SmartARTS is a partnership between Greenville County Schools (GCS) and the Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) that connects students, artists and teachers to deeper learning and self-awareness through integrating the arts with all areas of education. Arts integration is the collaboration between the arts and other content areas resulting in a richer, more complete whole that fosters deep, connected, personal learning in both areas simultaneously.
SmartARTS provides training and support for teachers and artists in the use of successful, standards-based arts integration methods. The program centers on the collaboration between teacher and artist and is focused on becoming a model and resource for this innovative work that has brought academic and behavioral success for many students. Teachers who participate in the SmartARTS program learn to incorporate the effective techniques into their teaching repertoire for use even after the classroom work with their artist is complete. SmartARTS also aids in teacher retention, as it helps teachers reconnect and reenergize, while gaining skills to meet the needs of an increasingly challenging and diverse student population. SmartARTS collaborates with several area organizations and offers its program to teachers at all grade levels in GCS.
SmartARTS arts integration at its core is about teachers partnering with teaching artists in training, planning and implementing units of study in the classroom. The units are inquiry-based and standards-driven. They find deep, meaningful connections between the art form and the curriculum. This mode of teaching helps students personalize the learning in a memorable way.
Each summer the SmartARTS Arts Integration Training Institutes are held at the Fine Arts Center on the campus of Wade Hampton High School and serve as the introduction to and foundation for SmartARTS arts integration. SmartARTS provides three training tracks; beginning teachers attend the full four-day institute, second-year participants attend a three-day advanced track, and teachers in their third through fifth years with the program come for a one-day, in-depth training and planning session. During the institutes teachers are paired with their teaching artist and plan the actual unit they will team-teach during the upcoming school year. Participants also take immersion sessions in each of the five art forms – dance, theater, visual art, creative writing and music.
SmartARTS began in 2002 with three, five-year federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $2.1 million. The program focused on integrating the arts into all grade levels at one Title I middle school and one Title I elementary school. One of the grants focused on the annual training of teachers and artists to partner in the classroom using arts integration techniques. The goals of this partnering are to better engage students and improve academic achievement in the core curricular areas of English/language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. As a result of these three grants, SmartARTS was able to build a solid foundation for its innovative work.
Prior to federal funds expiring in 2007, the leadership of the Metropolitan Arts Council decided to continue the program because of its phenomenal success. Through the diligent work of MAC and the generosity of businesses, foundations and individuals, SmartARTS has thrived and spread throughout well over half of the public schools in Greenville County. The partnership with GCS that began 14 years ago remains very strong as SmartARTS works to spread arts integration to new schools each year.
Since 2008, SmartARTS has solidified its roster of teaching artists. Artists from a diverse array of artistic disciplines are working professionals as well as master teaching artists. Our roster includes an award-winning performance poet, a muralist, a printmaker, a television actor/musician, professional dancers and more. One of the keys to the success of SmartARTS has been in finding and retaining quality local teaching artists.