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Art: Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts

Create Perform Learn - DC Arts


Arts education in DC Public Schools cultivates students’ ability to create and empowers them to use their voice with courage.

DCPS Arts develops the critical problem solving and communication skills of students that are vital in creating today’s complex society. The Framework for Arts Learning is a curriculum that encompasses all arts disciplines, aligning student investigations and experiences from the youngest school age to graduation. Throughout their time in DCPS, students increase their ability to address complex issues and explore multiple perspectives through the arts. Students of DCPS arts education will be innovative in their approach to contemporary society’s most pressing issues, as they become savvy consumers and producers of culture.

For more information on DCPS Arts programs, please visit

Student Engagement

The DCPS Arts curriculum, the Framework for Arts Learning, sets out a vision for arts education in DCPS. This vision includes creating a forum to discuss arts education across disciplines as a space for exploring and investigating universal human themes. While providing flexibility in execution to account for the range of environments in which students are educated, the Framework for Arts Learning makes clear expectations for the student experience in an arts learning environment, defining the role of the teacher as a facilitator and the student as a creator.

Students’ experiences in DCPS Arts include opportunities for critical thinking and building digital literacy at early ages. Students are offered a variety of arts instruction across all grades. In each grade and across the district, students have the opportunity to create, perform, respond, and connect to works in a range of arts disciplines. The curriculum collaborates with all the content areas to further develop a wholistic and joyful learning experience.

DCPS requires students have equitable access to arts education throughout their educational career. The following are the required minutes of instruction at each grade level:

  • Elementary School: Students should receive a minimum of 45 minutes of music and visual arts instruction each week, and, through partners and local schools, have opportunities to experience museums and performances throughout the city.
  • Middle School: Students should receive a minimum of one semester of instruction in both music and visual art each year.
  • High School: Students are required to take a minimum of a half credit in both music and visual art in order to graduate. The high school level offers a variety of mediums and experiences to ensure that students are college ready.

Student Enrichment

DCPS Arts actively seeks to build relationships with arts organizations and artists whose visions for arts education align with our own.

We work collaboratively with these arts organizations to develop and execute programming that connects the classroom curriculum with external experiences. Many of these enrichments are a part of the DCPS Cornerstone program that supports foundational student experiences present in all schools across the district.

The following deep, multi-year collaborations create transformative student experiences in DCPS Arts.


DC Keys

DC Keys – a collaboration with Washington Performing Arts and launched in 2017, DC Keys is an instructional model that places the keyboard as the central instrument of instruction in DCPS music classrooms.


DCPS Honors Ensembles

DCPS Honors Ensembles – a collaboration with Washington Performing Arts, The Washington Chorus, and The Children’s Chorus of Washington that brings top performing students together to create a yearly themed concert on a transformational topic.


DCPS Music & Performing Arts Festival

DCPS Music & Performing Arts Festival – a collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that provides any DCPS ensemble the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center for peers, friends, family, and adjudicators


Performing Arts:


DCPS Performing Arts Festival – a collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that provides any DCPS ensemble the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center for peers, friends, family, and adjudicators


Visual Arts:


EverydayDC – a collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis reporting, EverydayDC is a digital visual literacy program in middle grades program that provides students with experience as a photojournalist and asks them to take control of their own narrative. The program culminates in a student-curated citywide exhibition and is derived from the EverydayDC cornerstone curriculum for grades 6 through 8.


Enchanted City Build Day

Enchanted City Build Day- a collaboration with National Building Museum and Imagination Stage that allows students to work with museum educators and artists to engage in the design process, reimagining our city through the eyes of 2nd graders. This project is based on the Enchanted City Art Cornerstone curriculum for grades K through 2.


Transform DC - A collaboration with local artist Patrick McDonough, Transform DC is a mural project where students work collaboratively to create large scale murals that are installed either at their base school or as a part of a city-wide culminating installation. The murals are a part of the Transform Cornerstone curriculum for grades 9 through 12.


Student Experience

In addition to the arts programming embedded in the general curriculum, DCPS Arts continues to expand the arts experience in the district. DCPS Arts builds connections between schools and partners to ensure our students have the opportunity to take advantage of being educated in a world-class city. Students are provided with exposure to a wide range of art forms through field trips, residencies and assemblies. Additionally, DCPS Arts manages requests and supports opportunities for students to perform at various events and venues throughout the city. Our students have performed at venues such as the White House, the Anthem and the Kennedy Center.

Kids playing horns
Kids making an art project
Kids learning to dance


Contact Information

Karen Cole, Deputy Chief, Academic and Creative Empowerment
Mary Lambert, Director, Arts
Lindsey Vance, Manager, Arts Innovation
Patrick McDonough, Manager, Visual Arts
Robert Battle, Manager, Music