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Arts in Education Program - First Step Grants

Grants to Washington Nonprofits, Schools, and
Agencies to Enhance K-12 Arts Education

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

03/20/18 5:00 PM


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Grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to Washington nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies for collaborative projects that enhance arts education for K-12 students. Partnering schools and organizations will work together in the development, implementation, and evaluation of high-quality arts learning programs that occur as part of the regular school day.

These grants can also support professional development for arts education providers, or foundation- building initiatives such as community-wide surveys or curriculum development.


The First Step Grant provides funding to arts organizations, schools, nonprofits, and government agencies that are building community partnerships to improve the quality and quantity of arts education for K-12 students in public schools in Washington State.

The Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) initiated the First Step grant program to support the early stages of arts education partnerships. This includes newly developed partnerships, or existing partnerships that are beginning new arts education initiatives. Eligible partnerships also include those with a relatively limited scope, in terms of capacity, goals, or projected impact.

ArtsWA's interest in supporting these early-stage and smaller partnerships is based on outcomes from the Community Consortium grants, as well as continuing research about Collective Impact approaches. The Community Consortium grants support larger, broad-based, and multi-faceted community partnerships. Most of the Community Consortia funded by ArtsWA have successfully developed supportive partnerships and extensive programming that improves and sustains quality arts education in their communities. The results of national research further prove the value of such partnerships.

Based on the success of Community Consortium investments, ArtsWA is committed to supporting “first step” partnerships that demonstrate strong potential for growth and sustainability. The funding goal is for these partnerships to become self-sustaining or expand into larger programs that would be competitive for Community Consortium grants.

For additional background on the ArtsWA Arts in Education priorities, you may wish to read the Arts Education Research Initiative (AERI) report. Familiarity with the “Markers of Quality” and “Take Action” items in the AERI study may be helpful in developing your vision and long-term goals.

First Step Program Guidelines:

Guiding Questions:
ArtsWA understands the value of arts education for all students. “Arts for Every Student” is one of the phrases ArtsWA uses to express this belief and vision. ArtsWA asks First Step grant applicants to consider these questions: What is standing in the way of “arts for every student” in the K-12 schools in your community? What can you do – what “first steps” can you take – to address this challenge?

Program Goals:
-Engage school and district leadership, arts organizations, and community members in support of arts education as part of basic education for students in grades K-12.
-Encourage and support newer and/or smaller arts education partnerships, so that the partnership foundations will be strengthened and work can be sustained into the future.
-Support initiatives that are working toward long-term, participatory, and meaningful arts learning experiences for all students, rather than programs that focus on one-time exposure or enrichment activities, or short-term projects with limited student engagement.
-Support identification and implementation of the most needed “first steps” towards this vision of high quality, sustainable arts education programming.

A successful First Step plan will include the following elements:

A strong partnership with potential for growth and sustainability. The primary partnership should include a minimum of one school, one professional provider of arts education (either an arts organization, or a professional teaching artist, or both), and the local PTA or other parent representation. Broader partnerships are encouraged when possible and may include additional cultural or educational entities, a local business, library, community college, or university, as well as other partners pertinent to the project— such as a social service agency involved in a project serving at-risk youth.

Please note:
-A minimum of two organizational partners is required.
-At least one school principal or district leader must be engaged in the project, as demonstrated by their authorization of the application (if the school or school district is the lead partner) or letter of commitment (if an arts organization is the lead partner).
-Parent involvement is a proven element of successful education partnerships; however, if parent participation is not possible, another community partner may be a suitable substitute.

A core strategy to improve arts education. The proposed program plan must focus on one or more specific strategies to improve teaching and learning in the arts. The following are some examples:

Planning and foundation building: building community engagement; developing capacity:
-Engage community members in an audit of current assets, opportunities, and needs in K-12 arts education.
-Develop education and advocacy sessions for parents and other community members.
-Develop partnerships with institutions outside of the K-12 system that can support K-12 learning (such as local colleges and universities, libraries, and nonprofit organizations). Student learning in the arts: developing or implementing arts curriculum and assessments
-Develop or implement participatory arts lessons for students, taught by professional teaching artists.
-Develop or implement assessments to measure teaching and learning in the arts.
-Develop or update arts curriculum, plans for integrating the arts into other curricular areas, or lesson plans for classroom teachers.

