As part of the NELP program, the 16 fellows of Class VIII scoped the project with the Mayor’s office and the Convention and Cultural Services Department, coming to consensus that the project would yield the most useful results if it focused on K-6 arts education in the area’s five main school districts (Elk Grove, Natomas, Robla, Sacramento City, and Twin Rivers). The project focused on three key questions:

  1. What is currently happening locally in arts education at a school level?
  2. What are the key trends and best practices in K-6 arts education?
  3. How can K-6 arts education in the Sacramento region be improved?

To answer these questions, the NELP fellows relied on interviews, field research, surveys, and a design thinking workshop.


NELP fellows conducted interviews with the following individuals:

  • Jose Banda, Superintendent at Sacramento City Unified School District
  • Lennee Eller, Cultural Service Program Manager at Department of Convention and Cultural Service
  • Chris Evans, Superintendent at Natomas Unified School District
  • Li Ezzell, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator at SCUSD
  • Kathy Fleming, Executive Director at Fairytale Town
  • Christopher Hoffman, Superintendent at Elk Grove Unified School District
  • Dennis Managers, Senior Advisor to Mayor Darrell Steinberg
  • Steven Martinez, Superintendent at Twin Rivers Unified School District
  • Ruben Reyes, Superintendent at Robla School District
  • Kelly Rivas, Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Darrell Steinberg
  • Jody Ulich, Director at Department of Convention and Cultural Service
  • Jackie White, Director of Arts and Career Education at Twin Rivers Unified
  • Shelly Willis, former Executive Director of Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission
  • Steve Winlock, Executive Director at Sacramento County Office of Education

Field Research

To understand the local, regional, and national landscape, secondary research was conducted with a focus on:

  • Quality and Quantity of Arts Education  
  • The Gold Standard
  • Arts Education vs. Arts Exposure
  • Arts Education Throughout California and Other Cities


Quantitative surveys (with qualitative elements) were designed and deployed to two separate audiences to fully assess K-6 arts education in schools:

1. K-8 principals from the five school districts
District superintendents from Elk Grove, Natomas, Robla Sacramento City, and Twin Rivers were engaged to distribute the surveys to school principals. A letter from the Mayor’s office accompanied each survey, underscoring the importance of participation and completion. Following the survey distribution and close of survey, superintendents were given the opportunity to provide context for their campus arts education.

2. Nonprofit arts providers
Leveraging the Sacramento Region Community Foundation’s database, a survey was deployed to individuals listed as “Executive Director” of arts organizations in Sacramento County. The goal of the data was to capture a complete picture of arts opportunities in the region. This would include an assessment of schools that do and do not maximize outside arts education and the potential reasons.

Design Thinking Workshop

More than 60 people were invited to a design thinking workshop, held on Saturday, April 22, 2017 and led by human-centered design expert, George Claire (The Shop @ VSP Global). Attendees included representatives from various stakeholder groups, including: students, educators, arts educators, and artists. The group was tasked with the challenge question, “How might we bring art to every child?”