No kidding

On Nov. 17, the board of trustees of the Woodruff Arts Center voted to add Young Audiences of Atlanta as its newest operating division, the first since 1970. The move, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2005, places Young Audiences of Atlanta under the same organizational umbrella as the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta College of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art. It makes Woodruff one of the largest providers of arts education services in the United States, and one of the first major arts centers to create a coordinated, comprehensive pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade education program.

"It's unprecedented," says Shelton Stanfill, Woodruff's president and CEO. "We are looking to take a national leadership role in the arts education field."

With a roster of 82 artists and ensembles from music, dance, theater, visual and literary arts, Young Audiences of Atlanta has been operating as an independent chapter-affiliate of the national organization based in New York. It offers some 300 distinct arts programs to schools to foster appreciation for the arts and diverse cultures.

"We're going to see many opportunities to collaborate on projects that we've not been able to do alone," says Susan Merritt, director of education for the Atlanta Symphony. "The ideas are really popping, and it's very exciting."

Young Audiences of Atlanta brings to the table things that are new to the Woodruff's existing educational fare, such as programs involving folk music and dance. Once the merger is official in January, the Woodruff Arts Center's overall educational programs are anticipated to reach more than 1.5 million young people annually.