Arts for Oakland Kids is a 501(c)(3) fund with a mission to advance arts justice by ensuring that all students in under-resourced Oakland public schools receive a comprehensive arts education in order to improve learning and promote achievement.
We envision a world in which the power of arts education is fully recognized, and every public school student – regardless of race, background, or wealth – is given equitable access to the advantages of a comprehensive arts education, enabling them to reach their intellectual, social, and emotional potential.
Since 1996, we have reached 20,000 kids in 80 public schools and awarded $625,000+ to artists/teachers for 150 arts programs.
Research shows that students with access to arts education programs perform better in all subjects, have lower drop-out rates and fewer disciplinary problems. Arts for Oakland Kids funds differently from other non-profit organizations as we:
- Provide grants of up to $5,000 to teachers and artists for hands-on arts education programs in which children participate in the direct experience of creating art.
- Focus on Oakland’s most financially-challenged schools where there is little or no arts education.
- Include all types of art genres (performance, industrial, digital, visual, ethnic, literary, etc.) whereas other arts organizations may focus on only one art genre.
- Serve as a “bridge-funding” organization to ensure that local arts organizations include Oakland’s under-served schools in their existing programming.
- Nurture artists and teachers who are new to the grant process but have developed innovative art programs with growth potential.
- Organize and fund neighborhood projects that bring the art experience to students and parents living in low-income areas.
- Provide special funding: to extend art education outside of the school year by supporting summer and after-school programs 1) for students from under-served Oakland schools to further their art education after graduation, and 2) for teachers to purchase art supplies in order to their teach art classes in under-served schools
- Don’t just fund programs; we evaluate, monitor, and encourage our grantees by conducting site visits to each program and by maintaining close relationships with our program providers.
In the early 1990s, state and local governments in California drastically cut funding for public education in order to balance their budgets. The first victim was arts education in Oakland schools. In more affluent neighborhoods, local PTAs and community groups stepped up to fund subjects that had been cut, but schools in Oakland’s more economically challenged areas had no such resources.
In 1996, four members of the Oakland Arts Council decided to act. They founded the non-profit organization Oakland Fund for the Arts (OFFTA) with the mission of bringing arts education back to Oakland’s most under-resourced schools using private donations. The group’s first funded program at MLK Elementary in 1996 was made possible with a grant from Wells Fargo Bank.
In 2016, the OFFTA board decided to change its name to Arts for Oakland Kids (AOK) to more closely identify with the organization’s mission. Today, AOK proudly carries on the OFFTA legacy and mission. We have funded over 150 hands-on arts education programs in more than 80 schools.