No time like the present! This is the phrase that most readily comes to mind in the world of education these days - especially for the arts. The Goals 2000 Educate America Act signed into law in March 1994 makes resources available for states and local education agencies to plan their education reform efforts based on challenging content and performance standards - which include the arts. Without a doubt, Goals 2000 is opening doors of opportunity for arts education that were previously closed. This is the first of two Monographs devoted to the timely issue of community-based planning in arts education. Local arts agencies over the past decade have been leaders and change agents for their communities in the area of cultural planning and local arts development. It is not surprising that this expertise is being called upon as more communities take a hard look at the challenging issue of education reform. This country is historically rooted in local determination for education. While national and state policies can serve as catalyst to education and reform efforts, true change will take place on the local level. The Goals 2000 legislation underscores this: in the first year, local education agencies will receive up to 60 percent of the funds granted to State Education Agencies to be used for local reform plan development, pre-service and professional development programs. This amount increases to 90 per cent for these activities in the second and subsequent years. The communities featured in this Monograph series offer an array of local arts education planning strategies, circumstances and outcomes. In this first Monograph we take a look at the large city approaches used in Richmond, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts and see similar strategies which yield very different outcomes. We also travel to the rural community of Mount Orab, Ohio, for an example of the types of planning strategies that are feasible for smaller communities with limited financial resources. None of these communities entered into a local education planning process specifically to meet the needs of the Goals 2000 effort; they first and foremost are meeting the needs of their community. And yet, through the engagement of the community planning process, they are well positioned to take advantage of the continually unfolding opportunities. The reader will notice that there are many common themes that run through each of the articles: the emphasis on a quality process; the inclusion of many voices at the table; as well as the strong partnerships developed between the arts community and the school leadership. There is also unmistakably the instinctive yet elusive ability to recognize and take advantage of an unexpected opportunity - even if it takes the form of a crisis.