Posted in GAP News, Mississippi Art News, Professional Development

Meet our friends at the Whole Schools Initiative

Meet our friends at The Whole School Initiative (WSI)! WSI is a program through the Mississippi Arts Commission that focuses on arts integration as a method of school reform. Learn more about WSI after the jump!

In 1968, the Mississippi legislature created the Mississippi Arts Commission as the official grantsmaking and service agency for the arts. In the 1990s, the Commission has broadened its role as an active supporter and promoter of the arts in community life and arts education.

The Commission is funded in part by the state but also receives substantial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. With these funds, the Commission provides financial support in the form of grants for eligible arts programs, such as the Whole Schools Initiative and for the work of individual artists.

The mission of the Mississippi Arts Commission is to be a catalyst for the arts in Mississippi. The six goals of the Commission’s strategic plan guide the agency’s mission:

  1. Support the development of Mississippi communities through the arts;
  2. Improve the capacity and stability of Mississippi’s arts organizations;
  3. Strengthen education in and through the arts;
  4. Increase knowledge of and pride in Mississippi arts and culture;
  5. Recognize and encourage Mississippi artists; and
  6. Sustain the Commission’s administrative effectiveness.

Commitment to Goal 3 has seen the Whole Schools Initiative grow from a small grants program in the early 1990’s to its current status as a year-round, nationally recognized model for using the arts to teach across the standard curriculum. An annual weeklong Summer Institute, as well as Fall and Spring Retreats, offer educators outstanding opportunities for professional development. A dedicated team of field advisors assures the continued growth of this unique program.

A 15-member volunteer board governs the Mississippi Arts Commission. Commissioners bring expertise in the arts, business, and community affairs. They represent the citizens of Mississippi. Appointed by the Governor for five-year terms, three new Commissioners are named each year.

The executive director, hired by the Board of Commissioners, heads the 11-member staff, which implements policies, administers grants, and provides services. The staff consults on community arts development, performing, visual and literary arts, folk arts, and arts education, of which the Whole Schools Initiative is a major component.

Among the Commission’s many grant programs and special initiatives, Whole Schools remains one of the most respected and recognized undertakings, a superb example of how the arts can enrich schools and their communities. In addition to funding from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whole Schools Initiative has been supported by the Mississippi Department of Education, The National Geographic Foundation, several corporate and private funders, and a generous grant from the United States Department of Education.

via The Whole Schools Initiative | About Who We Are

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The mission of the Greenville Arts Council is to promote the rich cultural heritage of the region and stimulate and encourage cultural activities, arts appreciation, arts education, and the creative works of artists. Some of the responsibilities that help define the Greenville Arts Council as the primary promoter of the arts in our area include offering art classes to children and adults, organizing community events, presenting an ongoing series of free exhibits featuring visual artists from the area and the state, and coordinating educational programs which teach arts-integration in local schools. The Greenville Arts Partnership between the Greenville Arts Council, the Greenville Public School District and our three community arts partners, Delta Center Stage, Delta Symphony Association and the Delta Children’s Museum, is focused on full arts integration in the GPSD elementary schools. Plentiful research documents the value of the teaching in and through the arts to help students understand core academic concepts on a deep level. The partnership was the first in the state of Mississippi accepted into the Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program in 2003, joining over 100 other partnerships between school districts and arts organizations across the country. The partnership provides professional development for teachers, arts experiences for students and resource and referral on arts integration issues. Professional development has been provided in two ways, through workshops with Teaching Artists from the Kennedy Touring Roster and grade-level and/or discipline-specific professional development with our local staff. We present a series of model demonstration lessons to teachers in grades K to 6, demonstrating connections between Partnership free arts programming and required state frameworks. The partner arts groups present a series of live performances allowing each elementary child in the GPSD to attend at least once each year. The groups work with the Arts Council staff to develop accompanying curriculum-based educational material for distribution to teachers prior to each performance. Over the years, we have succeeded in providing basic arts integration training district-wide as well as in-depth professional development to allow groups of teachers to increase their level of mastery.