Turnaround Arts transforms Priority and Focus schools through the strategic use of the arts. We envision a world in which all students engage in a well-rounded education and exude confidence, critical thinking, and creativity as a result.


“Arts education isn’t something we add on after we’ve achieved other priorities like raising test scores and getting kids into college. It’s actually critical for achieving those priorities in the first place. That’s what the Turnaround Arts program is all about.”
— Michelle Obama, First Lady (2008-2016)


Turnaround Arts was founded in 2011 under the Obama Administration of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), a White House advisory committee on cultural issues. Now led by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and PCAH in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, local partners and several private foundations, Turnaround Arts brings arts education programs and supplies to a group of the lowest-performing elementary and middle schools in the country. These resources help schools improve attendance, parent engagement, student motivation, and academic achievement.

Turnaround Arts works across the country, with schools in 38 school districts and 17 states and the District of Columbia. All schools are “Priority- or Focus-designated,” meaning they are in the lowest performing 5-10% of schools in their state, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. As part of Turnaround Arts, schools receive an array of arts education services designed to increase their chances of success, engage their community and raise the visibility of their achievements. Key to these efforts is building arts education programming that is rigorous, effective and integrated holistically into the school, as well as strategically targeted to addressing larger school challenges. The program works closely with each school throughout the year to help the school community plan and implement their programming and ensure its quality and impact.

Local program partners apply to become a Turnaround Arts site. The national program office provides these partners with arts education resources and expertise, coaching, program methodologies, baseline evaluations, training, and peer-to-peer learning structures. The national program also provides resources directly to selected schools, including arts supplies, musical instruments, licensing rights and kits for school musicals, and high-profile Turnaround Artists who work with students and teachers. In turn, local Turnaround Arts programs select clusters of eligible schools and support them with instructional resources and coaching, teacher professional development, leadership support, and more. The program structure that enables these changes relies on a high-touch, intensive intervention model based on eight pillars that guide arts-based transformation in each school.

Pillars of Effective and Integrated Arts Education in Successful School Improvements

1PRINCIPALAn internal and external advocate and strategist for the arts in the school who targets and expands use of the arts to address broader school issues.
2ARTS SPECIALISTSCredentialed arts staff provide rigorous, sequential, and weekly (or more frequent) standards-based instruction to students during the school day and collaborate with staff regularly to develop arts integration.
3(NON-ARTS) CLASSROOM TEACHERSEducators integrate the arts into other core content instruction and collaborate with arts educators.
4TEACHING ARTISTSArtists from the community and local organizations perform and show their work for students and work regularly with students and teachers to enrich and enhance learning.
5PARENTS, COMMUNITY MEMBERS, AND SCHOOL DISTRICT OFFICIALSAn extended community visibly supports and contributes to arts efforts.
6COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGIC APPROACHAn ongoing approach and mindset that leverages the arts for targeted whole school improvement via shared leadership, strategic planning, an improved school reputation, and self-evaluation.
7PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTTraining and teacher support in the arts and arts integration that is an ongoing and imbedded activity.
8SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTThe school atmosphere celebrates creativity and artistic achievement, incorporating performances and exhibitions by students and physical spaces with displays.

Through this framework, ongoing coaching, and a focus on the connections between broader school goals and strategic use of the arts, Turnaround Arts schools are making enormous gains after years of struggling. Principals and teachers develop new tools and find renewed passion for their craft. Students shine in new and unique roles. School culture and climate becomes more positive and collaborative. And parents and the broader school community are revitalized. To learn more, please contact the Turnaround Arts team.

About the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

Created in 1982 under President Reagan, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. Under the chairmanship of the First Lady of the United States, PCAH works on behalf of the Administration and with federal cultural agencies to build public-private partnerships that address important policy questions in the arts and humanities. Its core areas of focus are arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and the creative economy. Among its decades of work, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities published the landmark report Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools in 2011. It was the first federal report in more than a decade to survey the challenges and opportunities in providing arts education to the nation’s children. This report summarized over ten years of research, illustrating the benefits of arts education on academic achievement and student engagement, and highlighting the “equity gap” of unequal access to arts education programs in high-poverty schools. Turnaround Arts was developed out of the findings and recommendations of this report.

About the Kennedy Center

As the nation’s performing arts center, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is committed to increasing opportunities for all people to participate in and understand the arts. Since 1971, Kennedy Center Education has strived to fulfill that mission by offering performances and programs of the highest standard of excellence, and of a diversity, accessibility, and inclusivity that reflects the world in which we live. Onstage and online, in the classroom and the community, Kennedy Center Education serves over seven million learners each year. Further details are available at www.kennedy-center.org.

Kennedy Center Education Mission: We set the national bar for arts learning, creativity and accessibility by providing powerful, culturally relevant experiences for all.

Kennedy Center Education Vision: Eradicating barriers to arts learning. Building capacity. Returning arts and creativity to the center of our lives. Activating Citizen Artists.


Mario Rossero

Senior Vice President for Education, The Kennedy Center

Kathy Fletcher

National Director, Turnaround Arts

Winston Cox

Implementation Director, Turnaround Arts

Anthony Barbir

National Program Manager, Turnaround Arts


Emilia Gore

Assistant Manager, Turnaround Arts


Jonae Davis

Assistant Manager, Turnaround Arts


Emily Pytell

Manager, Implementation and Early Childhood Education, Turnaround Arts


Ron Gubitz

Manager, Implementation, Turnaround Arts


Emilia Pazniokas

Program Assistant, Implementation, Turnaround Arts


Deb Brzoska

Implementation Specialist, Turnaround Arts


Lora Bodmer

Communications Director, Turnaround Arts


Rachel Arreola

Intern, Turnaround Arts