Hamilton-mania continues to roll on.
The past few months brought news that the smash play's popularity spared its namesake from being removed from the $10 bill. A few weeks later, Hamilton won 11 Tonys (though falling short of the all-time record of 11 set by Mel Brooks' The Producers in 2001).
And back in October of 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation funded a program in tandem with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the New York City Department of Education to get inner city kids to see the play in the Big Apple, prompting us to ask if their model represents the future of arts education and engagement for underprivileged audiences.
Recent developments corroborate this theory.
Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin and the musical's creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, announced the expansion of the foundation's commitment to fund a $6 million educational partnership, which will allow public school children in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to attend the musical as part of their American History studies.
Add it all up and 100,000 inner-city school students will be able to purchase $10 tickets to the musical phenomenon.
This development is important for a host of reasons, many of them obvious. But we'll mention them anyway. The first reason is demographics. There has been much consternation across the arts philanthropy world regarding organizations' inability to attract underprivileged and minority groups, especially young people. For example, a recent study by Createquity looked at why individuals with lower incomes and less education (low-SES) tended to avoid arts events. It identified an unexpected culprit: television.
This program gets kids off the couch.
The second reason speaks to the fact that in a philanthropic landscape obsessed with metrics, big data, and solutions-based philanthropy, this Hamilton partnership, as simple as it may seem, offers a solution to an equally simple problem: a lack of access to arts education. According to a 2014 report by the New York City comptroller, many public schools in the city do not offer any kind of arts education, and the lack of arts instruction disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods.
Call us crazy, but we imagine these figures are comparable in other large U.S. cities.
And so the Hamilton program is an exportable solution. "Our initial partnership was such a success, we knew that as Hamilton expanded across the country we needed to expand the opportunity for students to see it," said Rodin. "This program is one of the foundation’s most impactful and we are so excited to be able to export it across the country."
James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, chimed in, noting, "Kids who didn’t before suddenly care about America’s past, and see their own connection to it."
Lastly, as we previously noted when these players first announced the partnership, kids don't view Hamilton in a vacuum. The Gilder Lehrman Institute developed the "HAMILTON Education Program," an in-class curriculum designed around the musical. As this program continues to expand, it will be integrated into Title I schools where the majority of students are eligible for free and reduced price lunches.
Organizers say that even more cities will be added in the future. We wouldn't expect anything less.