West Chester University to Receive a $85,000 Federal Arts Research Grant

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WEST CHESTER, PA — In its new round of grants, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has chosen to fund research by Eleanor Brown, West Chester University professor of psychology and director of WCU’s Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab (ECCEL). Brown’s NEA Research: Art Works award of $85,000 will fund her experimental study of the impact of preschool arts and mindfulness programming for children facing economic hardship.

The NEA announced 15 NEA Research: Art Works grants in this round, with awards totaling $724,000. Brown's grant is the only Research: Art Works grant awarded in Pennsylvania in this round of NEA funding.

An expert in how poverty-related stress and trauma as well as arts-based interventions affect children, Brown says, “This research compares arts interventions that emphasize ‘creativity’ versus ‘calm’ with the aim of countering poverty-related stress and trauma. Results of this NEA-funded study will help us understand how to maximize art’s impact, and perhaps move arts programming back to center stage for children.”

In “Questioning Creativity and Calm: An Experimental Study of the Arts and Mindfulness for Children Facing Poverty-Related Stress,” WCU undergraduate and graduate students in psychology can participate in gathering and analyzing data as part of Brown’s research team. The research will involve children attending a Head Start preschool. Children will be assigned to one of four groups: creative dance/movement classes; yoga/mindfulness classes; both classes; or a control group. Effects will be assessed via the stress hormone cortisol as well as measures of emotion, executive functioning, and school readiness. By comparing “creativity” and “calm,” the study will elucidate the value of including creative arts approaches in efforts to counter the effects of toxic poverty-related stress and will speak to the impact of a scalable model for early childhood arts integration.

Brown is the primary investigator for this project. Her 2017 study, “Can the Arts Get Under the Skin,” was also funded by the NEA and demonstrated the potential for early childhood arts classes provided by Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol for children facing economic hardship. View further information on this past project.

Brown’s collaborative partners include Jan Michener, founder and director of Arts Holding Hearts and Hands (AHHAH) and Tarrell Davis, director of Early Childhood Programs at Settlement Music School.

The NEA Research: Art Works grants support research projects that investigate the value and impact of the arts, either as individual components of the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other and with other domains of American life. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to arts.gov.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit www.arts.gov.

The opinions expressed in materials on this website are those of the author(s) and do not represent the views of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Office of Research & Analysis or the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included in these materials and is not responsible for any consequences of its use. This NEA Research Lab is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (Award #: 1879148-38-C-21).

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