For Immediate Release                                                           
The Arts Council of Tuscaloosa
Contact: Shannon McCue


(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) The Arts Council of Tuscaloosa is announcing the establishment of the West Alabama Arts Education Collaborative, a project of the Artistic Literacy Consortium. The Collaborative will be led by its new director, Shannon McCue, and will be administered through a regional office located at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. The Artistic Literacy Consortium is a joint project between the Alabama State Council on the Arts and The Alabama State Department of Education.

Currently, less than 40% of school systems across the state of Alabama offer arts education programming, with rural communities impacted the most. A leadership team of arts, education, business and community leaders from across the state worked for three years to create the Alabama Plan for Arts Education. The plan was accepted by the State Board of Education in March 2016. In 2018, the Alabama State Legislature approved $400,000 in new funding for the Alabama State Council on the Arts to launch three pilot Regional Arts Education Collaboratives. The collaboratives are strategically located in Huntsville, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. The shared goals for the three collaboratives are to provide regional arts education inventories as well as professional development for teachers, artists and arts organizations in arts integration.

Jeffrey Schultz, Fine Arts Coordinator for the Tuscaloosa City Schools, also emphasized the need for in depth arts education. “Research shows the positive impact of arts integration on students’ cognitive skills, engagement and attitudes about learning. The West Alabama Arts Education Collaborative will equip our educator workforce with the necessary tools to include the arts as a key instructional resource across all disciplines and strengthen the role and contribution of the arts in student achievement. Expanding access to arts instruction in schools presents opportunities to enrich the learning environment and provide students with valuable life skills.”

The West Alabama Arts Education Collaborative will hold its first semester-long program in the Tuscaloosa County Schools at Myrtlewood Elementary in Fosters. All second graders will receive visual art classes twice-weekly with professional teaching artist Ruth O’Connor. The curriculum, co-designed by O’Connor and the Myrtlewood second grade teachers, aims to integrate art into the regular classroom curriculum. “We are really excited to be working with the ALC. This will give our students the opportunity to express themselves creatively and hopefully nurture a love of art that will last a lifetime,” said Myrtlewood principal Michael Tilford. Next semester, the Collaborative will run a program at Alberta School of Performing Arts in Tuscaloosa.

Shannon McCue is an arts administrator dedicated to designing equitable arts opportunities for students. Prior to her position with the West Alabama Arts Education Collaborative, Shannon was Executive Director of the Alabama Blues Project, a nonprofit that brings blues education programs to underserved communities. Before moving to Alabama in 2016, McCue, a Chicago native, resided in New York and California. From 2014-2016, she served as Manager of Youth Programs for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in Manhattan, where she ran the orchestra’s free in- and after-school music program for children in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Prior to her experience in New York, she was a teaching artist for the Incredible Children’s Art Network in Santa Barbara, Calif. for five years where she taught orchestra, violin and viola while working on her doctorate in viola. She holds degrees in viola performance and English from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. As an independent music education consultant, McCue has written teacher study guides for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Tuscaloosa Symphony. Performance remains an integral part of her life, and she regularly subs with the Alabama and Tuscaloosa Symphonies.