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Milwaukee Public Schools partners with four nationally recognized artists through White House arts initiative

Turnaround Arts artists to work with students in four district schools

Jacqueline Suskin, Poet

Photo: Turnaround Artist Jacqueline Suskin hosts "Poetry on the Playground" sessions with students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary.

Milwaukee, WI — Four nationally renowned artists will be working with students at four Milwaukee Public Schools this school year to use arts as a way to help students succeed academically.

The artists are part of Turnaround Arts, the signature program of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities. Milwaukee Public Schools is the only district in the state selected to participate in the program.

Each artist works with their school over the course of the program, working directly with students and teachers, engaging parents and the school community, and highlighting the positive impact of the arts on the school’s transformation.

The four artists are:

  • Valerie June, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, will share her talents with Lancaster School;
  • Larisa Martinez, classical opera singer, will work with Sherman Multicultural School of the Arts;
  • Jacqueline Suskin, writer, performance poet and artist, is partnered with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School; and
  • Johnny Nunez, iconic celebrity photographer, will be working with Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts.

“The arts are a gateway to engage more young people in learning, and these artists will be invaluable as we integrate the arts into our curriculum,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.

Turnaround Arts increases student achievement using an integrated arts model. According to a national research organization, over a four year period, Turnaround Arts schools in other districts experienced on average a 12.6 percent improvement in reading proficiency and a 22.5 percent improvement in math proficiency. In addition, attendance increased and suspensions decreased following the implementation of Turnaround Arts programs.

In Milwaukee, Turnaround Arts focuses on three key areas:

  • Additional professional development for arts educators and arts integration education;
  • Integration of the five arts disciplines – visual arts, music, dance, theater and media arts – within all content area classrooms; and
  • Working with the district’s arts partners to provide both in-school and after-school enrichment programs.

Many of Milwaukee’s arts partners are part of the Turnaround Arts effort, including Arts @ Large, Danceworks, First Stage Children’s Theater, Black Arts Think Tank, Express Yourself Milwaukee, Still Waters Collective, Florentine Opera, H2O, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the University of Wisconsin-Peck School of the Arts. In addition, UWM and Cardinal Stritch, through a grant from the Margaret Cargill Foundation, are partnering with MPS to recruit, train and provide ongoing support for MPS arts educators.

Nationally, Turnaround Arts is made possible through a collaboration of government agencies, nonprofit partners, corporate and private partners. Locally, the MPS Foundation coordinated support from the Herzfeld Foundation and the Zilber Family Foundation for the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Turnaround Arts effort.


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About Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools is committed to accelerating student achievement, building positive relationships between youth and adults and cultivating leadership at all levels. The district’s commitment to improvement continues to show results:

  • More MPS students are taking college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses;
  • The MPS Class of 2018 earned $86+ million in scholarships; and
  • MPS is home to seven of the state and nation’s top high schools according to U.S. News and World Report and the Washington Post.

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