The Community/Schools Partnership for the Arts (C/SPA) is a unique local group of arts leaders.  It was created in 1996 as an official advisory committee to the Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools.  This partnership between the Arts & Cultural Alliance and the school district is composed of school and district administrators, teachers and community arts education leaders.  C/SPA focuses on internal school advocacy, with its sister organization, The Arts Education Task Force emphasizing community advocacy for arts education.  These alliances have been recognized nationally by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), the Wall Street Journal and Downbeat magazine.

C/SPA works to strengthen arts education within Sarasota County, increasing opportunities for all K-12 students to receive instruction from arts-certified teachers.   Since 1996, C/SPA has expanded access and equity in arts education, helped develop new programs and positions and recognized and rewarded exceptional teachers and administrators. The group also monitors equipment, facilities and instructional practice.

C/SPA provides leadership in the continual development, implementation and celebration of education in, about and through the arts for all students in Sarasota County.


C/SPA’s Goals

– To develop relationships between the community and education including school and district leadership, to identify strengths and opportunities for the arts in our schools.

– To support implementation of best practices in arts education, including equity and quality staffing, facilities, resources, curriculum, and programming.

– To celebrate the importance and impact of the arts in education, nationally and regionally, through recognition of the achievements of Sarasota County schools, teachers and students.

Cindy Balistreri Arts Leadership Award

Cindy Balistreri

Cindy Balistreri

Since 2009, the Cindy Balistreri Award for Excellence in Arts Education has recognized outstanding practitioners of arts education in Sarasota County Schools with a $500 stipend for professional development and/or arts education in the classroom.  Principals nominate applicants and the winner is announced in the spring.

The award is named for Cindy Balistreri, who served for 38 years as a music educator and Fine Arts Program Specialist for Sarasota County Schools and was a statewide leader in arts education.  She retired in 2017 as Education Manager and Patriot Plaza Manager for the Arts & Cultural Alliance.

Past recipients are Joanna Davis-Lanum, Joanna Fox, Jackie Henson-Dacey, Patrice Kennedy, Retsy Lauer. Deb  Markley and Alma Vega.