Mission Possible: Napa County Alliance for Arts Education

The Challenge: To launch a countywide advocacy effort with multiple partners and stakeholders who have diverse goals and little to no bandwidth to ‘start something new’

The Strategy: Define your terms: Know your mission; educate your stakeholders about what advocacy is… and isn’t.

The Story: In December 2013 Arts Council Napa Valley, along with the Napa County Office of Education and the California Alliance for Arts Education, convened more than 50 Napa County educators, arts organizations, nonprofits, and community leaders at an early morning breakfast to garner support for arts education in Napa County schools, launching the Napa County Alliance for Arts Education (NCAAE).  The event was a success -- there was enthusiasm among the participants to increase access to arts education in the county, and there was also concern about the cost, benefits and time involved with this undertaking. Partners, wondered ‘What’s in this for my program?’ and ‘Will this group raise funds for my organization, program?

“Understandably, the various stakeholders in our group had varying concerns and perspectives,” says Robin Hampton, the coordinator for NCAAE. “They are already working hard, as teachers, arts organizations, funders and district officials, to improve access to arts education, and we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel or add another initiative to their plates.”

What helped was to return to their reasons for starting NCAAE and to define what advocacy means. As part of joining the Local Advocacy Network, Robin Hampton had come up with a preliminary mission that helped at this juncture:

Mission statement: The NCCAE exists to strengthen community support for the arts as essential to a comprehensive education for every child in Napa County public schools with the goal of developing a Countywide Plan to advocate, network, and support arts education in Napa County.

Just as important, Robin had a vision for what advocacy is and isn’t.

Vision for NCAAE:  ADVOCACY!  Not create work for client/stakeholders, not provide funds for arts orgs, not find equipment or resources for specific programs, not take care of personnel issues with VAPA teachers. While some, maybe all, of these things will happen as results of advocacy, that is not our task. 

Without some clear direction, efforts like this can lose focus and momentum. Because they defined their terms, the NCAAE is already accomplishing concrete work that will benefit the students of Napa County public schools.

NCAAE has undertaken a 360 Assessment of arts education in Napa County. The findings will provide a way for stakeholders to get a clearer picture of the current status of arts education throughout the county. It also means that in its first year, this newly formed group will produce a document that will be immediately useful to its stakeholders. Providing value to stakeholders builds confidence in and ownership of the NCAAE effort. But the assessment is only the first step in a three-part process meant to inform advocacy efforts to increase arts education access.

 “We live in an ‘instant results wanted’ world.  Advocacy means changing the culture…not easy to do…it takes time. ” according to Robin Hampton. She advises:

“Repeating the mission and definitions a million and one times, even multiple times to the same people is required. We need to be life long learners to do this work.”

NCAAE has taken a strong step toward systematic change in the county.

The California Alliance is proud and impressed of the work happening in Napa County. Thank you Robin, Napa County Arts County, Napa County Office of Education and NCAAE!


To learn more about NCAAE's 360 Assessment read this. Does your district or county need help with an assessment or advocacy plan? Read more about how the California Alliance for Arts Education is working with local communities through the Local Advocacy Network.