By Karena Salmond, Program Director

When the Workshop made a strategic shift towards deeper, more “immersive” partnerships in 2011, I was both thrilled and nervous–thrilled to prioritize partners invested in a long-term, sequential arts program for all students; and nervous that many of our existing partners weren’t prepared to make that kind of commitment. Thankfully, we’re an organization who enjoys a good challenge, and some of our partners were more than ready to deeply align our programs with theirs.

We formally rolled out our Immersive Partnerships initiative during the 2013-14 academic year, and we already have compelling evidence that deeper arts experiences yield greater student outcomes. Partners reported that students in residencies over 23 weeks:

  • Were more able to connect personal experiences to their artistic work than students in shorter residencies;
  • Used more originality, reflection, and revision in their art making than students in shorter residencies;
  • More often critiqued the work of their peers through a reflective process; and
  • Were more able to understand how culture impacts the way we act and think about the world than students in shorter residencies

There’s more that goes into an Immersive Partnership than simply the length of an artist residency. The strength of the relationship between artists, staff, and Workshop administration, in addition to how residencies are funded are both major pieces. Still, we’re happy to know that our hypothesis is true—longer, sequential experiences with a professional teaching artist mean bigger gains in critical thinking and essential life skills!