When it was founded in 1993, the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education (CAPE) was a harbinger of integrating fine arts into core subjects. Now, its formula for teaming up schools with outside arts groups is a national model.

“This is not drive-by culture,” says Executive Director Arnie Aprill. “We took something that was once considered a treat, or a distraction, and turn it into a meaningful experience.”

CAPE manages 19 long-term partnerships between 30 CPS schools and 150 artists and arts organizations. Similar programs have cropped up in more than 10 cities worldwide. Even celebrity actress Jane Fonda has tapped the group for help.

Word of mouth about CAPE began to spread as early as 1995, when a Cleveland arts organization consulted Aprill. “Arnie was extremely generous to us,” says Mark George, who founded the Initiative for Culture and Arts Education (ICARE) in Cleveland.

CAPE has also helped found arts integration groups in Detroit, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. Arts grous in Canada and England also have tapped CAPE’s expertise. Last year, Jane Fonda flew CAPE staffers to Atlanta to help her develop a theater-in-the-schools program.

CAPE was founded in 1993 by a consortium of foundations and arts groups in response to a survey of arts education in Chicago. The survey found schools were committed to the arts, but lacked funding and expertise.

Initial funding covered CAPE for six years; at the time, the founders were planning to transition the program to CPS. That didn’t happen, despite the organization’s success.

Instead CAPE continues to operate with reduced funding and seeks to bolster its revenue through consulting with other cities. Some partners, such as the Mexican Fine Arts Center, scaled back its programs after losing some of its CAPE grant. “It’s harder to do with less money,” Aprill says. “You need the money, but it’s more about … needing … to collaborate.”

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