The Center for Arts Education (CAE) was established in 1996 to restore and sustain arts education in New York City’s schools after two decades of funding cuts for classroom arts programs. Since its founding, CAE has
- advocated on multiple levels for the return of arts education to New York City public schools;
- fostered long-term partnerships between schools and cultural institutions;
- provided nearly $40 million in direct financial support for sustainable arts programs in hundreds of schools;
- provided professional development to teachers, artists, and administrators;
- opened doors for high school students exploring arts careers;
- published guides for educators to replicate the successes of their peers;
- and created new avenues for parents to participate in and advocate for arts experiences in the schools.
Prior to 1975, a citywide arts curriculum provided instruction in dance, theater, music, and visual arts at every stage of a New York City public school student's education. But as a result of the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, arts teachers lost their jobs, and the notion that the arts are an essential element of students’ academic development was gradually abandoned. For the next 20 years, thousands of children experienced a K-12 education without opportunities to receive instruction in arts education.
By the early 1990s, the New York City's Board of Education, cultural institutions, and private-sector foundations had grown increasingly alarmed by the dire state of arts education. In 1993, Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg announced the single largest gift ever made to American public education, and suggested establishing New York City as an "arts education challenge site." To address that challenge, New York City’s Board of Education, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and private-sector institutions proposed a unique public-private partnership that would foster sustainable collaboration among teachers, artists, cultural institutions, and community organizations.
The Center for Arts Education was created to administer this initiative, which was initially funded with $36 million in Annenberg Foundation, public, and private monies earmarked for the city's public schools. CAE's Board of Directors included the chancellor of the New York City Board of Education as well as leading members of the city’s civic, cultural, and business communities.
The cornerstone of CAE's effort was the creation of arts partnerships in which schools worked with cultural and community organizations to form school-wide arts programs and promote school reform. In 1997, 81 schools were awarded three-year Partnership Grants to form collaborations with these cultural and community-based organizations to create arts curricula tailored to meet the individual needs of each school. By supporting the use of the city’s vast wealth of cultural resources, CAE provided a link that made institutions—ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Pregones Theater Company in the South Bronx—an integral part of New York’s public school system.
More than one-third of the City’s public schools had applied for the grants, and the political leadership took note of this overwhelming response as well as the disappointment of those that did not receive them. So the Board of Education, with support from the mayor, created Project ARTS, the first system-wide per capita funding for the arts since the mid-'70s. Used for the training and hiring of arts teachers as well as arts supplies; Project Arts would also lay the groundwork, a decade later, for the Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, the first citywide arts curriculum guidelines since the 1970s. In 2000, CAE launched a huge public awareness campaign, to focus the public’s attention on the arts as an essential component of a child’s education.
CAE continues to promote the capacity of the arts to improve student academic performance, enhance communication skills, provide additional avenues to success, forge connections between different cultures, and enable the next generation of citizens to take part in the cultural life of a city that is also home to many of the world's greatest artistic institutions. In January 2012, Eric C. Pryor was named Executive Director. Under Pryor's leadership, CAE continues its efforts to make quality arts instruction an essential element of every child’s education in the New York City public schools.