Two toddlers, one with a green bow in their hair and the other in a blue tracksuit, sitting on the laps of two adults on the floor of a classroom.

Arts for Learning Maryland Receives $1.7 Million Grant to Expand Early Childhood Programming

Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation funding will support evidence for arts integration

Arts for Learning Maryland (A4L) announced today that it has received a three-year, $1.7 million grant from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation to significantly expand its arts-integrated early childhood programming for children ages 0-6, educators and families, and caregivers.

Through the grant, Arts for Learning Maryland (formerly Young Audiences of Maryland) will advance the field of early childhood education by providing high-quality opportunities to learn in and through the arts in classroom residencies, professional development educator workshops, and family events. As a result, Arts for Learning will reach over 84,000 young children (a 380% increase over its current reach) and 23,000 teachers and caregivers over the next three years through its joyful, arts-integrated programs, supporting school readiness in early learners and strengthening educator and caregiver practice. Arts for Learning will double the number of Maryland counties in which it delivers these programs–from seven to fourteen–providing historically disinvested communities with critical access to its programs.

The Saul Zaentz Foundation grant is the largest private grant in Arts for Learning Maryland’s history and the third grant made to the organization by the Foundation.

“Through its investments in Maryland, the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation seeks to support the arts community, create opportunities for historically disinvested populations, and advance programs for early childhood education and the families of young children. Arts for Learning Maryland’s programming for the young child checks all the boxes,” said Marvin J. Garbis, Director of the Foundation. “We are very proud of its innovative work with artists and young children throughout the area, and we join it in celebrating Month of the Young Child in Maryland.”

The grant comes at the right time for Maryland: early childhood education is identified as one of the four top priorities in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021. With recent studies showing Maryland kindergarten readiness on the decline, with just 40% of children demonstrating readiness in 2021-2022, the need is clear. The new Arts for Learning Maryland initiatives will prioritize areas that have the lowest school readiness scores.

Arts for Learning Maryland’s work supported by the Foundation grant will:

  • Strengthen the skills and knowledge of Maryland’s early learning educators and care providers through expanded professional development experiences. Arts for Learning will provide educators with best-practice-based arts strategies that support early childhood development through workshops, a new Early Learning Professional Development Center with a robust schedule of artful learning opportunities, and the creation of a Childcare Provider Fellowship program of in-depth study and mentor collaborations.
  • Deliver more programs for children and their parents that incorporate arts-integrated exploratory play, thus encouraging parents to better understand and meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of their children.

Baby ArtsPlay!™, A4L’s embedded professional development artist-in-residency program, will expand to more counties in Maryland. Arts for Learning will engage 1,600 parents and caregivers a year by 2025. In addition, the organization’s Early Learning Video Portal, an online resource of pre-recorded arts activities, will expand with more videos while becoming more easily accessible via a new phone app. Arts for Learning programs will be offered in more Judy Centers and, for the first time, in Head Start programs across Maryland.

  • Build evidence that reinforces the value the arts play in early childhood development. Arts for Learning will conduct research on the impact of the arts on early childhood development, adding to studies from the Arts Education Partnership and others that show that the arts play a crucial role in supporting the cognitive, motor, language, and social-emotional growth of young children.

Said Stacie Sanders Evans, Arts for Learning Maryland President & CEO, “This grant from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation affirms the value and success of our art-based approach to development, and enhances our work in providing transformative experiences for early childhood growth and learning. On behalf of the tens of thousands of students and families, and the communities around Maryland that this grant will impact, we’re grateful to the Saul Zaentz Foundation for recognizing our role in expanding these opportunities.”

A4L kicks off today celebrating Month of the Young Child, a collaboration between leading early childhood organizations in the state that elevates the importance of early childhood education and features a wide range of activities for children, childcare providers, and families.

To learn more about Arts for Learning Maryland’s early childhood programs, visit