These are the activities that children will always remember. These experiences shape what kind of learners our children become.

Dr. Laura Kingsley, Executive Director of Elementary Schools

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EdExploreSRQ, arts education featured at foundation donor event

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County recently shared its arts education work with donors and included EdExploreSRQ in the conversation. Sponsored by SunTrust Foundation, the event kicked off with a welcome from Tom Beames, who shared that musical instruments had given him both confidence and humility.

Susie Bowie, Vice President of Philanthropic Education & Marketing, asked the group to think about an influential arts experience and also suggest a community arts experience every child should have. Whether terrified or inspired, everyone had a vivid memory of their own. However, almost no one could single out just one experience. One person remarked, “They have to have a variety from dance to music to visual arts to theatre – and yes, they have to see performances but also experience it themselves.”

Brian Hersh, leader of Sarasota’s Any Given Child initiative, explained the documented power of the arts across academic subjects as well as the arts themselves. He stressed the links to creativity, critical thinking, self awareness and civic engagement. is a publicly accessible website where arts, cultural and science organizations post vetted “explorations” that bring learning to life across the curriculum. Thirty-four organizations and 30 teaching artists have designed quality, relevant, creative experiences giving teachers some 250 options they can easily search for on this e-harmony-type platform. This animated EdExplore Story explains the journey:

The nice thing about this story is it doesn’t have an ending. Sustainability has always been part of the The Patterson Foundation and our EdExplore partners’ plan. They took action by formal adoption of the EdExplore Community Partnership Agreement, which includes the Sarasota County School Board, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, The Patterson Foundation, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Each party took on responsibilities to maintain and continually improve EdExploreSRQ. The School District convenes the Community Partnership at least quarterly and maintains the website.

Early school and organization surveys found that access, especially for lower income children, is a barrier. The Patterson Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County stepped up by establishing an EdExplore Endowment Fund with a $3 million goal to assure access in perpetuity. The Patterson Foundation is matching donor funds 2:1.

While the endowment grows, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County allocated $100,000 annually for five years for current EdExplore experiences. The Patterson Foundation is matching this $500,000 1:1 in the EdExplore Endowment Fund.

Donors loved the community arts and cultural connections. Of course, they want to know more about making sure all students will always have access to these inspiring and yes, sometimes terrifying experiences.

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