Cover: How to Support More and Stronger Arts Education Partnerships in Allegheny County

How to Support More and Stronger Arts Education Partnerships in Allegheny County

Published Aug 9, 2017

by Yael Z. Silk, Catherine H. Augustine

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كيفية دعم شراكات أكثر وأقوى في مجال التربية الفنية في مقاطعة أليغيني

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Research Questions

  1. Why are schools and districts and cultural organizations in Allegheny County creating arts partnerships?
  2. What do partners understand to be the best ways to implement these partnerships?
  3. What factors appear to facilitate effective partnerships in the county?
  4. What are the regional barriers to forming and implementing successful partnerships?
  5. What can funders do to support and expand arts partnerships?

Regional arts and cultural partners can support arts education in schools by providing instruction to students in arts disciplines where teachers are not available, deepening arts learning opportunities offered in schools, and integrating the arts with other content areas. This report presents findings from an exploratory study on arts partnerships in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and identifies regional facilitators and barriers to forming, implementing, and sustaining them. The authors analyzed the extant research on arts education partnerships and interviewed more than 25 staff members from 14 organizations in Allegheny County.

The interviewees confirmed that partners from regional arts and cultural organizations and schools have engaged in and continue to build on long-term partnerships, forming shared goals and creating customized arts programs to benefit students — the acknowledged primary beneficiaries of this work. Interviewees also expressed their growing awareness of the professional learning opportunities that arts partnerships offer to both participating teachers and artists. In initiating and implementing these partnerships, schools and arts organizations strive to follow best practices from the literature.

Key Findings

Motivations for Creating Partnerships

  • Interviewees from all types of partner organizations described student benefits as a motivating factor to foster or engage in arts education partnerships, including academic reinforcement, career readiness, and social and emotional growth.
  • School and district leaders talked about the value of arts partnerships in expanding teacher practices. There was also discussion about how partnerships can have a school-level benefit when the learning inside the classroom is shared outside the classroom with the broader school community.
  • Arts partners discussed how engaging schools in partnerships provided specific benefits to their organizations, including the development of future audiences for the arts and professional development for teaching artists.

Facilitators of Regional Arts Partnerships

  • It is important to have a range of supports in place to ensure that partnerships are formed and implemented successfully.
  • Interviewees described more than 20 factors that facilitate arts partnerships in Allegheny County. The factors can be grouped into six facilitators: proximity to and diversity of cultural assets, intermediaries serving as brokers, funding, multiple champions for arts education, shared vision and goals, and collaborative effort.

Barriers to Establishing, Implementing, and Sustaining Regional Arts Partnerships

  • Barriers to establishing arts partnerships include competition with higher-priority school needs; lack of awareness of and access to information about past, current, and potential partnerships throughout Allegheny County; difficulty with gaining multilevel buy-in (e.g., principals, teachers, parents, and community leaders) for arts partnerships; and capacity constraints among school and arts organizations.
  • Barriers to implementing and sustaining regional arts partnerships include lack of funding for ongoing collaboration and for multiyear commitments, lack of time and capacity for regular check-ins, lack of transportation, inflexible schedules, and staff turnover.


  • Fund pilot partnerships within underserved districts or schools as a "first taste" to establish relationships.
  • Create a centralized repository to identify arts resources, match partners based on educational and partnership needs, and illuminate which arts partnerships are active in which schools.
  • Host showcase events to expose school staff, parents, and the community to the potential benefits of arts opportunities for students.
  • Support educator professional development.
  • Restructure funding opportunities.
  • Build the capacity of current programs to expand access and to help sustain them.
  • Improve the program evaluation capacity of arts partnership participants.

This study was sponsored by the Jack Buncher Foundation and conducted by RAND Education.

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