Allison Galloway-Gonzalez serves as the Executive Director of Any Given Child Jacksonville (AGC), while simultaneously serving as the Chief Program Officer at Cathedral Arts Project (CAP). When you meet with Galloway-Gonzalez you quickly realize her passion for the arts, arts education, and arts integration. Galloway-Gonzalezadvocates the fact that we now know access to high-quality arts education positively impacts a student's performance, learning potential, and communities' quality of life. It is this belief that fuels Galloway-Gonzalez's efforts as she works with the staff and administration in Duval County Public Schools, local and national arts organizations, and many other sectors in the community to ensure that the arts are not overlooked as a central component of schools' curricula and culture.
Galloway-Gonzalez served as the Director of Education for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville prior to joining AGC and CAP. During her tenure at MOCA, Galloway-Gonzalez contributed to the improvement of educational services offered by the museum to students of all ages and abilities. Galloway-Gonzalez's career also includes a prior position at the Austin Museum of Art, where she worked for The Contemporary Austin's The Art School.
Jacksonville is one of 20 geographic regions where Any Given Child operates. Other sites include, Warren, OH; Tulsa, OK; Springfield, MO; Southern Nevada, Sacramento, CA; Portland, OR; New Orleans, LA; Missoula, MT; Madison, WI; Lafayette, LA; Juneau, AK; Iowa City, IA; Indianapolis, IN; Houston, TX; Harrisonburg, VA; Fresno, CA; Baltimore, MD; and Austin, TX. AGC Jacksonville operates with the belief that the arts bolsters achievement and strengthens connections to school and community while equipping students with the personal, professional, and creative assets that are essential to success.
10 Questions with Allison Galloway-Gonzalez
What is the mission of your organization?
Any Given Child Jacksonville is a community of diverse stakeholders with one mission – to ensure every K-8 student in Duval County has equitable access to a high-quality arts education.
When was your organization formed and how has it grown?
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts launched Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child in 2009. This national initiative brings communities together to implement comprehensive, sustainable arts education agendas so all K-8 children have equitable access to learning in the arts. In 2013, the Cathedral Arts Project, in partnership with Duval County Public Schools and the City of Jacksonville, applied for and was selected to make Jacksonville the 14th Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child (AGC) community alongside cities such as Austin, Sacramento and Portland.
Jacksonville began with a community arts team of 36 members and now hosts a 6-committee structure with more than 70 members and exponentially more partners from a variety of sectors, including corporate, non-profit and government agencies; public, private and charter schools; philanthropic organizations and individuals. This regional community is part of a network of more than 23 cities around the nation, most recently including San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.
It is through these partnerships that AGC Jacksonville is able to evaluate and address the local landscape of arts education and facilitate new resources where there is need.
What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
When your goal is to change minds, attitudes and behaviors, your engagement strategy must engage large groups of people in ways that are tailored specifically to their priorities. For instance, the education sector must understand and believe in the arts as a critical (not optional) part of education in order to shift policy and resources. The arts and culture sector must believe that engaging and educating young people is worth the investment not only for current funding priorities, but also for the long term by creating the next generation of supporters. The government sector must realize that investing both legislation and dollars to arts, culture and public education directly creates the hallmark of a city with a high quality of life rating. The corporate sectors that create workforce priorities and influence city priorities are learning about investing in well-rounded employees who are the product of arts education. The general public needs to be engaged in learning what the benefits and roadblocks are for arts education and then use their incredible influence to create substantive change.
When you are engaging that many areas with that many competing priorities, the strategy becomes very broad. Our allies were the first to engage, of course, and those folks have populated the working groups and participated in creating strategies. The school district engaged from the onset and has been our key ally in making direct and immediate changes to program access at scale. Recently we have partnered with WJCT to create several arts education-focused programs that are accessible to the general public and focused on extremely contemporary topics. We have produced events that appeal to STEM advocates that illustrate the power of ensuring the arts in those fields. We are currently working on strategies to engage military, government and emerging technology in 2017.
Why are the arts and culture important?
There’s so much to say about this and not enough time, but as a collective we have come up with some key findings from our national partners. We are taking these points and aligning them around a full campaign called #TheArtsAddUp, which promotes the exponential and long-term power of arts education. Here are just a few of the many reasons why arts and culture are critical:
What’s your organization’s next major milestone and is this milestone part of a long-term plan?
In the past few years our community has seen significant growth as a result of our collective work, including the employment of hundreds of arts educators in Duval County, five new arts magnet/dedicated schools, more than two million new public and private dollars dedicated to arts education, more than 10 million dollars offered for post-secondary scholarships in the arts, and multiple new sources of positive national attention for the arts in Duval County, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hearst Foundations and individual awards for students and staff in various competitions.
The next steps are equally as ambitious and perhaps even more challenging. As the public school system, led by Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, has championed many of these areas of growth, we now are focused on long-term sustainability. Our advocacy efforts will be keenly focused on securing and protecting city, state and federal investment in public schools’ arts programs. We will do this by engaging in research efforts, distributing accurate and current information, mobilizing grassroots efforts and calling critical centers of influence to action for each of the levels of policy makers.
What would you like to see in the arts and cultural community in Jacksonville?
While there are quite a few specific goals I can think of, I think their success or failure comes down to two key elements: inclusion and cooperation.
