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Philanthropist Beverley Taylor Sorenson donates $1.5 million to BYU for kids art initiative

Philanthropist and arts education advocate Beverley Taylor Sorenson has donated $1.5 million to Brigham Young University to establish an endowment fund that will support and promote arts education--including music, dance, theater and visual arts--in Utah’s elementary schools.

“It is my sincere belief that every elementary school child in the state has a right to quality arts education opportunities,” said Sorenson, founder of the independent, non-profit Art Works for Kids. “Not only do the arts help individual students achieve their potential, but the benefits extend to their families and communities. However, no one organization—or person—can accomplish this vision alone.”

“I have long admired BYU’s accomplishments in this area, and am pleased to join with the university to support partnerships and teacher training programs that will extend arts education opportunities to more students across Utah,” she said.

The arts-in-elementary-schools initiative Sorenson is a collaboration between the David O. McKay School of Education, the College of Health and Human Performance and the College of Fine Arts and Communications. It is designed to increase the quality and quantity of arts education within the BYU-Public School Partnership group of elementary schools. One-third of elementary schools in Utah are served by the BYU-PSP.

“Beverley’s vision and passion about bringing arts experiences into the lives of elementary school children has never been needed more,” said Stephen Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. “Her gift will help our faculty and students work more closely with public school teachers to ensure children in our partnership districts are blessed with training and opportunity to express themselves creatively.”

“This initiative will assist in preparing pre-service and in-service teachers to deliver appropriate, and hopefully magical, engagement in the arts,” said Sara Lee Gibb, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. “This initiative will assist educators in giving children a complete education as defined by core curriculums at the state and national levels.”

Sorenson’s endowment will expand BYU’s elementary school teacher-education initiative in several ways by

  • Assisting the university in pre-service training of arts specialists and classroom teachers who teach the arts to elementary school students.

  • Sponsoring in-service training workshops for elementary classroom teachers currently teaching art in BYU-PSP districts, including Jordan, Alpine, Provo, Nebo and Wasatch.

  • Fostering collaboration between BYU and other Utah universities, colleges, state educational institutions, arts organizations and interested citizens in sharing best practices and promoting sequential teaching of the arts in Utah’s elementary schools.

  • Supporting a variety of other meaningful programs that have as their principal purpose promotion of sequential teaching of the arts to elementary students in Utah. An executive board--comprised of the deans of the McKay School of Education, the College of Fine Arts and Communication and the College of Human Health and Performance and the BYU-PSP executive director--will administrate the activities of the arts-in-elementary schools initiative. An arts education committee, advisory committee and a development committee will be appointed to assist the executive board.

    Sorenson, a Salt Lake native, has for decades been an advocate of arts education for Utah children, dedicating hours and substantial resources to this cause. In 1995, she founded the independent, non-profit foundation Art Works for Kids, which began as a pilot program to promote music, dance, theater and visual arts in six Utah elementary schools.

    Today, Art Works for Kids serves thousands of school children and teachers by supporting innovative, sequential arts education programs in schools and communities through grants, support services and advocacy work.

    Writer: Roxanna Johnson

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