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Dancers at Che Cafe during the 2015 Without Walls (WoW) Festival. Photos by Erik Jepsen/ UC San Diego Publications

Bridging the Arts between UC San Diego and San Diego Unified School District

The University of California San Diego is partnering with the San Diego Unified School District to increase educational opportunities for students in the arts and establish a bridge between the school district and the university.

“The arts are a foundational and dynamic part of the university’s transformative multi-disciplinary environment, where we teach our students to think critically and express themselves creatively,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla.

Theatre production at uc san diego

A WoW Festival production at the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

With that philosophy in mind, UC San Diego will creatively collaborate with San Diego Unified—the university’s $100,000 partnership with the district’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Foundation will help increase arts education opportunities for students.

“An important aspect of any education is giving students the opportunity to explore all avenues of interest, with the outcome of having well-rounded, culturally competent individuals,” said UC San Diego Division of Arts and Humanities Dean Cristina Della Coletta. “It’s not that students choose arts or science. They can choose both, knowing that the arts exponentially enhance every subject, sparking innovation and new ideas.”

One example of how the $100,000 partnership to San Diego Unified’s VAPA Foundation will impact students includes co-created neighborhood arts showcases. These showcases of student creativity and achievement in dance, music, theater and visual arts will bring together young artists from all disciplines to share their work with families, the community, local policymakers and the media.

The new partnership will also offer many opportunities for San Diego Unified students to attend a variety of UC San Diego visual arts, dance and theater productions, as well as offer scholarship and grant opportunities for teachers and students.

UC San Diego’s art-focused departments represent the nation’s top-ranked programs in their field. The Department of Theatre and Dance teaches and practices innovative, eclectic and interdisciplinary work, committed to attracting and sustaining a diverse group of students. Based in the state-of-the-art Conrad Prebys Music Center, the Department of Music focuses on contemporary and experimental music and fosters an atmosphere of diversity, collaboration and interdisciplinary inquiry.

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Music professor Lei Liang (center) instructs chamber musicians at the Conrad Prebys Music Center.

And new synergies of art practice and avant-garde research are hallmarks of the Department of Visual Arts. An innovative force in the international art community for nearly half a century, the department includes artists, theorists, historians and cultural practitioners in one collaborative environment.

“San Diego Unified and UC San Diego have a shared vision,” said Cindy Marten, San Diego Unified superintendent. “We believe that students should not have to leave San Diego to receive a world-class education. Our collaborative commitment to arts education will give rise to our quality neighborhood schools and foster a new wave of creative thinkers, well-rounded leaders, college and career ready graduates that will have a positive impact on the San Diego of tomorrow.”

In 2016, San Diego Unified adopted a Strategic Arts Plan to transform lives through learning in visual and performing arts. Unanimously approved by the district’s school board, this plan reconfirms the arts as a core subject and mandates a commitment to providing students “the highest quality arts education in dance, music, theater and visual arts, and providing services to teachers in curriculum and instruction, professional development and community collaborations.”

Statistics from the Americans for the Arts organization show that students involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for overall achievement and three times more likely to be honored for school attendance. What's more, students that participate in art programs—both during and after school—are four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, and have lower overall dropout rates.

“The arts are alive and well at San Diego Unified, and this new partnership with UC San Diego means our students will have an opportunity to continue their arts education at a prestigious university without ever leaving our community,” said Kevin Beiser, San Diego Unified School Board President.