ArtsSmarts is a national program that promotes the teaching of arts infused curricula and the invaluable lessons that artistic practices can contribute to self-awareness, creativity, empathy, and community. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation funds the ArtsSmarts program, and the Canadian Conference of the Arts acts as the ArtsSmarts Secretariat. Organizations from across Canada have been chosen as ArtsSmarts Partners to oversee projects that meld the program objectives with localized needs, resources, and visions for learning through the arts. More than 125,000 young people, 2,500 artists, and 4,500 teachers and community members have participated in Phase I (1998-2001) of the ArtsSmarts program.
The evaluative research into Phase I of ArtsSmarts has shown that the program is meeting its goal of promoting collaborative efforts that bring the arts to schools and communities. Artists are bringing new insights and skills to learning, while passing on their passion for the arts. Teachers and administrators are expressing gratitude for the infusion of the arts into their teaching, their schools, and their community centres. Young people are enthusiastically engaging in art making and showing consistent signs of gaining new understandings of curriculum subjects, of themselves, and of their communities. Parents are volunteering time to the implementation and support of the projects. Whole communities are beginning to recognize the benefits of having the ArtsSmarts program in their midst and are providing venues, media coverage, collaboration, and, in some case, additional funding for the projects.
ArtsSmarts is embarking on Phase II of its programming, in which it will continue to support existing projects, expand the reach of ArtsSmarts to other Partners and communities, and identify strategies that will ultimately allow localized projects to become self-sustaining. The ArtsSmarts program is providing both leadership and opportunities to ensure that the arts remain a vital component of the lives and learning of Canadian young people.