Arts in VPS

The arts have a starring role in Vancouver Public Schools! Both Washington state and VPS recognize the arts as a core academic subject. We put the spotlight on visual and performing arts with a decades-long commitment to arts programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For our students, creativity is limited only by the imagination.

Elementary arts block

The elementary arts block includes weekly instruction in creative movement, general music, visual art and physical education. Every student in kindergarten through fifth grade attends each class once per week for 40 minutes.


Vancouver Public Schools was recognized in 2023 with a Best Communities for Music Education award.

Music instruction begins in kindergarten with singing and sound exploration and progresses through fifth-grade developing music techniques and vocabulary with an introduction to musical instruments. Secondary students can pursue and expand their talents in band, choir or orchestra. Music instruction includes competition and performances for the public. Students pursuing music also can perform in mariachi bands, jazz band, chamber music, musicals and theater. In addition to our award-winning high school ensembles, students participating in the most advanced groups receive credit through Career and Technical Education with connections to professionals, mentors, audition preparation, artist resumé and other supporting experiences.


Craving drama? Young thespians can get on stage beginning in elementary school and continuing through middle and high school. Many district schools produce performances each year offering students of all ages starring and supporting parts in a variety of plays and musical productions. Students have the opportunity to learn how to audition, direct, sing, dance and try out different acting styles. Not one to be in the spotlight? For those who prefer a behind-the-scenes role, there are positions in set design, lighting, sound, make-up and costume design.

Dance and creative movement

Unique to VPS is a weekly dance and creative movement block in the elementary years that allows students to receive high-quality dance instruction. Creative movement is taught through games, stories and choreography for our youngest students and advances to elements of movement, beat and improvisation for intermediate students. Dance is offered in several secondary schools in various forms including modern dance, jazz, tap and ballet. Additional options at some of our high schools include color guard and cheer.

Visual arts

Beginning in kindergarten, students learn the basics of art including shape, color and pattern. Building on this foundation, art instruction progressively incorporates media, tools, texture, spatial perception, composition, rhythm and balance. In middle and high school, students learn art history, theory, exhibition skills, studio practice, critique and the emotional impact of art. Students also develop articulation and process skills. High school students can explore photography, pottery, graphic design, drawing, painting, printmaking and more.

Literary arts

Literary arts develop critical reading skills and creative writing. Students can expand literary arts through theater, poetry and advanced English language arts. A variety of writing styles include poetry, journalism, blogging, fiction, nonfiction, advertising and copy writing and technical writing. An engaging and popular activity for literary art students is participation in poetry slams for public reading and performance poetry.

Moving image arts and multimedia

Students can explore the arts through technology by recording sound and visual images. Television production teaches students skills in writing, interviewing and photography. Media art provides writing, directing and interviewing experience for documentary and digital motion pictures. Students learn the elements of space, time, light, motion, color and sound to express perspective, feelings and ideas. They learn to critically interpret and evaluate media within aesthetic, cultural and historical contexts. Students also can pursue graphic design and animation.

Beyond the school day

Before and after-school opportunities for students

Elementary students are able to participate in a variety of free before- and after-school arts activities. These vary at each school and currently include visual art club, dance club, theater, ukulele club, bucket drumming and choir.

VPS offers year-round instrumental instruction to all interested fifth graders in flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin, viola and cello. These free classes take place at various middle schools and will begin at the end of September. Instrument support is available for those in need. Registration occurs in May/June and August/September. More information can be found on the district and school websites.

Creative movement classes are provided twice a year to interested students in grades two through eight. The free eight-week class is offered after school at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. There are two sessions: September through November and January through March. Registration is in September and information can be found on school websites.

Summer workshops

Free summer arts workshops include theater, choir, dance, visual art, fitness and more. Summer workshops will take place in July and August. Registration takes place in the spring. Information can be found on the district and school websites.

Contact us

Visual and performing arts


Traci Young

K-12 Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator

Libby Odren

Special programs clerk

See school websites for additional staff members

Work in Progress: Art and Science Work Together to Make Human Skulls

Students at iTech Preparatory are combining their science and art skills to reconstruct human skulls, in a forensic science assignment. They’re learning that everyone is a scientist and an artist.

Work in Progress: Famed Drummer Gives Back to Students

Gary Hobbs attended Shumway Middle School long before launching into a career playing the drums at the highest levels. Now, he’s back in the building, which is now home to VSAA, sharing his wisdom and love of music with students.

Check out all “Work in Progress” videos!


Student gallery

Arts calendar

K-12 students participate in arts
Art teachers

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