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

The UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory is receiving an NEA Research Lab award to support a new study examining the value of community arts education initiatives.

“The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is pleased to welcome UW–Madison’s Community Arts Collaboratory into the network of labs across the country that are doing important work in this very challenging year,” Sunil Iyengar, NEA’s director of research and analysis, said in a statement. “UW–Madison is among research institutions that have pledged to investigate the impact of the arts on greater society.”

The UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory — or 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 wellness, and advocate for social change.

Yorel Lashley presents during Drum Power
Yorel Lashley (right) is a co-principal investigator on the UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory Research Lab project. He 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. This photo is from a Drum Power Africa Night presentation of an original play, “A Drummer’s Path.”

The co-principal investigators on the UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory Research Lab 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.

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.

The researchers will then publish and disseminate their key findings, while also collecting public feedback that will help shape future research through existing and new Arts Collab outlets. The idea is to strengthen the Arts Collab’s efforts to become a leading hub for research and practice in the realm of community arts education.

“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. This award will allow us to both contribute to and learn from foundational research and promising practices in the arts to better support the development of the culturally and economically diverse young people who motivate our work.”

Arts Collab programs include:

  • Whoopensocker, a creative writing and theater program. Since 2015, 40 teaching artists have taught over 1,500 students.
  • Performing Ourselves, a dance education program that uses dance/movement therapy principles. Since 2012, the program has been offered at 18 elementary schools and community centers to 1,225 students.
  • Drum Power, a culturally relevant program that teaches West African, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Brazilian drum and dance traditions. Drum Power has served approximately 3,800 students in more than 40 school and community sites since 2001.
  • FauHaus, which is not a part of the NEA project, is a Collab program that is a community based learning program for at-risk and court-involved teens — who are overwhelmingly low-income youth of color — to collaboratively develop socially engaged art exhibitions/showcases through weekly workshops and an artist-in-residence opportunity.

The Arts Collab also hosts the Wisconsin Arts Integration Symposium, a community of practice, advocacy, and empowerment that provides interactive professional development for teaching artists, educators, and leaders. This symposium will be a major avenue for disseminating research that comes out of the UW–Madison Community Arts Collaboratory Research Lab project. This year’s Wisconsin Arts Integration Symposium is taking place virtually Feb. 13 and 17. 

For more information on all projects included in the latest round of NEA Arts Research Lab awards, visit: arts.gov/news.