Be Creative: A Campaign for Chicago Arts Education is building a new foundation for public education based on a fundamental principle: The arts are essential. They are at the very core of what we must teach all children, at every stage of their education.

Be Creative: A Campaign for Chicago Arts Education will fuel the first-ever Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan over the next four years. This $38 million private fundraising initiative will transform arts education in Chicago by systematically bringing the arts to every CPS student in every school, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Our schoolchildren will gain a fuller understanding of how the arts interact with other disciplines, and learn creative habits that will serve them throughout their lives.



Every student. Every grade. Every school.

Our plan is ambitious. It is bold. Yet we are strategic, with a focused approach guided by these tenets.


The arts inspire full, meaningful and engaged lives

The arts open doors to new ways of thinking and learning, of imagining creative solutions across fields of study. They improve academic performance, encourage students to stay in school, and create future generations of innovators and cultural consumers.


Quality arts education for all

This principle has been diminished by disproportionate removal of arts from urban school systems serving low-income students of color—a population more likely to show academic gains when given the opportunity.


A once-in-a-generation opportunity

This movement is one of convergence—of parents, neighborhoods, CPS, the Mayor and Board of Education. The citywide cultural plan made increased arts education its #1 priority. The arts have been designated a core subject. More than 500 arts partners have committed to serve individual schools, and organized fundraising is under way.


Incentives, measurement and direct funding to schools

All CPS schools are given incentives to participate, and principals are held accountable for how arts funds are spent. Money from the Creative Schools Fund goes directly to schools. Spending and program results are measured and tracked by Ingenuity, co-architect of the CPS Arts Education Plan and the Creative Schools Initiative.


A strong cadre of leaders and advocates

The pieces are in place for the nation’s most ambitious arts and public education initiative. The campaign seeks leaders to demonstrate the power and credibility of this movement through giving, advocacy and passion.



One-time private investment = transition to sustained public funding

We believe the success of this private investment of $38 million, coupled with anticipated action by the State of Illinois to address its budget crisis, will forge a transition to permanent, sustainable public arts education funding.



The arts play an essential role in a child’s academic, social and personal development.


Research has shown that students who participate in the arts improve their academic performance, attend school more regularly, graduate in greater numbers and are more likely to attend college. The results are even more pronounced in lower-income neighborhoods. The initiative recognizes the arts are education.

social development

The arts inspire full, meaningful and engaged lives. Children become better communicators, work in teams more effectively, and are more able to connect the dots from subject to subject. These social and personal skills last a lifetime.


A modern economy demands a modern education. Our economy relies on innovation and new ways of seeing and solving problems. This campaign to expand arts education to all CPS schoolchildren will have an extremely positive benefit to the future economic and social health of our city.

The arts are becoming part of every CPS school curriculum.

This is not a pilot project or one-time program. This is about bringing the arts to every student through an approach that builds in complexity from kindergarten through high school, just like math, history or science.

What part will you play?

Learn more about how to contribute.




Let’s seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform arts education in CPS schools.

This is a distinct moment in time. Arts education advocates across the country face the same obstacles: political will, time in the school day, and money. In Chicago we have overcome two of those three challenges, and through this campaign we’re making important headway on the third.

This time is different, because we have ...

the directive

In 2012, the City of Chicago unveiled a citywide Cultural Plan—the first in 25 years—that made expanded arts education its number one recommendation, reflecting what was heard from the community at town halls.

a plan

The Cultural Plan sparked the first-ever CPS Arts Education Plan, the strategy driving the expansion of arts learning which was officially established starting with the 2012–2013 school year.

more hours

The extended school day provided time to add arts education to the curriculum, including two hours of required weekly instruction.

public leadership

Mayor Emanuel is a strong advocate of the arts and its role in the life of our city, and supports arts education. The same is true for our friends on the Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education. The Board has enacted policies to put the CPS Arts Education Plan into action.

cultural leadership

More than 500 arts partners are ready to jump in and work with individual schools as liaisons. Many prominent Chicago arts supporters, artists and advocates have also joined our cause to lead this important campaign.  See Leadership.

the numbers

Ingenuity’s recent report on the State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools gave us extensive data about arts education at city schools and a baseline from which to measure and track progress over the next several years.


