Beverley Taylor Sorenson, who passed away May 27, 2013, developed a rich legacy of love and support for arts education in Utah. She was instrumental in reinvigorating elementary arts education at institutions of higher education that prepare classroom teachers and teaching artists to teach the arts. Her work with area schools helped develop a renewed effort to insure Utah children have a complete education that includes sequential K-6 arts education.
Growing up, Beverley’s family was deeply involved in artistic pursuits. As a child, she participated in dance and music training. As an adult, Beverley and her husband, the late biotechnology pioneer James LeVoy Sorenson, were ardent supporters of both the arts and education through the family’s Legacy Foundation, and in other philanthropic efforts. She raised eight children of her own, and now has numerous grandchildren. She graduated from the University of Utah with a teaching certificate, and taught kindergarten in a Quaker school in New York. As a young woman, Beverley also served as the children’s music coordinator for her church.
For many years, Beverley was concerned about the lack of arts education in Utah schools, particularly elementary schools. She recognized both the lack of resources dedicated to teacher training in arts education, and the lack of legislative funding for school-based arts programs.
A catalyzing event occurred in 1995 during a visit Beverley made to Lincoln Elementary School in Salt Lake City. During the visit, she saw the dramatic impact a quality visual arts program made on one of the most troubled schools in the area. She saw first-hand the bridges it created between students of different cultures, religions, and economic backgrounds. Beverley learned from the teachers and the principal how the arts significantly increased learning in other subjects, decreased behavior problems and increased cooperation and self-esteem among the students. She also saw that these benefits spilled over into families and the surrounding community to bring them closer together.
This experience, coupled with a very personal concern for a grandson who was struggling in school, motivated Beverley to dedicate her time and resources to launching Art Works for Kids. She and a small team of professional arts educators started with just six schools and a K-2 program. The foundation has since impacted tens of thousands of children throughout the state.
In addition to serving students and schools directly, Beverley was a tireless advocate for quality arts education. For years, she lobbied lawmakers to put the arts back in elementary school classrooms. In 2002, she secured public funds to help expand the number of schools Art Works for Kids could serve. When the lawmakers stopped funding the program after just one year due to budget shortfalls, Beverley stepped in and fully funded it herself.
In 2008, arts education in Utah received a significant boost when the Utah State Legislature funded the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, which brings the integrated teaching model to classrooms across the state. In addition to providing instruction in elementary schools, the program funds teacher training programs at colleges and universities; pays for arts supplies, equipment and materials; and supports ongoing research to ensure quality implementation and results.