HISD announces partnership with Kennedy Center to expand student access to the arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Thursday that the Houston Independent School District together with the City of Houston would serve as the 19th site for their national arts education program.

The Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program will take existing resources from HISD, local arts organizations, the City of Houston, and the Kennedy Center and combine them to increase arts opportunities and provide high-quality arts education for 7,000 students at 11 schools.

The schools include Atherton, Benbrook, Eliot, Hartsfield, Hines-Caldwell, Kashmere Gardens, Memorial, Mitchell, Scarborough, and Whittier elementary schools, and Hamilton Middle School. Additional schools are expected to be added in the coming years.

“We are excited to partner with the Kennedy Center as we continue working to provide all students with equal access to high-quality arts education,” HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said. “By providing great arts-related experiences both in and out of the classroom, we help ensure our students develop into more creative, well-rounded scholars and our teachers become inspiring agents of change.”

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The announcement was made at Whittier Elementary School with City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Kennedy Center Senior Vice President of Education Mario Rossero. The event featured a musical performance by two Whittier flute players. Whittier offers fine arts and music — including band — for students. Drama, painting, and African drumming and dance are available to students after school through a partnership with Young Audiences of Houston.

“When children have access to a rich arts education, discipline issues go down and academic achievement improves,” HISD Board of Education Trustee Juliet Stipeche said. “It’s about capitalizing on the creativity and vision of every child, and it starts with providing our children with the arts.”

HISD was selected by the Kennedy Center because of its demonstrated commitment to improve education in and through the arts, particularly with the city’s Arts Access Initiative, a collaborative group that aims to ensure all students benefit academically through the arts. Working together with the Arts Access Initiative, HISD developed three goals for arts education – equity, impact, and sustainability.

The Kennedy Center will work with HISD on how to best implement a plan to reach these goals. Additionally, the center will offer teachers arts resources and professional development opportunities. The program is being funded by the Kennedy Center and the Arts Access Initiative.

“All students deserve access to high-quality arts education,” Kennedy Center Senior Vice President of Education Mario Rossero said. “We are particularly grateful to Mayor Parker and Superintendent Grier for their commitment to this program. Houston has a strong and committed arts community, and we look forward to seeing the students of Houston reap the benefits of this program.”