ArtSmart investigates the effectiveness of a school-based arts mentorship intervention on students’ learning outcomes

By ArtSmart


ArtSmart launched the two-year study, led by Evan Linett and reviewed by WCG Institutional Review Board. The value of arts education for youth is often self-evident to advocates and practitioners. However, finding empirical evidence to support such claims is limited, and can be costly for organizations like ArtSmart, a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides free, weekly individualized music mentorship sessions for over 400 students in Title 1 middle and high schools across the United States. ArtSmart launched the two-year study, reviewed by WCG Institutional Review Board, to measure the learning outcomes of an ArtSmart student cohort against a comparison group of students who were not selected to participate in the program.

Findings from year one of ArtSmart’s study show that the mentoring intervention had positive effects on students’ social, emotional, and cognitive outcomes:

  • The ArtSmart students felt they had developed a more meaningful relationship with an adult at school, while this feeling declined from the comparison group.
  • The ArtSmart students had increased plans to attend college at 85%, a figure above the comparison group average of 68% and national average of 71%. For each year a student participates in the ArtSmart program, the certainty increases that they will plan to attend college.
  • The ArtSmart students meaningfully increased in the belief that they are talented with no meaningful change from the comparison group. For each year a student participates in ArtSmart, the belief that they are talented increases.
  • For ArtSmart students, having a good relationship with their mentor is strongly linked with having a positive impact on their mental health in the past 30 days.
  • 83% of ArtSmart students say their music lessons have had a positive impact on their mental health.

By providing students with a consistent, nurturing relationship with a professional music mentor at school, the ArtSmart program strives to meet students’ social, emotional, and academic needs, and close opportunity gaps that have worsened during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, so that all young people – especially those who have been most impacted by the pandemic – receive the educational opportunities they need to thrive. In this research, ArtSmart provides a case study of a non-profit making a positive impact while capturing data from day one to inform program effectiveness.