Upstream Arts participant and teaching artist

Upstream Arts participant and teaching artist at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus, SPPS, 2014


Did you know that Upstream Arts is running more than 30 programs this winter in pre-K-12 classrooms? Much of this work is happening in Minneapolis Public Schools, where we’re proud to have spent nearly a decade collaborating with the Special Education and Arts Departments. However, thanks to the support of the Saint Paul Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation, and our incredible community of individual donors, we’re also significantly expanding our work in Saint Paul Public Schools!

17% percent of students in Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) receive Special Education services. For all of us, success in the classroom, the workplace, and in our daily lives is dependant on our ability to express ourselves and build relationships. Upstream Arts believes, and our work has clearly shown, that the arts are uniquely suited to teach and learn the complicated nuances of social interaction, particularly for people who learn and communicate in non-traditional ways. Yet while research shows that learning in and through the arts has specific benefits for individuals with disabilities, students receiving Special Education services often have significantly less access to school-based arts opportunities and arts-integrated teaching methods than their peers without disabilities.

Since 2006, Upstream Arts has addressed this situation in Minneapolis Public Schools by providing multidisciplinary arts residencies, taught by accomplished local professional artists, in 30+ Special Education classrooms every year. Our residency model has proven a success in giving students with disabilities vital exposure to the arts, while nurturing their ability to express themselves, participate in a group, and socially interact. In the process, classroom teachers have learned arts-based teaching methods that they have integrated into their daily instruction, and Upstream Arts’ programs have raised awareness across the district of how arts-based strategies can enhance engagement, pull students towards learning, teach vital social/emotional and communication skills, and engage the most difficult-to-reach students.


Upstream Arts teaching artist and participant

Upstream Arts teaching artist and participant at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus, SPPS, 2014


Last year, we carried out one of our first residencies in SPPS, working with several groups of students receiving Special Education services at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus. The success of this program piqued the interest of teachers in other areas of the district; and this month, we are launching six new residencies at several different SPPS school sites, including Linwood Monroe Lower Campus, Linwood Monroe Upper Campus, Eastern Heights Elementary, Bridge View Middle School, and Focus Beyond Transition Program.

We are immensely grateful to our SPPS partners for their remarkable collaboration, and to the Saint Paul Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation, and our community of individual supporters for investing in this work. We know this spring is only the beginning and can’t wait for all that lies ahead.

If you are interested in learning more about our programs, bringing Upstream Arts to your school, or making participation in Upstream Arts possible for more students, please give us a call at (612) 331-4584, explore the links at the top of this page, or click here to donate now. We would be honored to partner with you.