By Miranda Myers, staff writer at Grow Wire
In 1982, Judy Sleeth founded Art in Action after recognizing a noticeable lack of funding for the arts in elementary and middle schools. The organization’s mission—to empower children in kindergarten through eighth grade using arts education—has helped it serve nearly 500,000 students in over 500 locations around the United States, delivering 19 tons of art with the help of 300 parent and community volunteers.
And Art in Action has done all of this with only 10 full-time employees.
“There’s an element of parent engagement that has carried the program forward,” Darby says. “We have parent docents, a volunteer base of people who have taught the program for their children. These volunteers are like an extension of our staff and allow us to do what we do.”
She also notes that Art in Action’s board is comprised of 13 individuals with a variety of backgrounds—from parent docents to business sponsors with venture capital backgrounds to art enthusiasts—who can all come together with the same goal.
“The way we choose our donors is based on their passion for the mission,” Darby explains. “The only criteria is to have commitment.”
Despite a deeply engaged support system around Art in Action, Darby says building an arts education program hasn’t been easy. Science, technology and math subjects are typically prioritized over the arts. Even the organization’s biggest corporate sponsors needed convincing about the value art programs provide young students.
“It’s difficult to raise money for arts education,” Darby admits. “What’s different now is that a lot of our corporate partners are starting to understand what ‘creative resilience’ means and how important it is to their workforce.”
In fact, Darby says more and more corporations are realizing innovation and technology are rooted in creativity--creativity that’s taught in the arts.
Listen to the full episode with Mizgon Darby to hear how Art in Action continues to fuel its mission, what the organization is doing right to do so (including securing funding in the competitive space), and her advice for other nonprofit organizations on the keys to success.
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