Northwestern Mutual Foundation funds study of arts education in region

The Northwestern Mutual Foundation is providing $30,000 for a study to explore arts education in the Milwaukee 7 (M7) region.

The study, directed by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee, will explore the extent and type of support for arts education within the K-12 public school system.

The study continues exploration into the M7 creative economy as the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee also has partnered with the Greater Milwaukee Committee for the Creativity Works Initiative launched in 2009.

“When the Creativity Works project got underway we were looking at it from the perspective of talent attraction, and new businesses and entrepreneurship,” said Christine Harris, president of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee. “We were also looking at it from the perspective of workforce development and what creativity skills are students developing and what skill sets are they going to need to go into frankly a new workforce.”

“We recognize that arts education in the classroom can help unlock a child’s full potential, so we’re pleased to work with the Cultural Alliance to identify both the progress we’re making and the gaps that still exist,” said Deanna Tillisch, vice president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “We hope our efforts will make a long-term impact, because in our view, every child has the right to be inspired by the arts.”

According to Harris, the study is an expansion of the arts education research that Northwestern Mutual invested in. The study also specifically addresses a void in prior research by focusing on the M7 region and the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) system.

“Northwestern Mutual agreed that we would take that funding and rather than do a state of arts education annual report, do a snapshot of what as happening in arts education around the 7-county region,” Harris said.

The research will be compiled by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR). Organizers for the study hope to reach all school districts in the M7 area by distributing surveys and plan to extensively research MPS program offerings utilizing interviews and surveys.

“The intent is that we shine a spotlight on opportunities for students to learn a deeper and broader creative skill set, which will enable them to be significantly more poised to be innovative in their work lives, which will help us have a more innovative economy,” Harris said.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of this year. According to Harris, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee will use the results from the K-12 study and the Creativity Works study to further direct the organization’s efforts in creating a creative economy in southeastern Wisconsin.

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