Inspiring Stories of Arts Education in Illinois

During National Arts Education Week (September 8-14), we began gathering some of our favorite stories of arts education in Illinois. No matter the size of the school or school district, the arts thrive in classrooms across the state thanks to the passion of teachers, principals, and superintendents who understand the enormous contribution that the arts make in young people. On behalf of our creative state, the Alliance commends these efforts to ensure all students are exposed to the arts, culture, and creativity.

Below are the spotlights educators shared with us, along with their thoughts on why arts education is important. This page will continue to be updated with new stories, so please check back here soon!

Last updated: September 18, 2019

Above: Student art mural “Vienna-Where Rails Become Trails and Friends Become Family.”

Vienna Grade School (South Illinois)

“Vienna Grade School (VGS) may be a small K-8 rural district, but it is mighty in the ways that matter the most. VGS focuses on teaching the whole student and reaching every student through a variety of outlets. The fine arts program is highly valued by the district and community. Every student's work is displayed and celebrated in the hallways as well as in the annual art show. Students have also had opportunities to paint indoor and outdoor murals, the playground concrete, musical set, and so much more!  Many students get to show their work outside of these walls and many have been personally impacted by what they have gained in the art room.”

Nathan Corbit
Art Teacher
Vienna Grade School

To learn more, visit

Above: PCHS student art show.

Pinckneyville Community High School (South Illinois)

“The visual arts program at PCHS strives to foster creative and unique individuals.  Art belongs in our school and art belongs in our community.  One of our core beliefs for the program is that we contribute to the community that supports us and help replenish and beautify our district. Whether it's renovating our city's renowned two-story tall Santa, or painting faces for our local advocacy center, we know we have a positive, visible impact in our community! We show that art is meaningful, all-inclusive and changes lives!”  

Keith Hagene
Pinckneyville Community High School #101

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Above: Student artwork from Chicago Ridge.

Chicago Ridge School District 127.5 (NE Illinois)

“The Board of Education in Chicago Ridge recently brought back Art and Music full time for our K-8 grade district. This has led to evening music performances at every grade level along with the Art Fair. Chicago Ridge understands the importance of offering a well-balanced education and the arts are a big part of that.”

Dr. Adam J. Thorns
Chicago Ridge School District 127.5

To learn more, visit

Above: Student dancers of Ballet Folklorico.

West Chicago School District 33 (NE Illinois)

“The Ballet Folklorico is a young program in our district, but one that has been embraced by the students and community. The style of dance taught is based on a traditional Mexican dance that emphasizes local folk culture and also incorporates characteristics of ballet.”

Pilar Rocha
Dual Language teacher and Ballet Folklorico coordinator
West Chicago School District 33

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Above: Local high school arts groups perform at the historic Orpheum Theatre.

Galesburg Community Unit School District #205 (Central Illinois)

“The fine arts teachers in Galesburg make the difference! Every fine arts teacher in Galesburg daily displays the passion, drive &  pedagogical skills, to make everything happen for our students. Through excellent performing music groups, a wide variety of visual art courses, an outstanding theater department, and rooted with strong elementary and Junior High programs, close to 40% of our 1200 Galesburg High School students are involved in our fine arts activities. We are also fortunate to have vibrant interaction of all the fine arts entities in Galesburg, a town of barely 30,000.”

Russell Robb
Fine Arts Coordinator
Galesburg CUSD 205

To learn more, visit

Above: Students experiment with optimal illusion drawings.

Cahokia Unit School District #187 (SW Illinois)

“We are excited to offer the opportunity to explore the visual arts in our middle school program. The students are experimenting with the art of optical illusions through the repetition of line and color. Optical Illusions will help our students increase concentration and sharpen their focus.”

Stephanie Scurlark-Belt
Director of Non-Certified Personnel
Cahokia Unit School District #187

To learn more, visit