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Home > About > News and Events > News > Guild News > Guild Turns 75: Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future

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Guild Turns 75: Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future

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Jun 07, 2012
New York, New York

Founded in 1937, the National Guild is celebrating its 75th year as the sole service organization for community arts education providers in the United States. Our mission is to support and advance access to lifelong learning opportunities in the arts. We pursue this mission primarily by fostering the creation and development of nonprofit arts institutions and government agencies that ensure community-wide access to arts education. Today the Guild provides essential research and information resources, professional development and networking opportunities, advocacy, funding, and high-profile leadership to its 460+ member organizations and the broader field of 7,500+ community arts education providers nationwide.

The Guild’s founding and commitment to the community arts education movement were driven by late nineteenth century arts programs that were provided by urban settlement houses and neighborhood centers to those who could not afford high-cost lessons. These arts programs were imbued with the settlement ethos of “bringing together people of all ages, who live in the same geographical area, for the purpose of following common interests and of improving neighborhood life generally” (A Retrospective, National Guild, 1985). Invariably their services and activities were determined by the needs and aspirations of the people in their particular neighborhood.

In 1937, twelve community music schools — no longer directly affiliated with any settlement but deeply committed to making arts education accessible to all — met in New York City and founded the National Guild (which was then called the National Guild of Community Music Schools). In the first volume of GuildNotes (then called The Quarterly) published in1940, the importance of the Guild’s national work — albeit at that time focused on music instruction — was made clear:

The Guild purposes to study changing trends and policies of the music development of the country, such as government music projects, and the relation of our schools to the current movements. The Guild is actively engaged in stimulating the development of leadership to meet the changing demands; in making our music centers available as workshops and laboratories in which new and important techniques and ideas may develop. The Guild hopes to consolidate our contribution to the musical and social life of our respective communities and to further the endeavor of our schools to ensure their place as community resources.

Over the past 75 years, sustainable business models and strong community connections have made Guild members one of the most influential segments of the arts sector in terms of lifelong impact. While our name has changed three times to reflect the scope and growing diversity of our field — most recently to the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts (1971) and then to the National Guild for Community Arts Education (2010) — our commitment to lifelong learning in the arts remains the same.

Today the Guild’s member institutions collectively serve 1.2 million students, employ over 16,000 teaching artists, and reach an additional six million Americans through performances and exhibitions. They provide instruction in urban, suburban and rural communities in 45 states and include a diverse network of community arts education providers including community schools of the arts, arts and cultural centers, and arts education divisions of performing arts organizations, museums, park and recreation departments, local arts councils and other organizations.

As we celebrate past accomplishments, we also look to a strong future for the field. In the past four years alone, the Guild’s membership has grown from 360 to 460+ organizations — a 28% increase. Our collective hard work continues to leverage resources and increase the field’s visibility. The NEA, New York State Council on the Arts, Massachusetts Arts Council and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, are among public funding agencies that now explicitly include community-based learning in their funding categories. The Guild remains dedicated to the continued growth and diversity of our membership; to connecting our members with highly relevant, quality programs and services; and to increasing awareness about the value and positive impact of community arts education so that all Americans will understand and appreciate the value of the arts in their lives and in the lives of their communities.

This resource brought to you by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.