Arts in Education at Nevada County Arts Council

As State-Local Partner with California Arts Council, Nevada County Arts Council commits to a policy of Access, Equity and Community Engagement through promotion of arts education projects. As a partner with California Alliance for Arts Education we aim to improve teacher preparation, advocate for public funding for the arts, and ensure equity and access to arts education by closing opportunity gaps and eliminating inequities in access to arts education. As a partner with Create CA we form part of a coalition of dedicated and innovative leaders who understand that together we have the power to create lasting change for every California student, helping them to reach their full potential by advancing an education model that promotes creativity and the arts for the workforce of tomorrow.

Our Education Committee is active in all these ways and more. Scroll down for an overview of ongoing projects and planning.

poetry out loud

Left to right: Conrad Cecil, Nevada County Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud Coach, with Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate Emeritus

Left to right: Conrad Cecil, Nevada County Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud Coach, with Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate Emeritus

Poetry Out Loud is a National Recitation contest that, for us, begins right here in Nevada County classrooms. Through Poetry Out Loud we help high school students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

We work in schools across Nevada County to coach and mentor students in collaboration with California Teachers in the Schools (CPITS) and our Literary Arts Committee.

Participants in Poetry Out Loud are also offered an opportunity to recite their poems at the Sierra Poetry Festival which takes place during national poetry month each year.

See the newly renovated California Poetry Out Loud website here or request more information by sending an email to

You can learn more about Sierra Poetry Festival here.

student opportunities

Each year we create a poster for schools, administrators, teachers, parents and students with fresh information on some of Nevada County’s most iconic arts scholarships, contests, exhibitions and extra-curricula arts programs. You can download our 8.5 x 11 2018-19 poster here or contact us by email at if you would like us to deliver a larger version for display purposes.

state of the arts education survey

Read  The State of the Arts  survey.

Read The State of the Arts survey.

During 2018, Nevada County Arts Council committed to an exhaustive survey of arts education in schools across Western Nevada County TK-12.  We interviewed principals and staff across 32 schools and, in grades 7-12, looked at 2017 data submitted to the state. 

Why? We need baseline data about arts programming in Nevada County schools in order to highlight our unique and creative “flagship” programs, and identify gaps in addressing standards or issues of access. Our survey is a key component of countywide cultural planning. It recognizes that Nevada County is unique in California as the only rural county home to two state-designated California Cultural Districts - Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District and Truckee Cultural District. Cultural planning takes into account the support for, and re-invigoration of, arts education in our schools.

In the context of planning, our survey will assist local school leaders in making future decisions. Data gathering and interviews are all but complete and our preliminary report is available here - both for participating school administrators and the public - in draft form. We invite you to help us ensure that no stone is left unturned – please be in touch if you see that we are missing vital information connected with arts programming in schools.

Email Brian Buckley, Chair, Education Committee with questions or information.

Arts For The Schools - logo.png

Meanwhile, in Eastern Nevada County, our partner agency - Arts For The Schools - will be announcing an Arts Education Survey in early 2019. Watch this space!

artists in schools

Each year we expand upon our California Arts Council-funded programs to support much needed arts education in schools where core-funding is not offered. For 2018-19 we will be providing these services:

– Summer School and After School Arts Education

With funds from California Arts Council’s Extension Program we are now developing lessons that integrate character education themes with Visual Arts standards. Teaching artists offer weekly sessions during summer school and after school programs at two local schools – Scotten and Ready Springs.  We are also expanding into grades 6-12 by partnering with NEO Youth Center, to provide after school instruction in visual arts, sound studio, filmmaking, and photography at NEO’s facilities.

– Artists in the Schools

The coming year will see us work with four local schools expanding our current AIS program by one grade level to provide all 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders weekly visual arts lessons integrating VAPA standards and Common Core academic curriculum. These model arts lessons have been collaboratively developed by classroom teachers and teaching artists. Ultimately, the program will include model lessons for all students in grades 1-5.

