves through dance and learn about the history of hip-hop.”
Many, including Rutter, have wondered, with the Kennedy Center being in Washington, why has it taken this long for the partnership to come to fruition.
“When I came here three years ago, I thought, ‘We are in all these other cities why not our own city?'” she said.
Rutter contends that the partnership comes at the perfect time now that all the pieces are in place.
“You need to have the right leadership from the mayors office, the school district with other arts organizations and their needs to be a collective commitment to that,” she said. “And so we’ve got really great people here, but it took a little time to have all the right pieces and the priorities. As you heard from the chancellor, he has a big commitment and the mayor has a big commitment, where she believes arts, culture and humanities are a big part of our city.
“It comes down to really great timing,” Rutter said. “If you have one missing piece, it doesn’t work.”
For the first time in Any Given Child’s nine-year existence, the program will cover all students in the school district.
“We tailor-make the arts programs to the needs of the students and schools, we are also especially thrilled that for the first time ever we’re going through the full system,” said Mario Rossero, Kennedy Center’s senior vice president of education. “Typically this is a K-8 program, but we are launching 9-12 also, covering the whole District. This is a very unique moment in time and no better place to do this than in Washington, D.C.”