Starting now, we can give every child in Miami access to the power of the arts | Opinion

Do you know what Condoleezza Rice and Thomas Edison have in common? They both played piano in elementary school. Benjamin Franklin played the harp, guitar and violin. Neil Armstrong played the baritone horn. Charles Dickens played the accordion.

An endless list of civic leaders, U.S. presidents and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies graced a stage long before they started their professional careers.

The data is clear: Arts education is among the greatest gifts you can give a child. It unlocks every part of the brain, simultaneously improving literacy and math skills, coordination and interpersonal abilities, not to mention emotional health, confidence and even attendance. Knowing what we know about the massive life-long benefits of the arts for youth, the question is: How can we offer access to every child in Miami?

In this city, the problem isn’t about program offerings. As a growing creative center for the world, Miami has an abundance of outstanding arts offerings for youth to tap into — magnet programs and in-school courses as well as programs from more than 100 nonprofit organizations, often at no cost to families.

So, what’s the problem?

Until now, there has been no map — no simple way for us to see what offerings are available both in and out of school, in every part of our community. No way for non-profits to all share what schools or neighborhoods they’re in, and no way to connect the dots between students and schools who want a program and programs that are searching for students in need! There’s also no way to hold ourselves accountable for making sure that access is evenly distributed, with opportunities in every neighborhood for every child.

That changes today.

Together with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), Miami Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and many other partners, we are unveiling an arts equity map for our community that will help lead the way to ensuring every young person across our community has access to arts education; artlook® Miami is an easy-to-use online platform that captures, connects and tracks public school education and opportunities, empowering nonprofits to identify arts gaps, funders to identify critical needs and parents to search arts programs for their children.

The culmination of more than three years of data collection and grassroots outreach by The Miami Foundation, artlook® Miami presents a list of all public-school arts programs and partnerships — from hip-hop to theater to ceramics — to stimulate arts involvement, access to funding and, ultimately, remove barriers to quality arts education and all the benefits it unlocks. It also elevates the importance of arts education by providing the entire arts ecosystem with access to data with the power to guide decision-making for the betterment of our children.

We are celebrating the launch of artlook® Miami, but more important we’re celebrating all that it means for our community. It is a flag that signals that our community cares about arts education, and we will prioritize it to ensure every young person has access.

Miami is poised to be one of the most creative and innovative cities in the world. It starts with fostering creativity and innovation in young people. What could our city look like if we ignited that light for every child in Miami?

This work does not happen in a silo, so thank you to every partner who has walked alongside us to bring this tool online and to the partners who will join us on this journey. We’d like to especially thank Miami-Dade County Public Schools and The Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs for their partnership, as well as philanthropist Daniel R. Lewis, without whose vision this would not be possible, and our partner organization, Young Musicians Unite (YMU) who will be housing and growing the Music Access program in the years to come.

We hope the child in you can imagine this future we’re hoping to create and that you will join us in nurturing and keeping the flame alive for our children and future generations.

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey is president & CEO of The Miami Foundation.

Fishman Lipsey
Fishman Lipsey