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Creative Access Artist in Residence

Idaho Parents Unlimited

Our 2019-2020 Artist in Residence program provided residencies for students across Idaho in community centers, public schools and juvenile corrections. Our program focused on serving students with disabilities and special health care needs, as well as those who are at risk.  Our roster of dedicated teaching artists conducted arts education classes for students in person, as well as online.  Residencies in dance, poetry, short stories, printmaking, painting, textiles and music reached hundreds of students in both rural and urban settings. In big and small groups our residencies infused student learning with arts knowledge, linking subjects and bringing concepts to life. The success of our residencies is in specially designed curriculum and working closely with teachers, parents, and community partners. Our mission is to ensure that children who would not otherwise be able to participate in the arts are included along with their peers. Our program served students ages 3-18 with a range of disabilities.  All residencies were linked to Idaho State Standards for Arts and Humanities as well core subject areas and IEP goals. All students demonstrated learning through the arts, gaining artistic literacy and 21st Century Skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How is art a form of communication?

Art communicates our history and shared knowledge; it imparts our hopes and aspirations for the future.  Stories, books, and songs offer instructions for living and communicate information defining our personal and cultural identities. From primitive pictographs to Broadway plays, art conveys universal themes about the human experience. At Coachella, or Carnaval, the iPhone to the Eiffel tower, art and design dictate our shared experiences, influencing how we move though the world.  Visual Art captures the earth’s landscape, recording the natural world. Music communicates the inner landscape, revealing the world of thoughts and emotions.  In fact, every app we use, every car we drive, every cereal box we eat from, was designed by an artist to communicate with us. 

Students in our arts programs are offered the opportunity to make connections between cultural realities, academic subjects, and arts information.  They learn to discern what messages are being communicated to them and how to use art forms to craft their own messages. Our arts integrated curriculum builds creative skills, literary skills, and critical thinking in students to make them better communicators. Arts residences offer insight into their interests and cultural perspectives, fortifying their knowledge with connective thinking. Arts learning teaches students how to process and engage with a variety of communication information. Our modern world uses visual imagery and sound frequency to deliver messages in nearly every facet of life. Students who learn to make sense of the discourse are better equipped to make decisions and communicate effectively themselves.

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

Our arts integrated residencies revealed newfound  knowledge in variety of ways this year.  Students with diverse disabilities are not traditional sequential learners, so their process and progress is full of variability.  Outcomes from engagement with arts residencies was demonstrated in expanded vocabulary, social interaction and arts fluency. Students displayed new skills by producing and performing in residency showcase events which intersected with core subjects such as science, history and math, tying arts learning to other fields of knowledge. This year’s residencies included visual, literary and performing arts. Students responded with enthusiasm about their art and participated to their full potential . Idaho core standards were addressed for Arts and Humanities, interdisciplinary, in all residencies, as follows:

Goal 2.2- Engage in discussions about arts and humanities issues.

Goal 3.2- Communicate in the humanities discipline through the application knowledge and skills.

Goal 3.3 -Communicate in the humanities discipline through creative expression.

Students in visual arts residences addressed Idaho State Content Standards in VA:Cr2.3.8a: To “select, organize, and design images and words to make visually clear and compelling presentations.”

Music education residencies address Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.  (MU:Cr1.1.2): “Improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns and musical ideas for a specific purpose.”

Dance curriculum residencies incorporate Standard 4: Personal and Social Responsibility Goal 4.1: K-2.PE.4.1.2: “Interact cooperatively using interpersonal communication during partner and small group activities.”(The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings).


The primary impact of our program is reaching hundreds of students across our state with arts education experiences. These students would not otherwise have the opportunity due to disability, incarceration, and health issues. Our impact reaches those who are overlooked and underserved, who because of barriers of health, economics, and geography stand to gain the most from the arts but have the least access to it. 

The impact of our program reveals to students and the community that people with disabilities, though they may have differences, are capable of many things. Artists with disabilities have produced some of the most famous art in history, making important contributions to society. By lifting the veil of invisibility on people with disabilities, our residencies offer insight to peers, expanding their understanding of human diversity.  Our program addresses the question of accessibility and equity by meeting students where they are at, in their own communities and classrooms.  


The impact of arts learning is reported in every residency by teaching artists and classroom teachers.  Students show improvements in engagement, vocabulary, spelling scores, mathematical skills, motor skills, artistic and social skills. Students gain confidence in their abilities and their find their personal voice. Students demonstrate their capacity for linking the arts and core subjects. The arts are a platform where learning and expression can thrive regardless of ability or disability. Our program impacts young minds with the world of possibilities and expands perceptions of people with disabilities.


Each year our program data highlights similar information:  If students with disabilities are given the opportunity to engage in the arts, they will be successful. When our students are provided with the necessary tools to learn they will expand their knowledge and generate artistic content. Their path to success may look different, but it will also contain brilliance and insight. Neurologically and physically different learners struggle to learn in standardized ways, and arts learning bridges this gap with impressive results. Music helps develop language and motor coordination in ways traditional education cannot, activating the brain in new areas.  Visual art facilitates eye-hand coordination, and dance builds mathematical skills through kinesthetic repetition. Our residencies foster communication skills and offer new avenues for social interaction. Human potential is linked inextricably to opportunity and assumptions. Given the chance, these individuals will strive to fulfill their potential every time. The arts are the ideal vehicle to learning due to the dynamic and flexible nature.  Every year we hear about students in our residencies learning to do things doctors said they would never do. 


Our program removes barriers to participation for students who require specialized instruction, equipment, and accommodations.  By using UDL differentiated instruction, we can reach all learners, empowering students with the tools and knowledge to invest in their own education.  Today, one in five students has a disability or special health care need. Our program ensures these students are engaged rather than overlooked. Students with disabilities must be represented in both education and in culture for the benefit of society. Our skilled teaching artists successfully administer numerous residencies every year, enabling our program to continue to provide quality arts education to Idaho’s underserved and at-risk youth just as we have for over two decades.