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Cultural Alliance Awards $11,500 to Pre-K Arts Programs

The Arts & Pre-K Excellence Awards recognize successful arts and culture programs that serve young children in the Greater Philadelphia region.

PHILADELPHIA – October 30, 2019 -- The Cultural Alliance has announced the recipients of the 2019 Arts & Pre-K Excellence Awards, which will be awarded to The Barnes Foundation and St. Mary’s Nursery School for outstanding Pre-K programs that successfully infuse early learning with arts and culture.

“The arts are essential to early childhood learning.  Arts provide rich inquiry and exploration, develop children’s creativity, confidence, social and emotional skills and self-regulation, as well as communication and early literacy skills,” says Cultural Alliance president Maud Lyon. “The Arts & Pre-K Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding programs that use arts and culture effectively and that serve as a model to inspire others.”

The Arts & Pre-K Excellence Awards receive lead support from PECO. Additional support for the Cultural Alliance’s Agenda: Pre-K initiative has been provided by PNC Grow Up Great and Lida Foundation.

One award is given to an arts and culture organization in Greater Philadelphia with an exemplary program for young children between birth and age 5. The Barnes Foundation will receive an $8,000 award for supporting more than 500 Pre-K students through its early literacy programs as well as it’s biliteracy program, Puentes a las Artes/Bridges to the Arts, for Latinx youth in Southeast Philadelphia.

“The Barnes Foundation is deeply honored to be recognized for its arts and Pre-K work,” says Jennifer Brehm, the Barnes’s Director of Pre-K–12 and Educator Programs. “Education through the arts helps young people develop a formative pathway to school success. Based on our founder Dr. Barnes’s commitment to arts education for all, our Pre-K programs are a testament to all that our institution hopes to achieve, and we accept this award with most sincere gratitude.”

The second award is made to a Pre-K provider in Greater Philadelphia with a successful arts-based learning program. St. Mary’s Nursery School will use the $3,500 award to invest in projects related to its arts and cultural programming, including creating the RM Radha Krishna Children’s Library inside a parent-designed classroom treehouse.

“St. Mary’s Nursery School is honored to be recognized as a Pre-K Provider for our work in arts and culture with the 2019 Arts & Pre-K Excellence Award,” says Traci Childress, Executive Director of St. Mary’s Nursery School. “Our exploration of arts and culture strengthens the relationships between children, teachers and our whole community. This award helps us deepen the work of exploring our own and each other’s cultures, and share the importance of this work with a wider public.”

The Cultural Alliance will recognize the award recipients on November 3, 2019 at the Barnes Foundation’s PECO Free First Sunday Family Day, a day of art, performance and cultural voices at the Barnes. The Awards Ceremony will take place at 12:15 p.m.

This is the second time the Cultural Alliance has awarded the Arts & Pre-K Excellence Awards. In 2017, Philadelphia Museum of Art received the $8,000 award to an arts and culture institution and Settlement Music School received an $3,500 award for their Kaleidoscope Preschool Arts Enrichment Program.

Established in 1972, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is the region’s leading arts and cultural advocacy, research and marketing organization. Our mission is to “lead, strengthen and amplify the voices of a cultural community that ignites creativity, inspires people and is essential for a healthy region.” Our membership includes over 450 organizations ranging from museums and dance companies to community art centers, historic sites, music ensembles and zoos. For more information on the Cultural Alliance, please visit



Arts & Pre-K Excellence Awards Winners

The members of the awards review panel, all of whom are experts in early childhood education, were:

●      Victoria Ankrah,  Executive Director, Acelero Learning - Camden/Philadelphia

●      Eleanor Brown, Professor of Psychology, West Chester University

●      Michelle Linder-Coates, Executive Director for Pre-K, School District of Philadelphia

●      Ann O'Brien, CEO, Montgomery Early Learning Centers

●      Barbara Wasik, Professor of Educational Psychology, Temple University College of Education

Cultural Organization ($8,000)

The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes’s mission is grounded in the democratic principle laid out by its founder Dr. Albert Barnes, who believed in art for all and, as such, that education is central to the mission of the Barnes and its educational outreach program that begins with the youngest learners in pre-K.

In 2014, the Barnes Foundation launched "Look! Reflect! Connect!”, a literacy-centered curriculum that combines lessons in the Barnes art collection, interactive lessons and art-making activities taught by museum educators in the school classrooms, and professional development training for teachers. Lesson plans, teacher resources and posters are provided to participating classrooms for extended learning. Additionally, the program prioritizes professional training by providing accessible curriculum resources and using peer mentoring to encourage teachers to use the visual arts effectively in their classrooms. Admission and transportation are provided at no cost, mitigating a factor that teachers have identified as a barrier to participation. Take-home activities allow students to continue learning with their families, and at the end of the program, children receive free Community Passes, which allow for unlimited complimentary visits to the Barnes. The program is offered to underserved children in pre-K, and their teachers and the Barnes Foundation work closely with the district’s Early Childhood Office to identify Head Start and Bright Futures pre-K sites to participate.

In 2017, with its partner Puentes de Salud, the Barnes community engagement team, led by director of community engagement Barbara Wong, launched "Puentes a las Artes/Bridges to the Arts", a pre-K art-based biliteracy enrichment program to support emergent ELL/ESL children ages 3-5 and their families from Southeast Philadelphia’s Latinx immigrant community. With seed funding from the William Penn Foundation, the project connects children with art as a launching point for gaining early biliteracy skills and developmental readiness for school. Children and their families gain skills together, in a holistic approach to ELL/ESL teaching and learning — taking place within structured classrooms, gallery spaces, and at home. "Puentes a las Artes/Bridges to the Arts" affords greater access to literacy-rich, bilingual instruction led by qualified professional teaching artists to increase vocabulary and decipher symbols, images Ωand cues to create language and meaning in dynamic learning environments. Inclusion in, and access to, high-quality learning and enrichment opportunities are out of reach for many of Philadelphia’s poorest communities, especially those marginalized by race and ethnic origin.

Pre-K Provider ($3,500)

St. Mary’s Nursery School

Founded in 1952, St. Mary’s Nursery School (SMNS) uses the Reggio Emilia approach in their preschool curriculum to spark creativity, support social-emotional learning and build the capacity to be responsive to one another. The school integrates expressive arts to build pre-academic skills and empower children to work collaboratively, with sensory activities, musical expression, and creative movement present in daily learning.

St. Mary’s Nursery will use the award to invest in three projects related to its arts and cultural programming. First, the school will create the RM Radha Krishna Children’s Library inside a parent-designed classroom treehouse. The library, named in honor of the father of a long-time staff member, will house children's literature depicting diverse cultures, ethnicities, races and stories. Second, SMNS will use award funds to provide more high-quality materials and opportunities for enhancement to its cultural explorations, including a guest artist program. Third, funds will be used to provide professional development to teachers around the Reggio Emilia approach to education and allow teachers to expand their base of knowledge and enrich teaching and learning at SMNS.