Partners in the Arts (PIA), a program of the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies, has awarded a PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Award to Richmond’s Binford Middle School that will support teacher training in arts integration in the coming year.

In August, Binford will become the first middle school in Virginia to adopt this method of instruction, which uses the arts in all forms to teach all subjects in the PreK-12 curriculum. 

The PIA Award provides free tuition for four Binford teachers to attend PIA’s annual Joan Oates Institute for Arts Integration in June, professional development in arts integration for all of the school’s teachers, and $5,000 to pay for visiting artists and materials to implement arts integration projects developed by teachers.

In addition to the teachers whose tuition will be covered by the PIA Award, the majority of Binford teachers will attend this year’s institute, taking place June 22-26 at the University of Richmond Modlin Center for the Arts. Christie-Jo Adams, Richmond’s fine arts instructional specialist, said, “The professional development provided to Binford Middle School teachers by the PIA summer institute will allow for enhanced instruction in every content area through the arts.”

Binford’s newly appointed principal, Melissa Rickey, attended the 2011 Joan Oates Institute with a team of math, science and art teachers from Robious Middle School in Chesterfield. The unit they developed was implemented through a PIA Award in 2011-2012 for the project called “Keep Your Watershed Together…Be a Part of the Whole.”

Binford received a PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Award in 2013 for a project developed by an English teacher and current art teacher Kirstie Hein-Sadler called, “Transformation: Art Can Change the World,” which integrated language arts, history, earth science and math with the arts.

“Arts integration increases student engagement with what they are learning and cultivates critical thinking and collaborative skills,” said PIA Director Liz Sheehan. “It allows students to retain content over a longer period of time than those who have been taught using traditional methods.” Arts integration also addresses students’ diverse learning styles, offering them a range of creative ways to explore content areas.  

Partners in the Arts was founded in 1994 at the Arts Council of Richmond and was initially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. PIA is based on a consortium of six regional school systems and a number of private schools, arts and cultural organizations, and community stakeholders in the greater Richmond area. In 2009, the program became part of the UR School of Professional & Continuing Studies, which since 1994 has partnered with PIA to offer the Joan Oates Institute, a three-credit Education course.

To learn more about Partners in the Arts, PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards, and the 2015 Joan Oates Institute, visit or contact

# # #