Arts in Action

Arts Education in Florida: Toward Excellence
Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs
In collaboration with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education and
Mary Palmer & Associates, LLC
July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008


In November 2003, the Florida Department of State and the Florida Arts Council, assisted by Partners for Livable Communities, undertook a one year visioning process which brought together business, government, and arts leaders to develop a sound, practical ten-year plan for the State of Florida. The resulting plan seeks to engage a strong, statewide network of people and organizations with broad interests and a unified set of goals. Identified priorities include:

  • Creating partnerships to build sustainable economic and civic infrastructures for culture and the arts
  • Engaging with state government leaders to promote the role of arts and culture in every aspect of public life (education, health, elder affairs, tourism, transportation, etc.) and
  • Joining with planners and developers to inject arts and culture into established statewide priorities dedicated to economic diversification, improving education and wellness, and strengthening families.

The Florida Arts Council’s Strategic Planning Task Force defined four key issues as the final, prioritized recommendations:

  • Strengthening the economy
  • Promoting learning and wellness
  • Building leadership
  • Advancing design and development

The significant role of arts education in achieving these goals was recognized and appreciated by participants as well as Task Force members. Prioritized visioning recommendations for promoting Learning and Wellness include working with strategic statewide partners to:

  1. Strengthen statewide partnerships.
  2. Increase state dialogues on arts education.
  3. Create partnerships with health, medical care and social service agencies.
  4. Include arts and culture in benchmarks for healthy communities.

The stakeholders’ top recommendation for promoting learning and wellness states, “The Florida Department of Education should continue supporting arts and culture in school and magnet programs for all ages and ability levels, and create more effective partnerships between school districts and arts organizations.” An active and vibrant partnership between the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs in concert with their respective constituencies is essential to the achievement of this goal.

Achievement of these goals is critical to Florida in its quest for excellence in arts education. Arts education provides the foundation upon which life-long interest and involvement in the arts is built. The arts play a critical role in building healthy communities and enhancing the overall quality and value of life itself. Arts education gives people of all ages access to the benefits of the arts. This proposal is a beginning step in the Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council efforts to increase excellence in arts education.

The Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE) was invited to submit a proposal to address the arts education aspects of the Task Force’s call to action. The work of this project was subcontracted to Mary Palmer & Associates, LLC, by FAAE. The following goals, presented in bold-faced type, formed the basis of the work.

*From Culture Builds Florida’s Future (Margaret Barlow, Tallahassee, 2005)


  • Build a strong and unified voice for arts education among educators and community arts organizations.
    Working in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education and Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs as well as the Arts for a Complete Education/Florida Alliance for Arts Education (ACE/FAAE) Board of Directors, this project sought to strengthen a unified message for arts education throughout Florida. In cooperation with Sherron Long, ACE/FAAE Vice President for Governmental Relations and Florida Cultural Alliance President, monthly teleconferences were held to address Florida’s challenges and opportunities for arts education in schools and in community settings. These statewide teleconferences included representatives from both schools and community organizations and programs. Local Arts Agency leaders and Public School Arts Education leaders were the major participants. These meetings served to inform and to coalesce the various arts/arts education stakeholders. The result of these meetings was the development of a unified message for arts education in Florida. Although the number of participants in each teleconference varied, the average number was approximately 25.

    Two tri-fold brochures were developed to advance the message: Arts Education Is Critical for All Students and Arts for a Complete Education.

    These brochures were distributed via the statewide partner organizations of ACE/FAAE, Local ACE Coalitions, and ACE/FAAE sponsored events. In addition, a downloadable format (pdf file) of each brochure was available at, the official Website of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education.

    The project worked with Dr. Tom Pearson, ACE/FAAE Vice President of Local ACE Coalitions, to build local support for arts education both in school and non–school settings. Local ACE Coalitions are in effect in 27 areas throughout Florida. Coalitions typically include people from various constituencies: education, arts, business, and local government. This project specifically increased local awareness of the need to expand the constituency for the arts/arts education to include the social services, criminal justice, and healthcare communities.

  • Broaden constituency base to develop a statewide arts education leadership network to increase attention to and funding for arts education in school, after-school and non-school settings. (Leadership Network)
    A significant component of this project was the presentation of four (4) regional forums on arts education. The forums were branded: ARTS in ACTION: Winning Strategies in Business, Healthcare, Social Services and Criminal Justice. A local host committee, including representatives from education as well as each of the other targeted sectors, was formed in each forum locale. Each committee identified local speakers to share exemplary programs, invitees from each of the targeted sections, and location for the forum. Information about the Forums as well as about the Learning and Wellness Survey was distributed through the Florida Departments of Education, Criminal Justice, Juvenile Justice, Elder Affairs, State/Division of Cultural Affairs; Florida League of Cities; Florida Chamber of Commerce; local Chambers of Commerce; Leadership Florida Alumni Association; Florida Recreation and Parks Association; Heart of Florida and other United Way agencies; Health Departments; local Community Foundations; Enterprise Florida; Florida Association of Local Arts Agencies; Florida Alliance for Arts Education; Boys and Girls Clubs; Local Governments; Florida Hospital Association; Center for Creative Aging (University of South Florida); and the Business Committee on the Arts.