Professional development: for classroom teachers and/or teaching artists:
-Train classroom teachers to make art, teach art, understand and align with arts standards, develop arts lesson plans, integrate the arts into other subject areas, and/or assess student learning in the arts.
-Train local artists to work in the schools, develop lesson plans based on the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) in the arts, integrate the arts into other subject areas, assess their students’ progress in the arts, and/or provide training in their art form to classroom teachers.
-Create team-building opportunities and coordinated planning sessions for classroom teachers, arts specialists, and teaching artists.

Realistic Scope:

While the strategies above and other examples throughout these guidelines represent a wide range of opportunities, ArtsWA does not expect First Step grantees to address everything at once. The project proposal should demonstrate focused and achievable goals that are aligned with the partners’ current capacity and the resources provided by this grant. The goals should be based on the priorities identified by the partnership.

-The program plan may focus on one grade level, a full school, or the entire district.
-The program plan may concentrate on one arts discipline, several arts disciplines, the integration of an arts discipline with another subject area, or any combination of these.
-First Step funds will not support extra-curricular arts activities or programs that serve only selected students within a class or grade level.

Alignment with local needs and resources: The proposed program plan should reflect the current local level of experience, resources, and commitment related to arts education, as well as the local needs.

Alignment with state learning standards: Arts learning programs supported by ArtsWA must align with state standards in the arts, developed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Consultants and providers of professional development paid through a First Step grant should have expertise in OSPI’s arts standards and frameworks. Please note that Washington State adopted new arts standards in 2017, and these are the standards that should be used for the 2018-2019 school year. OSPI arts information is available at

Planning Resource:

In addition to the resources on the ArtsWA and OSPI websites, prospective applicants may wish to read A Community Audit for Arts Education: Better Schools, Better Skills, Better Communities, developed by the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education. The booklet was developed to assist local education, community, and cultural leaders in assessing the status of arts education in their schools and school districts and developing consensus around needs and goals. This tool can help determine areas of focus for your program proposal. In some communities, using this approach with your partnership team or in a series of community meetings could be a key component of First Step grant activities. Use of this tool is not required, although if you do plan to use it, you should reference it in your application narrative.

Arts Education, Equity, and Access:

The Washington State Arts Commission recognizes that there are systems of inequity in the country that negatively impact many different groups of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and gender expression, religion, and physical abilities. These inequities often show up in the education system, and the explicit and implicit biases related to these social identities can impact children starting in pre-school and continuing throughout their K-12 experience.

ArtsWA believe that arts education can play an important role in addressing inequities and supporting social justice, because arts education provides opportunities to explore different cultural traditions, multiple ways of communicating, and alternate ways of seeing the world. Arts education teaches empathy and communication; it broadens horizons and helps young people envision future possibilities; it provides an outlet for students to develop their own voice and their own aesthetic.

ArtsWA believes that arts educators can play a vital role in addressing equity and access by creating educational spaces that welcome and support all students, and by addressing issues of bias and inequity. ArtsWA believes this is important in all schools, regardless of the racial and ethnic composition of the student body.

The Arts Commission is concerned with equity and access in arts education on several levels:
-Access to arts education: all students should receive high quality, participatory arts learning experiences as part of their basic education – every year, K-12.
-Supporting academic and social success: arts education can mitigate the impacts of the opportunity gap, by providing different points of access and different pathways to understanding for all learners. Arts education supports social-emotional learning, and student engagement.
-Supporting social justice: arts education can play a role in minimizing systemic inequities by addressing bias in the classroom. Arts educators can help students develop skills in critical thinking, communication, persistence, and developing an independent voice.

Support for Equity and Access in the ArtsWA Strategic Plan:

In the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, ArtsWA have a “crosscutting objective” that applies to all of ArtsWA’s goal areas:

Crosscutting Objective: Increase specific and intentional efforts around social justice by ensuring that ArtsWA-funded activities and work are reflective of Washington’s diverse populations including cultural diversity, artistic disciplines, geographic locations, and underserved populations.

Additionally, ArtsWA has a specific strategy within the Arts Education focused goal of ArtsWA’s plan, which relates to professional development:

Goal 4, Objective 2c: Provide access to specific training opportunities for arts educators addressing social justice and racial equity in K-12 settings.

