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Picasso Project Background

In response to the need for more arts in schools, Children First (formerly Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), established the Picasso Project in 2002 with a two-fold mission: first, provide grant funding to support Philadelphia public elementary, middle and high schools in implementing high quality, innovative arts projects. Second, advocate on a number of levels (local through federal) for increased funding for arts education for these schools. Since its inception, the Picasso Project has provided access to the arts for 55,000 students through $944,466 in grants to support 211 projects at 116 Philadelphia schools.

The impact is clear: the arts can create a life-long love of learning that leads to academic success. Research shows that children who participate in arts programs at school learn critical decision-making skills, get better grades, and are more likely to go to college. Teachers say that because of the Picasso Project, students improved their cooperation and behavior skills, as well as gained interest and skills in the arts.

Testimonials from Picasso Project Participants:

  • “I accomplished something so great! I didn’t even know that I can do anything like that.” -Picasso Project Student
  • “Through the project [my student] turned his academic career around as well as his social life.” -Picasso Project Teacher
  • “This project has multiplied our efforts.” -Picasso Project teacher
  • “The interest was so great that we were able to get scholarships for 2 young men to study dance on a professional level at Philadanco.”  -Picasso Project Teacher
  • “Students who may not have been friends created a bond while completing the project. They began helping each other which never occurred before.” -Picasso Project Principal

Picasso Project Awards:

  • 2021 National Art Education Association award for Distinguished Service Outside the Field and Pennsylvania Art Education Association Award for Outstanding Friend to Art Education to PCCY Picasso Project Director, Tim Gibbon
  • 2014 Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance Groundswell Award
  • 2007 Human Rights Award for Arts and Culture from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations


Carolyn Merritt, Picasso Project Operations Coordinator

Carolyn is an anthropologist and dancer, and an advocate of the arts and public education. With the Friends of H.A. Brown, she organized fundraisers and volunteered at her neighborhood public K-8 school. Carolyn has taught anthropology, yoga, and cooking in settings including Pre-K and elementary schools, universities, and libraries. She is the author of Tango Nuevo, and her writings on dance and culture have appeared in thINKingDANCE, TDF Stages, and more. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Temple University. You can reach carolyn by email at carolynm@childrenfirstpa.org.

Cindy Farlino, Picasso Project Coach

During her 25 years with the School District of Philadelphia, Cindy first taught middle grade students and then became an Assistant Principal at the Feltonville Arts and Sciences Middle School. In 2005, she was appointed Director of Instruction for the South Region, which involved overseeing the academic programs at 39 schools. Prior to working with Children First, Cindy served for nine years as Principal of the William Meredith Elementary School. Cindy joined the Children First team in 2018, providing coaching and oversight of the Picasso Project School-Based model to support the development of arts-rich Philadelphia public schools. In addition to working with the Picasso Project, Cindy serves as the Healthy Schools Initiative representative for CASA (Commonwealth Association of School Administrators), which fights for safer school environments, and she is a founding member of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook (now Chalkbeat Philadelphia).


Picasso Project Steering Committee

The Picasso Project Steering Committee provides year-round executive oversight of project planning, implementation, review, and reinvention. Our Steering Committee members have intimate working knowledge of the city’s arts and education landscapes, and they work tirelessly to transform Philadelphia schools through enriching arts programming.

Committee Members

  • Vicki Ellis, Office of Strategic Partnerships, School District of Philadelphia
  • Evelyn Eskin, Co-Chair & Retired Business Executive and Musician
  • Cindy Farlino, Retired School Principal and Picasso Project Coach
  • Germaine Ingram, Dancer and Choreographer
  • Bonnie Raines, Co-Chair & Former Picasso Project Coordinator
  • Gretchen Elise Walker, Development Director, St. Mary’s Nursery School, Former Picasso Project Director and Musician

Picasso Project Committee

The Picasso Project Committee works on project implementation at schools year-round. Committee members serve as volunteer liaisons at project schools, providing technical assistance and support to grantee schools and increasing the impact of school projects. Members also help with outreach, coordination, and advocacy. Additional volunteers from the arts and education communities serve on the Review Panel assessing school applications once a year.

Committee Members

  • Dennis Barnebey, Retired School Teacher
  • Linda Carpenter, Retired School Teacher
  • Nancy Francis, Retired School Music Teacher
  • Danielle Gallagher, Sales & Marketing Manager, Common Sense Technologies
  • Bonnie Gevurtz, Retired School Art Teacher
  • Beth Hartman, Retired School Art Teacher
  • Bill Madeira, Former PCCY Staff and Education Advocate
  • Joyce Millman, Art Teacher Educator, Moore College of Art & Design
  • Donyale Reavis, Managing Advisor, Calyx Philanthropy Advisors
  • Linda Roth, Retired School Teacher
  • Leslie Russell Winder, Senior Associate, The ROZ Group
  • Ellie Seif, Retired School Principal, Photographer and Dancer
  • Jonathan Stein, General Counsel, Community Legal Services and Dancer
  • Lynne Y. Strieb, Retired School Teacher