– Professional Development for our Teaching Artists

Thanks to an Artists in the Schools Professional Development grant, we are now bringing teaching artists and 1st grade classroom teachers together to develop 22 model lessons integrating VAPA standards and Common Core curriculum (adding to our existing library of model lessons in grades 2-4). Additionally, teaching artists are providing arts education workshops at various staff development events throughout Nevada County, and will be demonstrating the model lessons at our countywide STEAM Expo. We’ll keep you posted!

dream a difference


Dream a Difference began in 2016 as a poetry project connecting small schools in the United Kingdom with others in Jordan, Palestine, Malaysia and Zimbabwe. During 2017, Nevada County Arts Council piloted this program in the United States and, during 2018-19, will again partner with Twin Ridges Schools District to coach children in poetry at Washington and Grizzly Hill Schools.

Washington and Grizzly Hill Schools are situated on the Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada. Deeply remote and forming one of the smallest school districts in the US, students form part of an emerging global community of young people who are gaining awareness and learning empathy for the way others live and, in the spirit of sharing the poetry they write in the form of song and recitation, will share their own experience of life in rural California.

Students at these schools are also offered an opportunity to recite their poems at the Sierra Poetry Festival which takes place during national poetry month each year. Here they meet our Poetry Out Loud participants, gaining valuable foundational insight and preparation towards this nationally recognised high school program.

You can learn more about Dream a Difference here.

student voices campaign

Each year, we encourage schools across the county to participate the Student Voices Campaign. In California, the Local Control Funding Formula, guarantees students a voice in planning and budgeting for their school district.  The Student Voices Campaign is a creative way for young people to make their voices heard through creating short videos of no more than two minutes in legnth. In 2016, thanks to our advocacy, the California State First Prize went to Nevada County student, Aiden Conley, of Bear River High School. You can enjoy Aiden’s 2-minute video, below.

Nevada County STEAM Expo

We support Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office (NCSOS) in both planning and implementation on behalf of our arts community. Nevada County’s Annual STEAM Expo spotlights developments in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and math. During the Expo these arts initiatives are offered:

Da Vinci Awards: These awards are offered for outstanding design and display of STEAM Project submissions.  Winners are recognized publicly at the STEAM Expo Awards Ceremony.

Hands-on Art:  Nevada County Arts Council offers fun art lessons for students, parents, and teachers linking art to STEM subjects and led by our own teaching artists.

Young at Art Displays:  Select pieces of student artwork submitted to our Young at Art annual exhibit from classrooms across Nevada County are displayed at the STEAM Expo.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival Art Exhibition (Student Category):  Following environmental themes, Nevada County Arts Council displays 2D and 3D winning submissions at the Expo.  Students may submit work at

Poetry Out Loud:  Because our annual STEAM Expo takes place during National Poetry Month, Nevada County Arts Council showcases students coached for Poetry Out Loud in preparation for its annual Sierra Poetry Festival in late April. Poems that reflect a connection with STEM subject areas will be considered for presentation at the STEAM Expo. 

Student Voices Campaign:( Nevada County Arts Council will arrange for the showing of several submissions to the Student Voices Campaign, a statewide initiative in which students create and submit two minute videos. We will also be at hand to encourage teachers and students to participate in this creative way for young people to make their voices heard in their school district.

California State Summer School for the Arts

With California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) our aim is to encourage high school participation from Nevada County in this rigorously competitive program, and to ensure that teacher, parents and students know how to apply for scholarship funds. Most years this results in more high school attendees than from any other surrounding county. We are available for information and mentoring at any stage of the application.

national congressional art competition

As blind judges for the US House of Representatives National Congressional Art Competition – for both the 1st and 4th Congressional districts – our role is to encourage student participation from Nevada County. In 2016 a Nevada County Student, Noah Gregoire, won first place and was able to travel to Washington with his parents where he was celebrated among other students nationwide, and his work hung at Capitol Hill for a full twelve months. We’d like to see more Nevada County students accessing this fantastic opportunity.

Learn more about the competition in Western Nevada County

Learn more about the competition in Eastern Nevada County