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Butler Community Arts School
Butler Community Arts School

Mission, Vision, Values

The Butler Community Arts School, an initiative of the Jordan College of the Arts, opened its doors to the community in September 2002. This program has the dual mission of providing quality arts instruction at an affordable price while also developing community involvement and civic-mindedness in Butler University students. Compared to pre-college programs at other universities, BCAS is distinctive in holding over 60 percent of its class offerings at off-campus community sites and in utilizing college students as primary instructors.

We Believe

  • In the importance of providing high quality, affordable instruction in music, dance, theatre and visual art to Indianapolis and the surrounding area.
  • In the necessity of exposure to and participation in the arts regardless of age, race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, level of ability, or economic status.
  • In the vital provision of opportunities for Butler University students majoring in the arts to teach and interact with the community in order to better prepare them for careers as artists and teachers, and for their lives as citizens.

Community Partnerships

In line with its strategic directive to help Butler students discover a life of purpose and a greater sense of civic-mindedness, the university established the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS) as an arts education and outreach program. BCAS has active, year-round collaborative relationships with fifteen community partners, including United Way agencies; public, private and charter schools; community centers; and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. These partnerships include after school lessons (private and group) at community sites, joint performances and projects, and ongoing collaboration to promote arts education to constituent families.

Our long-term community partnerships have been successful due to a strong mutual commitment: 1) To serve youth in meaningful, substantial ways; 
2) To provide high quality instruction with clear learning objectives; 
3) To nurture the artistic and creative abilities of all children.

To explore a partnership with your organization, please contact the BCAS director, Karen Thickstun, at


“The String Scholars Project”

The String Scholars project is a community outreach and engagement program of the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), providing high quality arts education to youths who do not have such access otherwise. The String Scholars project is designed to provide underserved youths with access to a meaningful arts education, depth of instruction, exposure to new art forms, and interaction with college students. String Scholars activities are designed to provide a continuum of arts education activities for ages 5 through 18. Community partners play a key role in the String Scholars project through joint planning, implementation and assessment.

Primary goals are: 

1) to provide comprehensive strings instruction and ensemble experiences to underserved youths, ages 5-18;

2) to expose youths and their families to campus arts activities that will encourage them to make the arts a part of their lives;

3) to provide free public performances by the participating youths on campus to acclimate families and youths to the college environment as well as provide exposure to new art forms and promote lifelong enjoyment of the arts; and 

4) to utilize Butler students as "Teaching Fellows" and develop their civic-mindedness and perspectives as artist-citizens.

To meet our goals, we utilize varied programming, both on and off campus, to bring youths and college students together for meaningful, transformative experiences. String Scholars activities are designed for active, intensive engagement in the arts on an ongoing basis. The average participant will be involved in two or more activities and receive a minimum of 70 contact hours of arts education. Specific activities include: private lessons in violin, viola, cello and bass; Butler Children’s Orchestra and Butler Youth Orchestra; Chamberfest; and Strings Camp, Bass Camp, and String Scholars Camp.

For more information, please contact the BCAS director, Karen Thickstun, at


BCAS programs are provided with support from: Christel DeHaan Family Foundation; F.R.Hensel Fund for Fine Arts, Music, and Education, a fund of The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate; the Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency; and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

BCAS Sponsors