Drawing Lessons from the Studio to School Initiative

Studio to School Impacts

Research shows time and again that arts education has positive impacts on students, teachers, administrators, arts program staff, schools, districts and communities. The arts can transform learning environments and mindsets, bringing about systemic and cultural change.

It's like the trout rising in the pond. Since that first year of the grant, the ripples just spread and they spread. It's so amazing when you see and collaborate and have different partnerships with so many different organizations in the community. The kids are the beneficiaries. Every step of the way, the kids are having experiences inside and outside of their classrooms. 

Teaching Artist

We summarized our review of existing research on these impacts in How the Arts Advance Student Learning (Worcel et al., 2017). Many of these themes are well illustrated by the Studio to School projects.

We have seen the arts act as a through-line, connecting life with the content learned in core subjects. We saw art taking students, teachers, artists, and the school out of their silos.

Project team member

Although the Studio to School projects had unique goals, activities and strategies, the same positive impacts arose across projects and communities. The following descriptions of each impact include the key strategies, approaches and mechanisms that supported it.

What impacts did the projects have on students?


Project team member

Through the 18 Studio to School projects, an estimated 22,000 students participated in arts education over five years. Many were students of color, students from low-income households, and students in rural communities—groups that often have the least access to arts education (Lowenberg, 2017; Donovan & Brown, 2017; Americans for the Arts, 2017).

It’s difficult to report on student demographics for the Initiative as a whole. Every project had their own method to track participating student demographics, and each project had a unique focus and goal(s). While the Oregon Department of Education tracks demographics of schools and districts, some projects served only certain students within a school. Others served students who are outside of the traditional school system—students in alternative schools or those who are homeschooled.

Several projects, particularly those in urban and suburban districts, served mostly students of color, especially Latino/x, Black and multiracial students. Some projects served students in predominantly white, under-resourced rural districts where entire schools or districts are economically disadvantaged. Other projects focused on serving specific groups who have been underrepresented in the school’s arts programming, such as Latino/x students, low-income and/or homeless students. In urban, suburban and rural districts, some programs paid special attention to serving students with marginalized identities, including LGBTQ+ students, students from immigrant communities and/or English learners, students with disabilities and students underserved by the traditional school system, helping all kinds of students find a home in the arts.

Many of the strategies and approaches described in this section are reflected in the Studio to School principles, a set of guiding statements developed by the learning community to describe the key ingredients for the pursuit of high-quality, sustainable, equitable arts education.

To learn how these approaches and strategies played out in specific projects and impacted specific communities, see the Studio to School case studies.
Find out how to apply what we’ve learned in evaluation recommendations.

Student Impacts

Students gained artistic skills and knowledge. They also saw themselves as artists, musicians and creatives, mentoring others as they built their own skills.
Students built vital cognitive, social and emotional skills as they explored and expanded their identities and interests.
Students felt a strong sense of engagement and belonging within schools and communities, and made their voices heard on the issues they care about.

What impacts did the projects have on teachers, families and schools?

Educators, families (including younger siblings), and whole schools were positively affected as projects shifted, deepened and celebrated the culture of schools and communities. Studio to School was transformative, building community and bringing people together through the arts. Project teams worked to strengthen their schools’ arts education infrastructure while expanding ideas about what’s possible in schools and communities.

RACC teachers

Impacts on teachers, families & schools

Educators improved their teaching practice and gained new skills and knowledge. This built capacity and inspired greater confidence and creativity.
Families and community members connected to schools and felt a sense of pride, celebration and belonging.
Schools embraced the arts as a part of school identity, which improved climate and culture and sparked creativity and cohesion within school communities.