Innovation: UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory receives National Endowment for the Arts grant


The UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) award to support a new study examining the value of community arts education initiatives.

The Arts Collab is housed in the School of Education’s office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE), and provides research-based arts opportunities for youth to grow as learners, cultivate well- ness, and advocate for social change.

Yorel Lashley
Yorel Lashley (right) is the director of arts for PLACE and the founder of Drum Power, a culturally relevant Arts Collab program that uses West African, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Brazilian drum and dance traditions to practice social and emotional skills.

The co-principal investigators on the project are Erica Halverson and Yorel Lashley. Halverson is a professor with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and leads the Arts Collab’s Whoopensocker creative writing and theater program. Lashley is the director of arts for PLACE and the founder of Drum Power, a culturally relevant Arts Collab program that uses West African, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Brazilian drum and dance traditions to practice social and emotional skills. Performing Ourselves, an Arts Collab dance initiative led by Dance Department Professor Kate Corby in elementary schools and community centers, is also part of the NEA project.

The project — which is receiving a $145,971 NEA Research Lab award — will build on the Arts Collab’s mission of understanding how participation in art-making improves the lives of youth, educators, and community. The initiative will implement a three-part study measuring the social and emotional learning (SEL) outcomes for students in third through fifth grade who participate in Arts Collab performing arts programs hosted by the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). The project will also measure professional development growth in MMSD teachers who receive training in arts integration and SEL.

“We are very excited about our selection as an NEA Research Lab because it is both a recognition of the value of our programs — as well as a powerful award of support for the UW–Madison Arts Collab to continue developing into a national hub,” says Lashley. “Becoming an NEA Research Lab connects us to a powerful source of shared knowledge and research support, and is also an induction into a network of universities with similar research interests.”