Even in my relatively short time in Jacksonville, I have seen these concepts weave together great partnerships and produce incredible results. When either of the elements are absent, inevitably rot sets in and destroys not only goals and projects, but also the people and organizations involved. It is frustrating to see folks scrap for the details, the credit or the control of what is ultimately one small piece of the pie for our community. When we launched the implementation phase of AGC, part of my speech was dedicated to this very subject and for me it still stands as a challenge to all of us.
“I think most of the people here tonight know that Jacksonville has a lot to offer … but all too often it takes someone outside looking in to remind us of our strengths. The Kennedy Center saw a city that, despite its large scale and sprawling geography, really seems like a small town where we are constantly interweaving culture, business, education and government. It saw great leadership, resources and passionate individuals, but it also saw a need … a need to collaborate. True collaboration, not just exchanging services, tit for tat, I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. A collective effort toward something bigger than any one of us could be alone. If there is anything worthy of this kind of community focus, it is our children. OUR children, not mine or yours, but OURS.”
This work is certainly fraught with challenges. We must start early and plan for the long haul. There is very little instant gratification in this work. We must be thoughtful about engaging new collaborators. We must work from our commonalities AND our differences because those are where the true strengths lie. We must understand motivations, actions and consequences in order to find the best path forward. We must be ready to fail – publicly, often and hard – because it is those failures that will help reveal the next step. Then we must critique constructively, not people, not outcomes, but assumptions and processes. I would like to see arts and culture (and education) do this collectively with other sectors for bigger goals. That would be powerful.
Does your organization partner with other organization(s)?
Every chance we get with everyone we can.
What is a program offered by your organization that you’d like to highlight? Additionally, what is an organization that you think more people need to know about?
It is extremely difficult to pick examples here because there are so many partners doing so much incredible work. I will do my best to highlight a few major projects.
Wingard Creative has been with us from the beginning and has been an essential partner in helping create a local identity for AGC Jacksonville using some really powerful imagery and messaging. From creating a brand that emphasized the spectrum of topics we are tackling to conceiving the #TheArtsAddUp campaign, Wingard understands even the most abstract of our goals and creates a flag for us to rally under.
Theatre Jacksonville was also an early partner who found an area where they could be most effective in filling a gap – two in fact – in arts education. In the first year of assessment, we identified the need for more programs in theatre, dance and media arts. We also discovered pockets of students – like students with autism or special needs – who were not participating in the arts even though they may have been accessible in their schools. Theatre Jacksonville leveraged in-house expertise to work with us on creating an arts integration residency for students in a Communications and Social Skills (CSS) program. This program has received incredible praise from all stakeholders, as well as new funds for growth, and is a proud feature of Theatre Jacksonville’s education outreach strategy.
In 2016, we ventured into territory that was completely new to me personally, but incredibly rewarding. WJCT helped us create a program called Arts Education: Lift Every Voice in partnership with Cultural Fusion, a collective of cultural organizations in Jacksonville. The event featured inspirational keynote speaker Sonia Manzano, of Sesame Street fame, as she shared her journey from theatre student to pioneer for Hispanic women in television. Manzano’s keynote address and the subsequent panel discussion were filmed by WJCT and turned into a one-hour segment that became part of a larger conversation about arts education in Jacksonville. The panel of local and national experts in arts education included Dr. Mai Dinh Keisling, visual arts educator at Paxon School for Advanced Studies; Mario Rossero, senior vice president of education for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and Stanford Leon Thompson, founder & artistic director of Play On, Philly! Manzano and the panelists spoke about the importance of identifying and closing the gaps in arts education, especially as they impact students of color. Since that program aired, WJCT has received funding for more arts education related programming and has continued to be a great partner in engaging the general public.
We have been partnering with the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network (JASMYN) and Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) to challenge all elementary, middle and high school arts teachers in Duval County to go through “Safe Space” training to educate allies who support LGBTQ individuals in our schools. A “Safe Space” is a place where all people, including LGBTQ individuals and allies, feel safe, welcome and included. The training aims to increase awareness, knowledge and skills for individuals and address the challenges that exist when advocating for LGBTQ peers. Since the end of 2016, we have opened these trainings to all our partners and encouraged as many as possible to take part. At the moment, we are estimating over 150 DCPS employees are Safe Space advocates. Our goal would be at least 6 employees in each of the 197 schools with at a least one employee from the arts.
Finally we have been engaged in an exciting upcoming project with the Ritz Theater and Museum. In an effort to highlight both the genre of dance and the history of African Americans in the arts, we have formed a collective of volunteers to support the spring exhibition Dance Theatre of Harlem: Forty Years of Firsts opening April 15, 2017.
How do you stay up to date with the art and cultural happenings both nationally and in Jacksonville?
Much of the local detail comes from our partners themselves. We receive information from every level at DCPS, from the School Board to surveys and interviews with teachers and staff. We gather community priority information from the Chamber of Commerce, The Community Foundation, and the Cultural Council. Certainly when we are looking at a broader view of the landscape, we turn to the Florida and Federal Department of Education and House and Senate committees. We lean heavily on our relationship with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to connect us with the other 23 cities that are engaged with the national Any Given Child initiative. Research comes from a variety of places, but certainly the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, the National Guild for Community Arts Education and the Stanford Social Innovation Review provide resources and informative publications.
How can others get involved with your organization?
Those who may be interested can contact me to join one of our working groups, sign up to receive information, attend events, get involved with one of our partners, promote arts education at school board meetings, volunteer with a school program or simply arm themselves with good information about arts education and tell as many people as possible about this work. Every moment and every message counts.