Creative Learning that Pops

What do you call that rewarding experience when everything clicks? A “mindpop” is that brief moment when elusive knowledge becomes real understanding. 

In 2009, a group of dedicated Austin educators, philanthropists, parents and civic leaders came together for a collective “mindpop.” They found they all shared the belief that when creativity and the arts are integrated into school lessons, students are more engaged and learning improves. Yet research showed that there was great inequity in students’ access to creative learning. 

Dr. Brent Hasty, executive director of MINDPOP, explains: “It wasn’t a simple east/west divide. It actually looked more like an inverted bell curve.” The lowest-income schools offered access to arts education that rivaled the highest-income schools, thanks to philanthropic support—but the schools in the middle lagged behind. In addition, there were inequities within each school which meant not all kids had equal access.

The data pointed to the need for a systematic approach—to create one organization dedicated to supporting the whole system. On this principle, MINDPOP was founded and now works to expand creative learning throughout Austin.



Austin Community Foundation provided critical, early-stage support for this important community initiative. Since MINDPOP was a fiscally-sponsored project of the Foundation, its leaders could focus on their mission, knowing that administrative and financial details were being handled. Also, MINDPOP received several grants from the Foundation, notably from the Sybil B. Harrington Endowment for the Arts.

Perhaps even more significantly, the Foundation served as a trusted convener of leaders from different sectors—education, the arts, philanthropic—encouraging them to work together to create solutions that any one single organization or sector couldn’t do alone.

Today, MINDPOP manages the Creative Learning Initiative (CLI)—a partnership between Austin ISD, the City of Austin, and 100 arts organizations to ensure that all students receive the well-researched benefits of the arts.

 “Students who participate have increased attendance, higher test scores in reading and science, and high rates of creative development, which is critical for the 21st century economy,” reports Hasty. But the students don’t care much about these statistics. “What matters to them,” Hasty says, “is that CLI makes school more interesting!”

--Yaira Robinson