University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



USF Sarasota-Manatee's Denise Davis-Cotton touts the power of arts-integrated teaching to foreign visitors at Louisiana school

University Communications and Marketing

Denise Davis-Cotton, the director of the Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts-Integrated Teaching (PAInT) at USF Sarasota-Manatee, was part of an international group that recently visited a Louisiana middle school to glean how lessons learned from the school’s arts programs might be applied to foreign aid and development assistance efforts overseas.

The visiting delegation, organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development, toured McKinley Middle Magnet School of Visual and Performing Arts in East Baton Rouge Parish in early December, met with students, teachers and administrators and enjoyed various music and other performances. Davis-Cotton said her participation was an extension of the work being done by the Florida Center for PAInT and a chance to “showcase the profound impact of arts integration on learning methodologies.”

Denise Davis-Cotton and other members of USAID delegation that visited Louisiana school

Denise Davis-Cotton, second from left, was part of a U.S. Agency for International Development delegation that visited a Louisiana middle school to learn lessons about arts-integrated teaching that could be applied overseas.

Davis-Cotton had “significant dialogue” with visitors from Pakistan, Nigeria, Jamaica and Ghana during a roundtable discussion that was part of the visit. Davis-Cotton's presentation highlighted how the visual arts, theater, music and literature can break down barriers, foster cultural exchange, nurture empathy and lead to progress in addressing myriad challenges.

“Arts integration catalyzes impactful partnerships between the U.S. and other nations to address pressing global challenges,” Davis-Cotton said. “Through joint artistic endeavors, diverse groups can find common ground, dialogue and unified action on issues like climate change, social justice and healthcare access.”

“The visit demonstrated specific models illustrating how arts integration enhances instruction across various disciplines, promoting student engagement, interdisciplinary learning and community outreach,” Davis-Cotton said.

The visit to the Louisiana school and related activities were organized by USAID, which manages the government’s civilian foreign aid and development assistance programs.

Davis-Cotton and the Florida Center for PAInT have been active in promoting arts-integrated pedagogy. Last year, they received a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop professional development program for civics teachers. In 2021, the Department of Education awarded PAInT a $8.5 million grant to strengthen arts educational programming in the nation’s schools. 

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