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Engaging Creative Minds



Mission Statement

The mission of Engaging Creative Minds is to inspire the creative and innovative potential of all students to achieve academically and become imaginative, adaptable, and productive adults resulting in stronger communities and an increasingly competitive South Carolina workforce. 

Short Summary

Imagine a world where Arts Integration in every school creates tremendous improvements in attendance, academic achievement and behavior and where all students are excited to come to school every day to engage their creative minds and prepare themselves for their futures.

Engaging Creative Minds (ECM) is an Arts Integration educational nonprofit based in Charleston, South Carolina. We work with school districts, principals, teachers and the local workforce to identify specific knowledge and skillsets all students should master before graduating high school. We hire and train local artists, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) professionals and cultural organizations, called ECM Partners, to work with grade level teams of teachers to support learning through the arts. Our goal is for every student to achieve academically, stay engaged in school and succeed in life while their teachers develop engaging Arts Integration teaching strategies that foster collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity. Both teachers and students report that ECM is a powerful model of success.  

Engaging Creative Minds fulfills our mission through a three-pronged approach to programming in addition to a grant program:

  • In School | ECM Curriculum Coaches work with ECM Partners and teachers to bring Engaged Learning Experiences (ELEs) into K-8th grade classrooms. ELEs consist of customized curriculum designed around Arts Integrated teaching partnerships to teach state standards in an engaging way.
    • Example – ECM Partner worked with sixth graders to explore the origins and impact of the bubonic plague.  Using plaster impregnated gauze and paint, students cast half-masks inspired by those attributed to doctors during the plague. Students considered the ways in which the mask’s design supported the specific attributes of the bubonic plague, and in their own work, explored different design variations that might be required for plagues with differing attributes. 
  • Summer Camp | ECM’s Summer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Institute® is a six week camp for rising K-5th graders designed to prevent summer learning loss utilizing Arts Integrated programming to engage and excite students. Built on a model of inclusivity and diversity our Summer STEAM Institute® draws from the total Charleston area and is made up of 30% scholarship students. 
  • Professional Development | ECM empowers and supports teachers by giving them the tools, confidence and skills to successfully integrate the arts and light a spark in every one of their student’s creative and innovative spirit.
    • Example – ECM partnered with local arts organizations to provide a professional development opportunity for teachers tailored to a performance and lessons that could be taught in conjunction 
  • School Grants | 20% of the net proceeds from our annual fundraiser, the Charleston Marathon®, are awarded to teachers for Arts Integration projects.

Starting in 2012, ECM has grown substantially and in the 2018/19 academic year we worked with over 11,000 students during our in-school programming in Berkeley County School District, Charleston County School District and Dorchester District Two. Our ECM Partners and Curriculum Coaches worked to provide 171 unique ELEs across 27 partner schools. Through the professional development aspect of our programming we also were able to provide Arts Integration training to over 400 teachers, creating a ripple effect of teaching techniques across the districts.

The Summer STEAM Institute® has also continued to grow each year. The summer of 2019 will mark the sixth year in downtown Charleston with camp taking place at Memminger Elementary School. In the summer of 2018, Engaging Creative Minds partnered with Allendale County Schools and Barnwell District 19 to launch satellite camp locations to offset summer learning loss. Additionally, ECM continues to consult on their first satellite camp location in Clarendon County. The summer of 2019 will see the piloting of a new summer concept, the embedding of our ELE programming in summer literacy camps in Allendale and Barnwell counties as well as at Sanders Clyde Elementary in downtown Charleston.

Through ECM’s programming, local communities benefit from teachers with greater knowledge of, and comfort with, Arts Integration, as well as, local artists and STEM professionals better prepared as educational partners. Most importantly, all students are left more confident, creative, engaged and able to communicate and work well with their peers.  


Target Settings: Urban, rural, suburban 
Target Groups Served: The target student population we serve is diverse, with 2% identifying as Asian, 41% as Black, 9% as Hispanic, and 47% as White. Additionally, 7% are English Language Learners and 9% are Students with Disabilities 
Districts Served: Allendale, Barnwell, Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon and Dorchester counties

Research and Evaluation 

For 25 years, Big Thought, a Dallas nonprofit, has provided creative learning programs that help kids imagine possibilities, excel academically, and contribute to their communities. Knowing their achievements, Charleston County School District (CCSD) superintendent and the College of Charleston’s Arts Management Program invited Big Thought’s CEO, Gigi Antoni, to speak to community leaders, artists and arts organizations, and educators in May 2011 about Big Thought’s work. Inspired by Big Thought’s success, the Superintendent, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, and others wondered if a similar approach could work in the Charleston region. Leaders from CCSD, College of Charleston, Cities of Charleston and North Charleston, Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts, Youth Endowment for the Arts, and Crystal-Barkley Corporation formed a Task Force to convene a community planning process to determine if and how the cities, schools, and cultural resources could collectively serve area youth more equitably and with higher impact in the classroom. Berkeley County and Dorchester District Two superintendents were invited to participate on the Task Force. Guided by Gigi Antoni, Big Thought’s CEO, the Task Force interviewed key leaders and engaged focus groups of 80+ leaders from arts, business, education, and community sectors in the planning process. 

This community process confirmed a clear consensus around the belief that access to and learning through the arts and culture are important drivers of student success, but local issues stand in the way. The task force identified that a structured, coordinated way of collaboratively addressing these issues in the tri-county area is needed. The Charleston County School District, the three local city governments, the College of Charleston and other partners provided funding commitments and services to support the new initiative and Boeing SC agreed to become the Founding Corporate Partner. Thus, ECM was founded in 2012 and is now a 501c3 organization. 


Teachers and students find Engaging Creative Minds learning experiences a powerful asset for success. Recent assessments found that student engagement during programming increased by 65%, that 60% of students gained skills, techniques, and knowledge, and that 55% were more social, verbal, and collaborative. Over 90% of teachers believed that Engaging Creative Minds programs had a positive effect on student engagement. Nearly all (99%) of teachers who participated believed the programs had a positive effect on students’ academic achievement, and over 95% of the teachers agreed that Arts Integration was effective for teaching standards-based instruction as well as differentiated instruction. Finally, compared with schools that did not participate in Engaging Creative Minds programming, participating schools made significant gains in ELA and Writing achievement on PASS.  *see Evaluation Dashboard in Addendum


Annual Cost: $1,040,000
Funding Sources: School Districts, State Department of Education, Boeing SC, City of Charleston, City of North Charleston, South Carolina Arts Commission, Arts, etc., Blackbaud, Burr Forman McNair, CD Bard, Cleon W. Foundation, Clif Bar Family Foundation, Daniel Island Community Foundation, Joanna Foundation South State Bank, Dominion Energy 
Partner Organizations: Allendale County Schools, Barnwell District 19, Berkeley County School District, Charleston County School District, Clarendon School District One, Dorchester District Two, College of Charleston, The Citadel, City of Charleston, City of North Charleston, Town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina Arts Alliance, South Carolina Art Commission 

Contact Information

Andrew McGlaughon, Director of Development, Strategy & Communications


Engaging Creative Minds Timeline

ELE l Bubonic Plague Masks w/ Mia Loia


ELE l The Art of Creating a Business w/ Corpus Callosum