From Ollie Ambrose, Arts Equipment Fund Project Manager:

Thanks to the unprecedented support from the Maggie McIntosh School Arts Fund and the Maryland State Department of Education, Arts Every Day has been able to support more Baltimore City Public Schools than ever before. As of the end of 2023, we have purchased $228,114 worth of arts supplies and equipment for 33 different Baltimore City Public Schools and the City Schools Equipment Library! These requests are expected to impact nearly 20,000 students in arts classrooms across the City this school year alone.  By the end of the school year, we expect to have funded $300K in arts equipment and supply purchases!  This year was special as we had 2 years worth of Maggie McIntosh Arts Funding that we needed to spend for this school year. This has allowed us to fund more than twice as many school requests as in years past.

As a new member of the Arts Every Day team, this is my first year running the Arts Equipment Fund. My background coming into this was working as an accountant, so this is unlike anything that I’ve done before. I was born and raised in Howard County and, growing up, I assumed that everyone had the same access to the arts in school as I did. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, at least not yet. Being able to help close that gap with the Arts Equipment Fund has been nothing short of incredible. I have been inspired by hearing what teachers want to do in their classrooms, excited for the teachers and students receiving these items, and hopeful for the future knowing that these educators are as passionate about the arts as I am.

Looking towards the future of the Arts Equipment Fund, I know that we have quite a bit more to spend, so if you’re a teacher in a Baltimore City Public School who hasn’t been able to, please submit a request! We’re actively reviewing new requests and are looking forward to ordering more items after winter break. This year is special, because we have been able to spend down both our FY2023 and FY2024 grants, due to delays in funding last school year. That means that we’re trying to spend twice as much money as we will in future years, so this is the time to apply! 

>>The application can be found here!

Before we review some of my personal favorite requests from this school year, I want to again thank the Maggie McIntosh School Arts Fund and the Maryland Department of Education for putting their faith in Arts Every Day to expand arts programs for students in Baltimore City Public Schools. Without them, we could never have accomplished as much as we have so far this school year.

Joseph C. Briscoe Academy

The Joseph C. Briscoe Academy is a separate public day school for middle and high school students with an LRE-F designation (Least Restrictive Environment). I found art teacher Emily Leishear’s request both exciting and inspiring because of its uniqueness. 

As she said in her request, “students facing emotional and behavioral challenges often find it difficult to engage with traditional educational approaches.” As a result, she had to think outside the box to best support her students. Her request focused on the idea of establishing a Makerspace, a program which would allow her students to create an Etsy store where they would be able to not only explore design and creativity, but foster entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy.

Before we move onto the next school, I want to leave you with a quote from Emily:

This has fundamentally transformed our learning environment. Students now utilize the supplies almost every day, actively engaging with the tools and materials. This increased hands-on participation has led to more in-depth exploration of curriculum topics. Students are not only talking more but also actively participating in discussions, elevating the quality of class interactions. This heightened engagement has also sparked a keen interest in potential careers related to the skills they are acquiring through the makerspace, further broadening the scope of their education.

New Song Academy

Something that immediately set New Song’s request apart from others is that their principal, Doug Fireside, was the one to submit it. Most requests are coming directly from arts teachers, and seeing that the principal was so passionate about the arts in his school excited me.

Doug submitted this request for art supplies and equipment to start up a full time art class, something that they were unable to offer previously. Their new visual arts teacher, Leah McCollum, is not only a first-year teacher, but a former student of New Song. 

As the principal of a smaller school, Doug highlighted some challenges he’s faced trying to establish the arts program in the past:

Funding for any classroom supplies is always challenging in City Schools. We try to provide as much as we can for each teacher and program we have. Arts funding – music, fine arts – always seems to come up short. Being able to literally give my art teacher and our partners at Towson an almost blank check and have them select the materials they need allowed me to ensure a new teacher had what they needed AND what they wanted. It ensured that students wouldn’t see art as an afterthought, and it allowed our students to begin to create art that reflects their lived experiences in multiple media. As a smaller school, a grant of this size reflects about half of the budget that I normally reserve for all classroom supplies. There is no way to overstate the impact of this grant on the programming we offer for fine arts.

City Neighbors High School

One of the most exciting things we’ve been able to purchase this year was a 35-piece steel pan ensemble for City Neighbors. The request from Shakia Paylor, the music teacher, talked about the struggles she faced trying to engage students in a music curriculum without being able to sing inside due to COVID stipulations. She established the steel pan program during that time, and was hoping to expand it to allow more students to participate this year.

Through a partnership with Rockcreek Steel Drums, Shakia was able to introduce the steel pans to her students. This has helped them apply their music theory skills to an instrument, which is an invaluable connection. In her words, “Because of Arts Every Day’s support, more students are able to join the steel pan band. Being a part of the steel pan band is a great experience for students who love to challenge themselves by learning to play various genres of music.”