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Artists in Residency program

Idaho Parents Unlimited

Our 2020-2021 Artist in Residence program provided 18 residencies for students with specialized needs across Idaho in community centers, public schools, homeless shelters and juvenile detention facilities. Students with disabilities and significant health care issues participated in arts experiences designed to be accessible and inclusive. Students with mental health issues and behavioral health diagnosis continue to be a growing part of our program. Throughout the pandemic teaching artists demonstrated their skill and dedication to students by pivoting from in person teaching, to online and back again. The residencies were poignant for students as Covid brought increased isolation. Our arts programming offered joy, connection and creativity to Idaho’s most vulnerable populations. Our arts program granted opportunities to students from preschool through extended high school, offering multifaceted learning for youth with a range of abilities and disabilities.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

What are the arts? How can we use them to empower oneself or one’s culture?

The arts are the response to humanity’s need for self-expression. Some artists use their hands to create pictures, others use their body to dance, and theater frames our stories in tragedy, comedy and drama. Humans have always used the mediums readily available to them to document significant moments, express the eternal and record data. People are empowered through the arts by expressing themselves and relating to one another.
In our residency program we continue this legacy by offering arts education in a variety of forms, affording students the opportunities to learn how to express and record their own ideas. Reflecting on experiences through artistic mediums allows students the chance to gain insights, and feel empowered to express them. When students learn cultural contexts it provides a framework for existence in the fast paced modern world. Today’s youth are inundated with visual cues, enticing advertisements and beeping phones. When students are able to critically observe these messages, they are better equipped to make decisions. To act rather than react; the definition of empowerment. By developing student voices and connecting subjects we foster perspective amid the world’s constant messaging.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Students responded to Idaho standards, goals and objectives related to arts and humanities by engaging in artistic processes in visual, performing and literary arts. Students produced riveting art and insightful personal reflections in every residency. Documented increases in vocabulary, social interaction and arts fluency were observed and students demonstrated knowledge by producing/performing in residencies. Idaho core standards were addressed for Arts and Humanities, interdisciplinary, in all residencies, as follows:
Goal CC 1.1- Develop a working vocabulary for the disciplines of study.
Goal PR 1.2- Convey meaning through their presentation/performance.
Goal CR1- Communicate in the humanities discipline through creative expression.
Students in visual arts residences also addressed Idaho State Content Standards, VA:Cr1.1Ka- Engage in exploration and play with materials.
Students in our dance residencies responded to Standard 5, DA:Pr5, 1.1- Develop a range of locomotor and non-movements, body patterning, body shapes and directionality.
Students in our literary arts residencies met standards RL.1.4- Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.


People with disabilities are often overlooked due to stereotypes about their abilities and disabilities. Fear about those who are different still persists from school yards to boardrooms. The impact of our program pulls back the curtain of uncertainty on what students with disabilities can do, through participation and inclusion. Surprised by their proficiency, students, teachers and parents reported gains in verbal skills, spelling scores, motor skills, cooperation and attendance.
The impact of our program can be measured by data, both qualitative and quantitative (527 students!). The program delivered arts experiences to so many in Idaho who would not have had it otherwise. Perhaps the most impactful part of residencies is in seeing students find joy and wonder, tapping into parts of themselves that had yet to be discovered. By engaging students who are in special education, incarcerated or otherwise marginalized, we address questions of opportunity, accessibility and social equity. Confidence, a lifelong attribute for success, is built on the back of opportunity. By meeting students where they are at our residencies positively impact their confidence, abilities, and interests.


It’s been said that diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is in the interest of raising up voices, so that students can become more self aware, independent, and capable of moving through the world. It’s because of their diversity, not despite it, that we seek out and require the voices of people who are different. From Billie Eilish to the great Van Gogh, people with disabilities expand our understanding. At IPUL Arts we are committed to arts opportunities for those who have so much unique insight to offer. By removing barriers for students who need special equipment or conditions we create a playing field where learning and expression can thrive without the constraints of the status quo. We recommend that others extend their programs to support students who may fall outside their program parameters, empowering students with the tools and knowledge to partake in their own education. By including students who are underserved and at risk, young minds have an avenue into the world of possibilities. The impact of arts learning flows over into multiple subject learning, as well as social and artistic skill development that follows them throughout life.
“To develop a complete mind: study the science of art, study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else” Leonardo da Vinci.