Artful Living and Learning

Program Overview:

Artful Living and Learning is an early childhood education program that immerses preschoolers in fine arts through standards-based lessons in visual arts, literacy, music, drama, and dance for 25 weeks. Early exposure to fine arts stimulates creativity and leads to improved academic achievement. A family improvement component helps parents improve the health of their families and reinforces the arts in the home. Research is an important program component in proving program effacacy and in acquiring funding. Recent studies have demonstrated significant improvement in academic achievement. Founded at the Massillon Museum and first implemented in one preschool class in Massillon City Schools, the program currently impacts one-thousand-three-hundred preschoolers weekly throughout Stark and Carroll Counties. Artful Living and Learning is intended to be a replicable model for stimulating creativity in children, improving academic achievement, and integrating the arts into core curriculum.

Program designers and administrators firmly believe that among the greatest powers on Earth is human creativity, and among the greatest tragedies is a child who has not been introduced to his or her creative potential. Artful Living and Learning is in its fourteenth year of introducing early learners and children with disabilities to their creative potential. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, Artful Living and Learning:

  • Provided 4 arts lessons weekly in 12 preschool classes in Massillon Schools
  • Provided 4 arts lessons weekly in 16 classes in Canton City Schools
  • Provided 4 arts lessons weekly in the 52 classes of the Stark County Integrated Preschool (SCIP) program in 11 local districts in the county
  • Provided 3 arts weekly in 5 classes at the Canton YWCA and the JRC Learning Center
  • Impacted more than 1,800 preschool children each week

Now in its 14th year of operation in 2021-2022, Artful Living and Learning:

  • Is providing 70 lessons in drama, music, visual art, and dance led by 22 talented teaching artists

The Massillon Museum and five Stark County community and arts organizations collaborate with the Stark County Educational Service Center in the operation of the program:

  • ArtsinStark
  • Canton Ballet
  • Canton Museum of Art
  • Canton Symphony Orchestra
  • Massillon Public Library

Our goal is to use Artful Living and Learning as a template to be replicated in school districts across Ohio and beyond. Artful Living and Learning is introducing children to their creative potential and is awakening an awareness of beauty and of the arts they may otherwise never experience.

Children learn that they have the ability to create something that does not already exist. Immersion in the arts enhances vision and creativity, increases academic performance, and stimulates leadership characteristics.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
-William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


Program Contact:

Michele Waalkes
Artful Living and Learning Program Director

email Michele Waalkes

Program Contact at the Massillon Museum:

Chris Craft
Program Co-Founder and Consultant
email Chris Craft

Artful Living & Learning 2017


2010 MassMu Documentary of the Artful Living Project

Program Summary

The Artful Living and Learning program stimulates children to realize that they have the ability to create something that does not already exist.

  • Studies show a link between arts and leadership. Both are founded on vision and creativity.
  • The Artful Living and Learning program was created to immerse developing minds in the fine arts to enhance vision and creativity.
  • The program involves parents in their children’s creative and academic development.
  • Artful Living and Learning provides a uniting collaboration among community organizations and the public schools.
  • The program is replicable for other school districts.

Sponsor Artful Living and Learning:

Help us continue the great work we're doing in the schools!
If you have questions, contact:

Michele Waalkes
Program Director
email Michele Waalkes

Christopher Craft
Program Co-Founder and Consultant
330-833-4061 ext. 109
email Chris Craft

How shall we bill you?
Designate my gift to:
(If other) My gift should be designated for:
My gift is in memory/honor of:

Phase I: Classroom Immersion

The earlier “effective nurture” is applied, the more effective it will be. This is why Artful Living and Learning chose preschoolers as its audience.

Artful Living and Learning:

  • Fine arts immersion reinforces creativity over an extended period of time.
  • Arts providers’ lessons reinforce teachers’ daily lesson plans and meet state educational standards.
  • Parents receive a weekly plan of the arts classes their children will experience.
  • Lessons are taught by professionally trained artists.
  • The program can be easily replicated in other schools.
  • The program includes lessons in one or more of these fine arts: visual arts, literature, music, drama, or dance. The response from teachers, parents, administrators, and observers has been enthusiastic.

