Riley Center, Kennedy Center announce arts ed plan

MSU-Meridian Administrative Director and Head of Campus Terry Dale Cruse, Meridian Mayor Percy Bland, and Kennedy Center officials announce Any Given Child program. PHOTO: Sid Salter | Public Affairs

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has chosen Meridian as the 23rd site and first school district in Mississippi for Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child, a program that creates a long-range arts education plan for students in grades K–8. Mississippi State University’s Riley Center will serve as the lead arts organization for Any Given Child Meridian.

“Mississippi State University is extremely proud to have been chosen as a Kennedy Center Any Given Child site,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This represents a wonderful partnership opportunity for the City of Meridian, the Riley Center, and our university to work together under the leadership of the Kennedy Center. We pledge our support to making this vital initiative successful.”

The program will incorporate existing resources of the Meridian Public Schools, local arts organizations, and the Kennedy Center to create a customized plan for arts education for the city. Any Given Child seeks to bring access and equity to each student’s arts education. With the assistance of expert consultation services provided by Kennedy Center staff and consultants, community leaders develop a strategy for arts education that is tailor-made for the school district and community.

“A high quality arts education is something that every child deserves -- a commitment the Kennedy Center places at the core of its education programs,” said Mario Rossero, senior vice president of education at the Kennedy Center. “We know that through increased access to arts learning for students, Any Given Child provides a measurable impact. The dedication of Dr. Carter, Mayor Bland, and Mississippi State University to this program has been inspiring and we look forward to seeing the students reap the benefits of increased arts opportunities.”

“The city of Meridian is thrilled and honored to be named the 23rd city in the nation and the fourth in the southeast to be selected as the site of the Kennedy Center’s “Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child” initiative. Exposing our students to more art forms, teaching all subjects both in and through the arts, and giving every student equitable access to an education rich in the arts is our goal that we will achieve in collaboration with the Kennedy Center’s leadership,” said Meridian Mayor Percy Bland III.

By working with other local arts organizations and using existing resources, the program aims to minimize administrative overhead, thus remaining affordable. The Kennedy Center covers the majority of the cost, and also requires sites to contribute $25,000 toward the first four years of the program. The Riley Foundation and the Phil Hardin Foundation provided the initial funding for Any Given Child Meridian.

The first phase of the program is the community’s comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources and needs assessment facilitated by Kennedy Center staff and consultants. Data collection will reveal what arts education resources currently exist and where the gaps are for students. Based on this information, the community creates a plan to bring more access to arts education for all K-8 students. The strategic planning process takes approximately nine months.

“Our children will benefit greatly from this prestigious, national program that ensures each child in Meridian Public School District has access and equity to the arts,” said Meridian Public Schools Superintendent Amy J. Carter. “The Kennedy Center program will be a schoolwide reform movement that will involve our whole community and change the lives of our students and thereby transform Meridian itself. I am pleased to say that this opportunity will allow our schools to continue strengthening our partnership with our community.”

During phase two of the program, a committee of community members makes recommendations to the school district and local arts groups on how to best implement the recently-created plan, focusing on increasing arts opportunities for K-8 students. In addition, educators and artists can take advantage of a wealth of resources available from the Kennedy Center, such as classroom lessons with online interactive learning modules and videos available on the Kennedy Center website, and professional development for teachers and teaching artists. The goal of this second phase is to provide a tapestry of arts education, strategically weaving together existing arts resources within the schools with those available from community providers and the Kennedy Center in order to reach every child.

Since the program’s inception, Any Given Child sites have reported numerous successes: some school districts have hired additional teachers or added staff positions; new sources of funding for arts education have been established; communities have expanded arts offerings for students; and sites have provided professional learning for classroom teachers, arts specialists, and local arts organizations to build their capacity to deliver high quality arts education to students.

In February 2015, the Kennedy Center announced a $1 million gift from Newman’s Own Foundation in honor of A. E. Hotchner and his many contributions to the success of Newman’s Own. The grant established an endowment to help underserved communities participate in the Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program.

In 2009, the Kennedy Center and Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the first formal Any Given Child program in Sacramento, California. The following cities joined subsequently:

-- Springfield, Missouri, February 2010

-- Portland, Oregon, June 2010

-- Southern Nevada, December 2010

-- Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 2011

-- Sarasota, Florida, June 2011

-- Austin, Texas, August 2011

-- Iowa City, Iowa, August, 2012

-- Baltimore, Maryland, September 2012

-- Fresno, California, October 2012

-- Juneau, Alaska, February 2013

—Madison, Wisconsin, July 2013

-- Missoula, Montana and Jacksonville, Florida, August 2013

-- New Orleans, Louisiana and Harrisonburg, Virginia, August 2014

-- Houston, Texas, August 2015

-- Indianapolis, Indiana and Trenton, New Jersey, September 2015

-- San Juan, Puerto Rico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Meridian, Mississippi, September 2016

The Kennedy Center accepts applications between January 1 and March 31 of each year for a program launch in the fall of the same year.

For more information on The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, contact Brittany Laeger at 202-416-8445 or, or Kelly Carnes at 202-416-8441 or

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Sid Salter | Public Affairs

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