New Victory Theater: Assessing the Impact of Performing Arts Education in the Lives of Young Children

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Team: Dennie Palmer Wolf, Steven Holochwost, Alan Brown, Megan Bander with Thalia Goldstein


Why Does Performing Arts Education Matter?

It is hard to imagine anything more important than understanding yourself and others. This skill, often called social emotional skills, can be cultivated and activated through thoughtful and imaginative reflection and activities. There is growing evidence that the performing arts offer children the chance to develop those skills. Unfortunately, access to and participation in the performing arts is uneven in the United States. For example, though children may experience drama as part of other classes, only 45% of secondary schools in the U.S. offer theater education. This percent is even lower for children growing up in under-resourced communities. One way we can begin to change this is to offer powerful demonstrations of the impact of performing arts education – especially for children who could benefit the most. To help expand access and ensure more students experience the benefits of performing arts education, New 42’s New Victory Theater launched the SPARK (Schools with the Performing Arts Reach Kids) program. Over the course of three years, our team alongside the New Victory team studied the impact of live performances and arts programming for all students involved in the program

The New Victory Theater | New York's Theater for Kids and Families

Our Study: 

Theater is about witnessing the interactions between characters, following how characters encounter challenges and change, and stepping outside the limits of the here and now. Based on these fundamental qualities, we wanted to know what would happen if an innovative theater company partnered over a three-year period with the children and teachers in public elementary schools that had long been without arts programs. In that spirit, we wanted to know if engaging and sustained theater residencies could have a measurable impact on young peoples’:

  • Sense of belonging in a theater world,
  • Social emotional skills,
  • Sense of themselves as capable learners, and
  • Belief that they have a positive future.

View the project profile.

Read the 2021 report “SPARK Change.”

Read the 2021 publication “Delineating the Benefits of Arts Education for Children’s Socioemotional Development.”

Read the 2022 publication “More Light About Each Other: Theater Education as a Context for Developing Social Awareness and Relationship Skills.”