A New approach.

Putting arts at the core of education—in a measured, systematic way.

Short-term private investment to long-term public funding

We are building a transition fund as a bridge to long-term sustainable public funding, starting with the 2018–2019 school year. With the recent elevation of arts to a core subject—of equal importance with traditional subjects—the academic foundation is in place. We are confident sustainable funding will follow for many reasons.


A modern economy calls for a modern education—for innovation and new ways of looking at things. This campaign to expand arts education to all CPS students will dramatically benefit the future economic and social health of our city.


This initiative has garnered vital support from civic, government and cultural leaders—a unified movement that for the first time in 30 years strongly backs arts education as the right of every student in every grade and every school.


We project that the amount needed to sustain the Arts Education Plan is $15 million a year, or 0.3 percent of CPS’s $5 billion annual budget.


We have two years until the 2018–2019 school year. Our efforts will be guided by the unprecedented data collection efforts by nonprofit organization Ingenuity, which will track and measure success, opportunity and need as it validates student impact.


Independently managed and measured

Ingenuity helped develop the CPS Arts Education Plan and is the co-architect with CPS in crafting the Creative Schools Initiative, which establishes a district arts education infrastructure and charts a roadmap for progress in each school. Ingenuity operates independently—administering the distribution of funds and providing technical support at the individual school level, including training, grants for instructor-designed programs, and cultural partnerships and liaisons. Of particular importance, it collects comprehensive data to evaluate progress school by school, and issues annual “State of the Arts” progress reports.


Ambitious, important—and achievable

Explore how and where you can fit in.




honorary chairs

The Honorable
Rahm Emanuel

Renée Fleming
Soprano; Creative Consultant, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Theaster Gates
Director of Arts + Public Life, University of Chicago

Yo-Yo Ma
Cellist; Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Joakim Noah
Center, Chicago Bulls; Co-founder, Noah’s Arc Foundation

Cecilia Rodhe
Sculptor; Co-founder, Noah’s Arc Foundation 

David Vitale
Immediate Past President, Chicago Board of Education

Damian Woetzel
Director, Aspen Institute; former principal dancer,
New York City Ballet



Nancy and Steve Crown

Ned Jannotta

Susan and Richard Kiphart

leadership committee

James L. Alexander

Carlos Cardenas

Marge Collens

Michelle L. Collins

Paula and Jim Crown

Rashied Davis

Margo and Pete Georgiadis

Sandra Guthman

Joan Harris

Robert Kohl

Liz and Eric Lefkofsky

Kay and Jim Mabie

Clare Muñana

Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel

David Ormesher

Anne and Chris Reyes

Jeanne and John Rowe

Steve Solomon

committed donors

Peter and Lucy Ascoli

Pamella Capitanini

Carlos Cardenas

Elizabeth and Michael Cole

Marge and Lew Collens

Michelle L. Collins

The Crown Family

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE)

Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust

The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust


R. Scott Falk

Brent and Catherine Gledhill

James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki

Illinois Tool Works

Ned Jannotta

Susan and Richard Kiphart

Kirkland & Ellis Foundation

The Knight Family Foundation

Robert Kohl and Clark Pellett

Lincoln Park Preschool & Kindergarten

Kay and Jim Mabie

Clare Muñana

Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel

Northern Trust

Susan and Nick Noyes

David Ormesher

The Pelino Family

Peoples Gas

Pritzker Foundation

Anne and Chris Reyes

Jeanne and John Rowe

Michael and Cari Sacks

The Sidley Austin Foundation

Laura Van Peenan

and Louis Conforti

William Blair & Company Foundation

World Business Chicago

Ted Zook


Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust and The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust are the Lead Underwriters of fundraising for Be Creative: A Campaign for Chicago Arts Education.

Lead by example. 

Contact us to learn more or to donate.