Mission and Vision

LEAP provides arts-integrated educational programs and cultural experiences to inspire students in schools underserved in the arts.

LEAP believes that through artistic inquiry and expression, young people become creative thinkers, confident communicators, and collaborative community members prepared to succeed in school and excel in a 21st-century career, and inspired to be lifelong learners.

History of LEAP

For almost four decades, Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LEAP) has helped more than two million preK-12 students academically, artistically, and socially. We take a unique approach to education, using arts activities and hands-on projects to teach traditional academic subjects. Having served over 500 schools, we customize our programs to specific needs of each classroom.
LEAP makes school a place where students want to be, where learning is exciting and relevant, and where all types of learners can succeed. LeAp is committed to improving academic performance and leveling the educational playing field for all students.
LEAP was created in 1977 at a time when schools were facing severe budget cuts, arts teachers in New York City were being fired, and the schools' arts program were falling to the wayside. LEAP Co-Founders Ila Lane Gross and Alice Krieger lamented the lack of arts programs in the schools and decided to do something about it. They initiated LEAP programs in four schools by tapping the resources of talented NYC artists and partnering with prestigious organizations. LEAP has grown exponentially with each passing year, both in scope and in the number of schools served. In the late 1990s, politicians and parents alike called for greater accountability in education. When the No Child Left Behind act became law, LEAP received federal funding to partner with New York University to conduct a longitudinal, quantitative study of LEAP novel program for students in grades K-2 called Active Learning Leads to Literacy (ALLL) . Using all of the art disciplines to teach writing and reading comprehension, ALLL K-2 resulted in students performing well above their peers and continuing to excel even without the program in subsequent years.
Following the success of ALLL K-2, LEAP launched its Arts Learning Leads to Literacy Program to expand the proven literacy program to grades 3-5. This was particularly effective with both gifted students and students who performed well below grade level. In addition, ALLL 3-5 effectively closed the verbal gender gap between boys and girls. When it came to non-English speaking students and English language learners, ALLL 3-5 instruction was very helpful in bringing them up to grade level. LEAP went on to create its ALLL 6-8 program to bring its effective literacy strategies to middle school students.
In 2007, LEAP launched its August Wilson Program , in which high school students study the plays of August Wilson and the African American experience in the 20th century. This program is part of a national initiative and culminates in students embodying Wilson’s characters and performing monologues in LEAP's citywide competition. Student finalists participate in a national competition at the August Wilson Theater.
Also in 2007, LEAP kicked off its citywide Public Art Program , which empowers middle school students to speak out on social issues in their communities through the creation and public exhibition of art. Students study the history, practice, and power of public art, meet with world-renowned Guest Artists, and ultimately create collaborative, issue-based artworks for public display, culminating in the largest student exhibition in NYC parks history (developed in cooperation with NYC Parks & Recreation).
In 2011, LEAP introduced LEAP OnStage , an extension of the 2006 Fidelity FutureStage Program. LEAP OnStage is a comprehensive theater program that brings students from 10 middle and high schools to Broadway. Students write, direct, and star in their own 10-minute plays, which are staged at Broadway or Off-Broadway theaters. The LEAP OnStage Program has helped over 1,800 middle and high school students develop a love of theater and the skills to write and act in well-constructed plays.
In 2013, LEAP established its newest program, Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs . Serving up to 1,600 underprivileged students in grades 3 through 6, this program aims to give students an understanding of the business world, and teach them how to develop an innovative idea that can be turned into a successful business venture. This program invites business leaders and established entrepreneurs to visit classrooms where the program takes place, and share their expertise. Selected students present their innovative projects and business plans to industry professionals at a culminating conference.
LEAP provides in-school and afterschool residencies, professional development trainings, parent engagement workshops, and assembly performances. LEAP continues to bring students, teachers, parents, and the greater community the very best in arts education.

​Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LEAP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Our Founders

ILA LANE GROSS co-founded LEAP with Alice Krieger in 1977 in response NYC’s financial crisis and firing of all public school arts teachers. LEAP's very effective educational approach is based on the model she first developed for the Cathedral School in the early 1970’s after working as both a successful artist and a public school teacher. Under her creative guidance and oversight, LEAP has served over 2,000,000 students. She has taken LEAP from a small, volunteer-run program to one of NYC’s largest educational nonprofit organizations serving about 150,000 students in up to 200 schools in the metropolitan area every year. She continues to develop new programs in response to the changing educational environment and conducts professional Development workshops and summer seminars for over 200 teachers each year. Some of her recent projects include Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs, ALLL PreK-8 -Active Learning Leads to Literacy, a federally-funded research project in literacy and LEAP’s highly successful Summer Quest model for preventing summer learning loss. She has created extensive curricula for teaching history, English, science and mathematics and is the author of the Global Understanding – Cultural Literacy series, American History Comes Alive funded by the USDOE, and Understanding History through Art funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to name a few. She has taught graduate courses on archeology and American history, and is a frequent presenter at regional and national conferences. She has M.Ed. from Columbia Teacher’s College.
Ila Lane Gross
ALICE KRIEGER co-founded LEAP in 1977, and has overseen and supervised the program in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island as well as all out of school time programs. She trains and coordinates a staff of over 250 teaching artists, designs and initiates new programs, creates curriculum materials and publications, conducts and coordinates teacher and parent workshops, presents at conferences, and documents the programs. Alice has designed and supervised programs for the NYCPAE Initiative, Project Arts, Project Read, Early Childhood, ESL/Bilingual, Talented and Gifted, Violence Prevention, and Substance Abuse. For the two past years, she worked with Fidelity Investments on a new educational initiative, Fidelity FutureStage. She has worked on numerous LEAP publications including Understanding History through Art, Japan an Island Culture, Korea Crossroads of Asian Culture, Drama, Voice of Social History and City as History. She sat on the Board of Directors of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable for nine years and served as co-chair of the membership committee for four years. Alice attended Northwestern University and graduated from Mills College with a B.A. in Art History. She also attended Bank Street College of Education and Teachers College, Columbia University.
Alice Krieger