Arts education is good for you!

Study after study shows that the arts:

  • Improve academic performance and critical thinking skills
  • Build self-confidence and understanding of others
  • Boost school attendance
  • Teach 21st century skills such as creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving

So…what’s the problem?

Shouldn’t we just put arts in every school and watch students thrive?

From a national model to a national disgrace


Before the 1980s, California was seen as a leader in public education. Today, California ranks 30th in the nation.

Prop 13

Prop 13 decreased school funding from local property taxes. Schools are forced to choose between which programs to fund. Arts education is virtually eliminated.

No Child Left Behind

In 2002, President Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which would punish schools for not raising standardized test scores in English and math only. Teachers are pressured to “teach to the test.”

“No money. No time.”

Today, 9 out of 10 public schools (89%) fail to provide their students with high quality arts education.

Schools say that the top 3 reasons for a lack of arts education are:

  1. Not enough money.
  2. Improving standardized test scores comes first.
  3. Not enough time in the school day.

If schools want arts education, they are forced to turn to parents to raise money: 59% of schools with a wealthier student body rely on parents to raise money for arts education.

This is where Performing Arts Workshop comes in…

Performing Arts Workshop helps students that others refer to as at-risk develop the critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills they’ll need in order to be prepared for school, work, and life.


  • Circa 1955: Out of curiosity, a couple of teenage gang members walk into Gloria Unti’s small dance studio. Immediately, the teens are hooked on creative movement.
  • 1965: Performing Arts Workshop gains non-profit status.
  • 1973: The Workshop becomes one of the first non-profits to place trained artists into San Francisco public schools.
  • 1990: On Stage in the Classroom: Performance Arts from K through 8 is published.
  • 2006: Performing Arts Workshop presents at the UNESCO World Conference on Arts Education in Lisbon, Portugal.
  • 2010: The Workshop receives its third U.S. Department of Education Award to study how the arts prepare students for the 21st century.
  • 2011: 8,359 youth served, 30+ teaching artists, and over 300 supporters.

Igniting Young Minds Through the Arts

Professional artists are trained to teach critical thinking, creative expression, and problem solving skills through their art form.

Teaching artists can be found in the classrooms during the school day, as well as at after-school sites, community centers, transitional housing sites and juvenile hall.

Our subjects include World Dance, Theatre Arts, Creative Writing, Spoken Word, World Music, Creative Movement, and many more.

Who are our students?

Students by Population:

General Education Students

English Language Learner Students

Special Education Students

Making a Difference Inside the Classroom


  • Special Education students feel more confident learning with their General Education Peers.
  • Special Education students feel more successful in the classroom and have an opportunity to be on “equal ground” with general education students.

We should not have to fight the same fight each year.

In 2010, we launched a strategic advocacy plan to bring down the barriers to arts education in schools.


We’re trailblazing local arts education advocacy. We provide advocacy workshops to other arts education non-profits.

In preparation for the 2012 statewide elections, we are rallying local arts education groups to make sure arts education is a cornerstone in California educational policy.


In 2011, national arts education funding faced near extinction. We galvanized our supporters to fight back and sent hundreds of postcards to federal lawmakers. Our team met with the staff members from the offices of Representative Pelosi, Senator Feinstein, and Senator Boxer.

And the hard work paid off:

57 high poverty communities could count on national arts education funding for another year.

Building Deeper Partnerships with Schools and Community Organizations

We’ve been growing in the last decade. In 2009-2010, we decided to go beyond our role as an arts provider and become a true educational partner. This meant serving fewer students than before. Why fewer and not more? We’re working more closely with principals, teachers, and afterschool directors to deliver high caliber programs that meet the students’ specific needs and the schools’ educational goals.

To educate students, arts programs must be a “need to have” not a “nice to have.”

Let’s reinvent education for the 21st century.

Are you with us?

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Take Action: Advocate

Are you from a school or community organization? Partner with us!