In 2008, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the Seattle Arts Commission established a partnership with Seattle Public Schools to build sustainable capacity to make quality arts education accessible to every student, especially in less affluent communities and communities of color. Increased capacity was urgently needed to kick-start systemic change and overcome inequity of access. At the time, award-winning arts programs existed in some schools, while others had little or no arts.

The goals of the partnership are to make quality arts education accessible to every student, with a focus on lower income communities and communities of color, who have been shown to have lower access to arts learning opportunities. Research and planning were supported by a $1 million planning grant awarded to the school district by The Wallace Foundation in summer 2011. From the research and planning process, a comprehensive K-12 arts plan was developed to increase quality learning opportunities for all students in the district, especially those with the least access to arts.

As part of this process, the school district, Office of Arts & Culture and community arts organizations hosted a series of citywide focus groups to help shape the arts plan in Spring 2012. The findings show that community respondents want arts access be consistent across the school district. They believe that arts learning builds skills such as innovation and collaboration and should be used by teachers as part of an intentional instructional approach. Community members also believe that arts curricula need to be multi-cultural, relevant to students, broader in scope and integrated with other content areas. Students want exposure and access to all four disciplines (dance, music, theater, and visual arts) that is early, broad and guided by professional arts instructors; opportunities to learn about arts careers; and opportunities to showcase and share their learning. Read the full research report here.

In Spring 2013, the collaboration launched a new name (The Creative Advantage) signifying the public launch and the beginning of implementation (see details on the Central Pathway page). The Creative Advantage also partnered with The Seattle Foundation to provide support for the project.

Together, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle Public Schools and The Seattle Foundation will ensure Seattle is a city where all students in all Seattle Public Schools have opportunities to learn through the arts, helping them to be successful in school and in life.