Arts Start


The Arts Start program is an initiative of University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium and the Springfield Urban League Head Start, funded by PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative. Through this arts education program, Head Start students, their teachers, and their families become involved in live performances, enhancing the students’ educational opportunities and school readiness.

The Arts Start program has three distinct yet integrated goals:

  • Involve 36 classrooms of Springfield Urban League’s Head Start students in age-appropriate school matinee performances
  • Involve 60 of Springfield Urban League’s Head Start teachers in teacher training related to use of the performing arts in pre-school classrooms
  • Involve 100 of Springfield Urban League’s Head Start families in family-appropriate evening/weekend performances

To achieve these goals, we take the following steps:

Advisory Committee: We work actively with an advisory committee of two Head Start preschool teachers, one Head Start parent, two PNC volunteers, and selected Auditorium and Urban League administrators. The committee discusses goals and objectives and offers ideas and cautions related to teacher training; pre-show learning activities and materials; and family and volunteer involvement. They review evaluative materials and help plan Head Start’s participation in the program.

Teacher Training Workshops: Building upon the Auditorium’s growing teacher training program, the nationally-recognized John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Partners in Education program, the Arts Start program offers Springfield Urban League Head Start teachers a professional development workshop annually, led by a Kennedy Center-endorsed workshop leader.


Class Acts Participation:  Each Head Start classroom teacher selected up to two Class Acts performances for their students. 


For each of the Class Acts performances Head Start students attended, the Arts Start program provided:

Classroom Learning Materials: Preschool-appropriate learning materials were provided to each classroom and are available for download below:

Pre-show Visits: Sangamon Auditorium Audience Development staff designed and implemented a pre-show lesson plan to help prepare Head Start students for the unique experience of seeing a live performance. As part of the pre-show experience for students, each classroom received a copy of a storybook related to the performance they would attend.


Family Events: Incorporating the Auditorium’s successful UIS Family Series, the Arts Start program provides the opportunity for Head Start students, teachers and their families and loved ones to attend a weekend/evening performance each year. In addition to the performance, Urban League families are offered an on-site meal and are able to participate in one hour of pre-show activities in the Auditorium lobby, which included hands-on craft activities, displays and demonstrations provided by local resource organizations.