This spring, ArtsEd Washington celebrated a truly special milestone, Executive Director Una McAlinden’s 10th Anniversary with the organization. The occasion has given us a wonderful opportunity to pause, reflect, and celebrate the growth of our organization, our work, and our impact over the past ten years.
When ArtsEd Washington’s Board of Directors made the decision to hire Una in 2004, the organization was at a major crossroads. At the time, the organization had no paid staff and virtually no budget, and their focus as a teacher service organization had turned to one main program, an annual arts integration institute for teachers that board members of the period recalled as only modestly attended. Faced with the emerging impacts of high stakes testing ushered in by No Child Left Behind in the early 2000s, the board knew it needed a more strategic approach and suspended even that last program. And so they faced a difficult decision – continue along as they were, close up shop for good, or aim for something more and better. Needless to say, they chose the latter. Enter Una.
In the years since, ArtsEd Washington has been utterly transformed. From one part-time Executive Director to a full-time staff of four and a number of consultants, the team has grown with the work. From a modest service organization with one annual program to over half a dozen active programs, ArtsEd Washington now takes a comprehensive 3-pronged approach centered on Policy, Public Participation, and Programs for Schools (the 3 Ps). Today, ArtsEd Washington is a powerful force for the enduring system-wide change that will ensure that all Washington students receive the arts education that they deserve.
Under Una’s leadership, ArtsEd Washington’s flagship program Principals Arts Leadership (PAL) was born, a program that has already helped 64 schools develop better arts provision for nearly 30,000 students. And now we’re busy creating the next generation of PAL, a district-level implementation model that will reach more schools and impact more students than ever before, including every school and every student in Seattle Public Schools over the next few years!
Over the past decade, ArtsEd Washington has also helped bring visual art to thousands of students in hundreds of classrooms through Art Lessons in the Classroom (ALIC), our K-6 visual art curriculum, another program Una brought to ArtsEd Washington. Like PAL, ALIC has also taken an important next step in its evolution with our extensive revisions this past year to align with Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Math (as well as ongoing alignment to Washington State Arts Standards). In addition, we’ve added new references to nearly 80 masterworks from prominent museums and public art collections around the state (available through our online ALIC portal). These additions, combined with the already comprehensive lesson plans, teaching tips, family letters, and online resources, have made ALIC into a truly powerful tool for our Washington teachers.
Just as vital as our programs for schools, however, is our work in policy and public participation. Una has helped establish ArtsEd Washington as a nationally recognized and influential advocate, innovative thought leader, and change agent for arts education. Today, ArtsEd Washington educates parents, educators, communities, and policymakers about the importance of providing arts learning and acts as a statewide policy watchdog to ensure that the arts are incorporated equitably and sustainably into the basic education program of every school district in the state. Through programs like our smARTS information and advocacy guide and our School Board Candidate Survey on Arts Education, we bring other advocates together so that arts education has the most powerful voice possible to bring about lasting improvements in our education system.
We are truly proud of all that ArtsEd Washington has accomplished over the past ten years with Una at the helm! And we are just as excited about the many opportunities ahead to continue transforming lives by transforming our system to bring arts education to every student. We’re just getting started.
Congratulations, Una, on ten extraordinary years of service to ArtsEd Washington and thank you for all you’ve done to advance arts education in our state. Well done!