Side view of Sheelagh Allston seated at a table in a crowded room and looking ahead. She is wearing a black track jacket with white stripes and smiling.

Meet Arts for Learning Maryland’s New Board Chair, Sheelagh Allston

Sheelagh Allston is the new chair of the Arts for Learning Maryland Board of Directors. Sheelagh, who is Vice President, Senior Real Estate Counsel, Wexford Science & Technology, LLC, provides some insight into her love of the arts and her admiration for Arts for Learning.

How has creativity impacted your life?

Growing up in New York City, my childhood was absolutely infused with the arts. I spent Saturdays at Third Street Music School taking music theory and music appreciation classes, and classical guitar lessons. I also took visual arts classes after school at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Center and benefitted from Joseph Papp’s Public Theater coming into my school. Art and music classes were always my favorites!

What is it about Arts for Learning Maryland that compelled you to get involved with the organization?

Having had opportunities to see Arts for Learning’s programs in action, from the Summer Arts for Learning Academy (SALA) to its work in early education through high school, I’m impressed by the quality and diversity of the programming. From music to dance to poetry and playwriting, from using movement and music to teach math to exploring identity through storytelling, I have seen children enjoy learning and understanding what they’re being taught. Exposure to the arts from an early age not only leads children to a lifelong appreciation of various art forms but also strengthens their grasp of academics and teaches them important life lessons, such as perseverance and how to work with others. I have seen joyful, inquisitive, and engaged children in classrooms where teaching artists are present. I’m also encouraged when Arts for Learning receives emails from parents expressing how happy they are that their children are experiencing an Arts for Learning program and becoming more confident as a result.

Why do you think Arts for Learning is so impactful?

Arts for Learning’s vision that one day, every student in Maryland will have the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts is so inspiring and speaks to me. Arts for Learning’s work has an impact on students because it allows them to think outside the box, using new tools to understand and explore all their coursework in the classroom. Whether it’s through SALA, a workshop, or a residency, these high-quality artists, programs, and teachers allow children to express their feelings and develop new skills through the arts. Arts-integrated learning encourages students to do more than memorize—they learn to deconstruct topics or theories. The impact is the development of confident, well-rounded students with varied skills, abilities, interests, and perspectives. I’m thrilled to support that work.