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February 20, 2019

ArtStarts' Guiding Principles

Recently at ArtStarts, we've been reflecting and taking a critical look at where we could provide more equitable access to arts-based experiences for kids. Emphasizing what equitable access looks like we took inspiration from people and organizations working at the intersection of art and education. This past year, we were particularly inspired by the values of an organization called Springboard for the Arts. They describe their values as guiding principles, actively used as a decision-making tool to guide their work; like Springboard, we believe that "our way of working is equally important as what we do.

After getting to know Springboard’s guiding principles, we were motivated to take another look at our own values—accessibility, quality, diversity, and integrity—and get much more specific about articulating our way of working.

With this new clarity, we're excited to share nine new guiding principles we have been using as our compass when making decisions as an organization.


Mission, not just organization: We see ArtStarts as part of a larger web of activity directed towards the common cause of promoting art and creativity in young people’s lives. We work with values-aligned peers to advance our mission, not simply stimulate organizational growth.

Creativity is innate: We separate creativity from artistic talent and skill. We believe that everyone is creative and that it must be nurtured in young people as it is an essential skill to thrive in learning and in life.

Student agency: We have so much to learn from children—we just need to listen. We need to provide them with space and trust so that they develop confidence in the power of their own agency. Students need choice; a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works for 21st-century learners.

Process over product: In a world that over-values product, we create space where process is key. We create and support experiences that focus on how and what we learn through the arts, not only what we make.

Consultation and collaboration: We engage with the audiences we serve to gather feedback and input. We commit to incorporating this feedback into the design and delivery of our programs and services to the maximum extent possible. We frequently check our biases and assumptions.

Design is key: Recognizing that the arts include aesthetic experiences, we pay attention to the design details of everything we do. From hosting a meeting to submitting a proposal to the way in which we model our space, design is key. By paying attention to design details, we create the conditions for creativity to thrive.

Equity and access: We support students who face barriers to accessing art in education. We build capacity for artists who face barriers to the presentation of their work. We support an increasingly diverse range of marginalized artists to work in education so that young people see themselves represented in arts programming at school.

Anti-oppression: We are committed not just to anti-oppressive outcomes, but to anti-oppressive processes. We respond to social justice movements in the education system through the arts.

Cultural safety: We take cultural safety and cultural appropriation seriously, and work to ensure young people engage with cultural knowledge and stories in context. We explore ways to destabilize and move beyond colonial, Eurocentric ideas about “what is art” and who gets to be an artist.


We hope this inspires you to consider what matters to you most. We're committed to modelling a principle-driven workplace culture by holding these principles tight and look forward to sharing the how this unfolds moving forward. 

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