Our Story

Built upon a belief that national service, the arts, and citizenship binds us to one another and gives us a stake in our communities and country, Margo Drakos and Elizabeth Warshawer founded ArtistYear, the first national service organization for artists to dedicate themselves to a year of service to their country.

Margo, an active duty U.S. Military spouse, entrepreneur, and former professional cellist, and Elizabeth, a senior executive in the arts and parent of son’s dedicated to public service, were inspired at Aspen Institute Ideas Festival and the subsequent Service Year Alliance’s call­-to-­action for every young American to participate in a full­-time national service year as a cultural expectation, common opportunity, and civic rite of passion.

Margo and Elizabeth sought to bring the power of the arts to underserved schools with limited arts instruction and access by providing exceptional artists with a dedicated service year that goes beyond traditional community service outreach.

ArtistYear aims to create communities of Citizen­-Artists by transforming the development of performing and visual artists through national service, while cultivating economically-disadvantaged student’s self­ expression, leadership, and academic excellence through the arts.

ArtistYear Founders Elizabeth Warshawer & Margo Drakos
Inspiring artistic expression for civic engagement
NYC Queens Fellow Teal Gordon and Philadelphia City Lead Rebecca Graham

ArtistYear’s pilot launched in 2014 in Philadelphia with 3 Fellows in partnership with Curtis Institute of Music, the School District of Philadelphia, and community partners. In 2016, ArtistYear became a 501(c)3, and grew to 9 Fellows serving 1,000 students in Philadelphia, thanks to a generous gift from the late H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest.

In Summer 2017, ArtistYear was honored to be awarded $1.45 million in national AmeriCorps funding over three years, the first-ever national organization dedicated to service through the arts to receive AmeriCorps recognition. In Summer 2018, ArtistYear was honored to be awarded an additional $1.5 million in state AmeriCorps funding over three years via PennSERVE. During the 2018-2019 school year, 55 ArtistYear AmeriCorps Fellows are serving as full-time teaching-artists, delivering 93,000 hours of arts instruction to 11,000 non-duplicated students at least two-times per-week, in 51 Title I schools. ArtistYear AmeriCorps Fellows serve alongside established arts educators in federally-designated Title I schools, across the school districts of Philadelphia, the Borough of Queens, in New York City, Colorado’s rural Roaring Fork Valley.