Statement of Need

Manhattan Community District 9 (MCD9) located in Harlem, New York City is comprised of mostly black and Hispanic low income students1. These students face many challenges, including large class sizes, low attendance rates, and high dropout LogoinEnglishrates. The students of MCD9 are 2 points more likely than their counterparts to drop out of high school, have class sizes with 4.3 more students than the national average, and 3 points more likely than their counterparts to be a victim of abuse. These factors result in low attendance, poor grades, and low self-esteem. In fact, MCD9 public school students are failing at rates that exceed 80% in English Language Arts and Mathematics.

We at Artistic Dreams International believe that this is a tragedy, stifling the growth and success of tomorrow’s leaders. However, we know that there is a solution: arts education. With access to an arts education, low income minority students are three times more likely to win an award for school attendance, three times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, and earn an average of 96 more points on the SAT. Furthermore, multiple studies have concluded that curricular and extracurricular art studies and activities help keep high-risk dropout students stay in school. Additionally, new brain research shows that not only does music improve skills in math and reading, but it promotes creativity, social development, personality adjustment, and self-worth. However, MCD9 has chosen to spend the majority of its budget enhancing STEM education, cutting or even eliminating arts classes for students.

It is in response to all of these findings: better math skills, higher literacy, increased self-confidence, better attendance, and the promise of graduation and a college degree, that Artistic Dreams International (ADI) was created. We know that many students are not receiving an arts education in the public school system anymore. The large class sizes, low literacy rates and lack of after school support is also limiting students in MCD9. That’s why at ADI we go beyond just teaching arts and crafts. Our new Leadership and Literacy Curriculum provides a supportive and interactive space where children can be engaged in learning through the arts. The new curriculum, created in partnership with leap4change, helps students become better readers and writers, but also more confident and creative thinkers and leaders. (Read more & view sources)

Our Mission

The Artistic Dreams International curriculum is built around our mission:

To create engaged and inventive future leaders to spark local and global change – through the arts!

We believe this mission can be achieved through:

  • interactive classroom discussion

  • artistic, verbal, written expression and creation with a focus around the following four core elements:    


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SELF- Empowerment: Students examine their identity and set goals for the future to become positive and reflective thinkers, confidently reaching their dreams.

FAMILY- Communication: Students explore interpersonal relationships to become better communicators with the ability to address and resolve conflicts respectfully and peacefully, yet assertively.

COMMUNITY- Engagement: Students identify and address community issues to become innovative and engaged problem solvers.

 WORLD CHANGE- Transformation: Students confront real-world problems and envision real world solutions to become collaborative and culturally competent leaders.

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The Project

The Project, called the “Artistic Dreams Arts, Leadership and Literacy Expansion Project” will entail looking at our program as a replicable artistic curriculum infused with the LEAP leadership curriculum and literacy practice. This artistic curriculum has been successfully implemented into seven Artistic Dreams classrooms in New York City and northern Mexico. With LEAP Education’s worldwide curricular implementation and ADI’s successful implementation in New York City and Mexico since 2011, the Artistic Dreams program has become vastly replicable.

photo 4The “Artistic Dreams Arts, Leadership and Literacy Expansion Project involves a three-year curricular structure with intensive arts access and leadership and literacy training, separating us from many educational arts non-profits that only offer one-touch workshops. Within our new curricular structure, we have set the following project goals:

  • Additional programs and increase in artistic offering:
    • While the majority of ADI programs in West Harlem are currently focused on visual arts, our mission is to expose students to a variety of arts. We plan to make progress in various artistic areas with the integration of additional programs in the next three years, including dance, movement, theatre, photography, film, and creative writing, depending on the needs of our partnership schools.
  • Enhancement of leadership skills with action plans to impact community and world through a world-wide proven curriculum:
    • ADI has enhanced the leadership component of our mission to not only guide students to consider local and global change through the arts, but take actionand have an impact. With the incorporation of LEAP to Lead leadership discussions in Year 1, ADI students are encouraged to envision the future while gaining valuable leadership skills and tools that will then be utilized in Year 2, when students make their vision a reality with the incorporation of LEAP in Action. This 2-year leadership progression encourages sustained student involvement with ADI while providing the opportunity for students to become engaged leadership peer-mentors in Year 3.

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  • Integration of literacy-based activities:
    • In order to have a greater impact in leadership and art, ADI believes we need to  address the reading and writing skills of our students, resulting in the integration of a literacy component. Through dynamic discussions, self-reflection, and action plans, ADI students develop lifelong habits of mind that will benefit their success and achievement in high school, higher education, and beyond, including written and oral communication and vocabulary development.

Learn More about Our Outcomes and Our Outputs

Go to Our Impact

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