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DES MOINES, Iowa – One Des Moines Public School will be considered a Turnaround Arts school for the 2018-2019 school year.

Turnaround Arts schools began in 2011 by the presidents committee on the arts and humanities. It aims to inspire struggling schools through music, theater, dance and arts. The program now works for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Moulton Elementary is becoming the sixth school in the district. DMPS Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart said the arts help students excel socially.

“Especially, which at elementary and middle schools it’s hugely important for future success, and students thinking differently about what their future might look like,” Ahart said.

There are currently 84 schools in 17 states including the District of Columbia that are a part of the national program.

Artists like Kerry Washington, Yo-yo Ma and DJ IZ Avila are a few celebrities that are involved in the program.

“My favorite part is being on the ground, being in the classroom, seeing the excitement on these kids faces when you talk about music, creativity, the possibility and really just seeing kids excited about imagining again. Imagining themselves being successful,” DJ IZ Avila said.

Findley Elementary school was one of eight pilot schools back in 2012. Harding Middle School, Cattell, Madison and Oak Park elementary schools joined the program in 2014.

“It has really helped transform the culture in the school, helped the school better connect with the families, and just given many more outlets for students self-expression,” Ahart said.

Artists who have visited DMPS Turnaround Arts schools include:

  • Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker
  • Tony-winning performer John Lloyd Young
  • Actor and school activist Kal Penn
  • Silk Road Ensemble musicians Cristina Pato and Shane Shanahan
  • Grammy-winning artist DJ IZ Avila

DJ IZ Avila visited Moulton Elementary and the Project STAGE performance on Friday.

“I think it’s about these kids being able to see their heroes in real time. Being able to engage, being able to shake my hand, being able to just converse and have a conversation so that its believable to them. A lot of these kids I tell them I look just like you. It’s possible to dream and imagine beyond these four walls,” Avila said.

Project STAGE intends to have a place for students to share their ideas and creativity on the north side of Des Moines who are a part of the Turnaround Arts schools.