New Requirement for Arts in Education Grantees:

Based on the concerns and opportunities outlined above, ArtsWA has added an element to the AIE grant requirements to support access, equity, and social justice within all of the arts education partnerships supported. In the narrative section of the application, applicants must describe plans in this area, which may include efforts related to professional development, curriculum development, or increasing equitable access to arts education.

Recognizing that applicants to this grant may be at very different places on the continuum of integrating this work into their arts education practice, this requirement is flexible: ArtsWA expects you to propose efforts that will be meaningful and attainable for your partnership and your community. ArtsWA encourages all applicants to consider training needs for staff, classroom teachers, and teaching artists at the organizations and schools involved in your partnership. For additional information and options regarding this requirement, please refer to the Equity and Access Resources document on the website, and feel free to contact the Arts in Education Program Manager with any questions. ArtsWA encourages you to designate between 5% and 25% of your grant request to support these efforts.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 151848

Estimated Size of Grant:

The maximum amount for the First Step grant is $5,000; grant amounts will generally range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the scope of the proposed program and its projected impact.

Term of Contract:

Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) contracts will cover the period of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

Applicants may receive First Step funding for up to 4 consecutive years (exceptions noted below), with the understanding that each subsequent year of programming will demonstrate progress toward the original goals and expansion of these goals, as appropriate.

ArtsWA hopes that after a grantee has received several years of First Step funding, they will either: a) sustain the programs they have developed with resources other than ArtsWA funding, or b) expand their partnerships and programs to a point where they can apply for the more competitive Community Consortium grant. In some instances, it may be appropriate for grantees to remain in the First Step category for more than 4 years, depending on partnership development, access to resources, and other external factors.

Grantees that have been funded for 4 consecutive years and who would like to remain in the First Step grant category for an additional year, or potential applicants who are not certain which grant category is the best fit, should call Lisa Jaret, Arts in Education Program Manager in advance of submitting an application.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Basic Eligibility Requirements:

Any Washington State public school, school district, government agency, or nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status is eligible to submit a First Step grant application and serve as the lead partner for the grant project.

The lead partner is the legal entity with whom ArtsWA will contract; the lead partner will be responsible for submitting invoices and the final report. At least one additional organizational partner is required, as explained on page 4, below.

Ineligible Applicants:
-Washington State law prohibits funding of parochial schools or other organizations with a religious affiliation or purpose.
-Individual artists, parents, or community members may not submit an application on their own, however, these individuals are encouraged to initiate and support projects in partnership with their local school, school district, or arts organization.

This program does not support extra-curricular arts education, or programs that provide one-time exposure to an arts event.

Pre-proposal Conference:

For new applicants, or those who wish to review guidelines, review criteria, and the application process, ArtsWA will hold a Grant Application Webinar on Monday, February 12th, 1:00 - 2:00 PM.

Pre-Application Information:

Applicants must demonstrate budgetary support for their proposed program that matches or exceeds the amount of funding requested from ArtsWA. In-kind support (explained in more detail below) may be used toward this match; however, a cash match (including grants or donations of funds from sources other than ArtsWA) demonstrates a higher level of commitment and support and will make your application more competitive.

Please contact Arts in Education staff listed below with any questions about the technical aspects of the online application, as well as the content of your application. Plan to schedule an appointment well before the application deadline to allow time to work through extensive questions or to review application drafts.

Application Timeline and Evaluation Process:

-Application Deadline: 5:00 PM on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. ArtsWA encourages applicants to submit applications several days in advance of the deadline to avoid any last-minute technical challenges. The deadline is firm and ArtsWA will not make exceptions for applicants who experience technical problems.

-Evaluation Process: A review panel will evaluate applications in April 2018, and the panel’s recommendations will be presented to the ArtsWA Board for approval at its meeting in May, 2018.

-Applicant Notification: All applicants will receive notification as to the status of their application no later than May 31, 2018.

-Program Implementation: Funded programs must be implemented between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.

-Final Reports: Funded programs must submit a final report no later than July 31, 2019.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Register for the February 12 webinar:

Apply Online:

Lisa Jaret, Program Manager

Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA)
711 Capitol Way S, Suite 600
PO Box 42675
Olympia, WA 98504-2675


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Geographic Focus:

USA: Washington