Phase II: Family Environment

Children spend more time at home than they do at school. In order to enhance children’s exposure to the arts, Artful Living and Learning has invited families to participate in the program outside of the school environment.

Artful Living and Learning:

  • Hosts regularly scheduled family meetings.
  • Offers art classes for all children in the family.
  • Presents helpful information for parents on topics of wellness, nutrition, local social services, and more.
  • Provides art supplies to all children in the family to use at home.

This component invites the parents to become involved in their children’s education and creativity in a non-threatening environment.

Phase III: Research

Artful Living and Learning (ALL):

  • Has created a tracking process for measuring achievement throughout the students’ academic careers.
  • Creates a basis for establishing standards for early childhood development.
  • Evaluates each child with nationally recognized tests: Young Children's Achievement Test (YCAT) and Teaching Creativity in Action and Movement (TCAM).
  • Has engaged the Stark Education Partnership for research analysis. 
  • Results of the pre-test/post-test assessment from 2012-13 demonstrated significant academic improvement in preschool children experiencing ALL when compared to preschool children not experiencing ALL, from a school system of similar demographic make-up as that of the experimental group.  Pre-test/post-test research will be repeated during school periodically.
  • During 2014-15, and 2016-17, longitudinal research looked at Massillon fourth grade students. Data on grade-point average and standardized test results was collected from students impacted by ALL in preschool and compared to similar data of non-ALL students. Results proved positive in nine of twelve areas tested, in 2014-15, and in all areas tested in 2016-17.



  • ArtsinStark
  • Canton Ballet
  • Canton Museum of Art
  • Canton Symphony Orchestra
  • Massillon Museum
  • Massillon Public Library
  • Stark County Educational Service Center


Advisory Board:


Kris Blair, Massillon City Schools

Christopher Craft, Massillon Museum

Erica Emerson, Canton Museum of Art

Laurie Gemberling, Canton YWCA

Liza Grossman, Stark Education Partnership

Rachel Hagemeier, Canton Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Horwood, ICF

Kim Kingsbury, Canton City School District

Marti Livingstone, Former ALL Program Coordinator

Michelle Nervo, Stark County ESC

Tom Piccari, Stark County ESC

Stephanie Toole, Massillon Museum


Administrative Team:


Michele Waalkes, Program Director

email Michele


Funding, Actual and In Kind (2008 to Present):


Grants and Donations

Aultman Foundation
Canton City School District
Charity Rotch School Foundation
Paul & Carol David Foundation
George H. Deuble Foundation
First Merit Foundation
Gessner Family Foundation
Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
Massillon Cable TV
Massillon City School District
Ohio Arts Council
PNC Foundation
Private Donations                                
Rotary Foundation of Massillon    
Stark County Educational Service Center                                        
Stark Community Foundation Grants:
   The James V. and Velia Armogida Charitable Fund
   The Walter K. and Wilda E. Bortz Fund
   Peter and Judith Schurman Charitable Fund
   William A. Shanafelt Philanthropic Fund
   Henry and Louise Timken Foundation

In-Kind Support

Ashland University, Massillon Branch
Boys and Girls Club of Massillon
Canton Ballet
Canton City Schools
Canton Museum of Art
Canton Symphony Orchestra
The Early Childhood Resource Center
Lion’s Lincoln Theatre
Massillon City Schools
Massillon Museum 
Massillon Public Library
Massillon Recreation Center
PNC Bank, Massillon Branch
Salvation Army of Massillon
Santangelo’s Restaurant
Stark Educational Partnership
Stark County Educational Service Center
Subway of Lincoln Way West


Program Contact:

Michele Waalkes
Artful Living and Learning Program Director

email Michele Waalkes


Program Contact, Massillon Museum:

Chris Craft
Co-Founder and Program Consultant
email Chris Craft


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