The Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program accepted only seven partnerships this year — and two are from Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, partnering with Colorado Springs’ School District 11, the largest school district in El Paso County, is joining the program, as is UCCS Presents: The Ent Center for the Arts, which is partnering with Academy District 20, the second-largest school district in the Pikes Peak Region. The Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program is designed to assist arts organizations throughout the nation develop or expand education partnerships with local school systems. Longtime Imagination Celebration Executive Director Deborah Thornton, and Karol Gates of the Colorado Department of Education, supported both partnership teams’ applications to the program through recommendation letters as part of the process.

The program pairs arts organizations and local school systems for a two-year commitment to establish or expand professional learning programs in the arts for teachers. Numerous studies point to the value of arts education in improving student outcomes, yet teachers may not have the resources, access, or training to implement arts integration across the curriculum. A primary focus of these partnerships is to provide sustainable and robust arts-based professional development for teachers.

“With the community strategically partnering to support and provide teachers with high-quality and continuous arts-based professional development, teachers and students are exposed to new access points for learning,” says Kris Stanec ’88, MAT ’89, director of museum education at the Fine Arts Center.

Stanec will be among the representatives from the two Colorado Springs partnerships participating in the Partners in Education Institute in late April at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. During the four-day programming, team members will develop a plan customized for their communities, outlining how the partners will work together to create or further establish arts-based professional development programs for area teachers.

The strategic plan for the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is guided by three principles — excellence, access, and collaboration — and the Kennedy Center partnership strengthens them all. The Fine Arts Center is offering reduced admission rates, expanded hours, and increased discounts to provide greater access for the Colorado Springs community. Colorado College faculty, students,  and staff already receive free admission to all exhibits and galleries.

“It used to be that Colorado College stopped at the border right behind the Fine Arts Center, and now the FAC serves as a bridge into the larger Colorado Springs community,” says Ryan Raul Bañagale ’00, assistant professor of music.