Founded over 40 years ago as an affiliate of Young Audiences, Arts for Learning Connecticut has remained a leading provider of arts in education programs in the state. Our staff of four and roster of 70+ teaching artists serve 150,000+ PK-12 students in over 60% of Connecticut’s towns annually. We work primarily in schools—and also in community centers, libraries, and other civic institutions—offering performances, workshops, residencies, and professional development. Our work spans the creative spectrum—from spoken word poetry and contemporary visual art to classical Kathak dance and improv theater. Our diverse roster of teaching artists is reflective of the students we serve.
At its core, the problem AFLCT works to solve is the fact that many students throughout Connecticut are underserved—and underperforming. In a state with the greatest income inequality in the nation and a deep-rooted and seemingly intractable gap in educational performance between those with and without socioeconomic means, educators and administrators struggle to find resources and programs that can make a difference for young people. In the face of extraordinary financial, human resource, and—of course—health challenges that have had an outsized negative impact on schools, students, and families, we believe our role is to provide effective, efficient, inspired programming that leverages diverse resources to provide critical learning opportunities for all students.
Arts for Learning Connecticut takes on the achievement gap through an intervention called arts in education: culturally-enriching, curricular-integrated programming that uses creative modalities facilitated by teaching artists to support standard educational outcomes. In this way, students are able to better connect with concepts in the classroom that are presented in an inherently engaging context that calls on the kinds of skills and abilities that aren’t necessarily at the center of regular classroom instruction. We go beyond traditional arts education (which often comes through school-based art teachers)—instead, we provide an opportunity for students to engage in social and emotional learning and develop 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity in settings across the artistic and curricular spectrum. When successful, arts in education leads to deeper student engagement and improved learning outcomes. And while many best practices in education call for this work, it is not regularly built into school programming: thus, the need for AFLCT.
We are an organization with a statewide mandate, and we work with our teaching artists to reach students in all corners of Connecticut through robust fee-for-service and grant-funded programs. Although COVID-19 presented significant challenges for our organization, we transitioned to virtual programming in early 2020—and are proud to have served over 100,000 students throughout the pandemic by means of distance learning.
In 2019 we began working with our artists and supporters in exploring ways to increase rigor in our programming, deepen educational impact for young people, and more effectively support the professional practice of teaching artists and teachers. As a result, we partnered with the CT Office of the Arts to adopt Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools, a nationally recognized whole-school, deep impact, teaching and learning program with 25 years of successful practice. Click here to learn more about HOT Schools and our growing cohort of partner schools.