    In addition, under the auspices of WMFE – Orlando public radio, a feature on the Forums was recorded as part of The Arts Connection program, hosted by Becky Morgan. This feature, with Dr. Mary Palmer, was distributed throughout Florida and was especially targeted to Forum sites. Approximately three hundred fifty (350) people attended the forums. The proceedings of each forum are available at

    The project arranged for arts education speakers at various meetings of constituent organizations during the year. The following took place:

    November 2007: Florida Dance Educators Organization Annual Meeting – West Palm Beach. Drs. Mary Palmer and Tom Pearson, speakers.

    January 2008: Florida Music Educators Association Annual Conference – Tampa. Sir Ken Robinson, Keynote speaker. His presentation was followed by an ACE/FAAE led session in which over 50 invited guests from education, business, local government, and social services participated. This session served to generate interest in the upcoming Arts in Action Forums as well as in the need to speak with a unified voice for arts education in Florida.

    February 2008: Florida Art Educators Association Annual Board Meeting – Orlando. Dr. Mary Palmer and Juanita Hernandez-Black, speakers.

    The need to further expand ACE/FAAE presence at the meetings and in the publications of our various constituencies has been prioritized by the Board of Directors for the coming year.

  • Develop and implement a public awareness campaign for arts education
    In addition to the Florida brochures developed under the auspices of this project, ACE/FAAE is working with the Americans for the Arts to utilize their public awareness materials. These have been distributed through the channels mentioned above. In addition, these materials will be available at

    This project, branded as ARTS in ACTION is a Website within the Florida Alliance for Arts Education Website. All information from the current project is posted on that site.

  • Identify, document, and publicize successful in-school, after-school and non-school programs, emphasizing school-community connections. (Successful Program Documentation)

    Identification of in-school successful arts education programs has taken place through the ACE/FAAE Arts Achieve! Schools program. This program incorporates research from “best practices” models to identify elements of success in school programs: school-based leadership; resource allocations;’ schedule; curriculum; teacher roles and responsibilities related to arts education; community collaborations; parent involvement. The first 13 schools were identified in 2007. Information about these schools is available at Each of the 13 schools was contacted in May and June 2008 to provide an updated account of their work in arts education; these updates are available on the Website. In 2008, two additional schools were named Arts Achieve! Schools. These schools were honored at the 2008 ACE Leadership Summit, held in Orlando on June 16-18. Arts Achieve! Schools maintain their designation for a three-year period and are available as models for other schools. In addition, teachers from these schools are frequently invited to speak at statewide meetings, such as the ACE Leadership Summit.

    ACE/FAAE is a member of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network; as such, Florida is able to nominate a school for national recognition. In 2008, Gocio Elementary School from Sarasota County was honored as a National School of Distinction in Arts Education. This school, too, is recognized on the Website. In the coming year, the Principal, Steven Dragon, and various teachers, will be invited by ACE/FAAE to share their successes in statewide meetings of our various arts/arts education constituencies.

    The Florida Department of Education Music Demonstration School program recognizes schools with outstanding programs of music education. The ACE/FAAE Website provides a link to information about these schools. A Visual Arts Demonstration School program is in development by the FDOE. This program, too, will be linked to the Website.

    After-school and community based arts/arts education programs were identified through a statewide survey offered electronically through Survey Monkey. Approximately 300 individuals, organizations, and agencies responded to the Learning and Wellness Survey. This Survey provided information about beliefs and practices in arts/arts education. Further, respondents were invited to provide information about programs they provide within any of the targeted sectors. These findings are posted on the Website, under ARTS in ACTION.

    In addition, a web-based search of national programs within the targeted sectors was undertaken. It is hoped that the programs included will both inform and inspire those who seek to implement or improve their offerings. These findings are posted on the Website, under ARTS in ACTION.

    These searches have underscored the wealth of arts/arts education programming in non-school settings. Intergenerational programs, programs for elders, programs to address social issues and to solve community challenges have all been identified. Several of these exemplary offerings in Florida were highlighted in the four ARTS in ACTION Forums held during the spring. In June 2008, PBS featured the Shand’s Hospital Arts in Medicine program in a special program. Exploration of additional special programming should be undertaken.

Ann Killets
Former Chief Learning Officer
School District of Palm Beach County

Malcolm Thomas
Escambia School District

Dede Schaffner
School Board Member
The School Board of Seminole County, Florida