A new public-private partnership to give students more access to the arts was announced today in Charleston County.

Engaging Creative Minds is a $400,000 effort that will benefit eight pilot schools starting in January, and its goals are to engage students in learning through the arts and enhance schools' partnerships with local artists.

The partnership hopes to expand to all county schools and neighboring Dorchester 2 and Berkeley schools in the future. It will begin by serving more than 1,700 students at the following elementary schools: Angel Oak, Ashley River Creative Arts, Jennie Moore, James Island, James Simons, Ladson, Memminger and Pepperhill.

The partnership is working to establish itself as a separate nonprofit organization, and it will be an umbrella group for all of the arts-related efforts working in schools.

The partnership has received the support of Charleston, Mount Pleasant and North Charleston, as well as the College of Charleston and the South Carolina Arts Commission. Private donors include The Boeing Company, Target, the McNair Law Firm, Gil Shuler Graphic Design, Alloneword and philanthropist Anita Zucker.

Officials unveiled the new partnership today at a press conference at the school district's downtown office and said it has been in the works for 18 months. It's modeled on a Dallas partnership, Big Thought.

“We expect a very exciting future,” said Scott Shanklin-Peterson, an associate professor at the College of Charleston who's been the project manager for Engaging Creative Minds. “This is going to be a tremendously successful arts organization.”

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