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Use Your Vision to Create Change

Veronique Marks has a vision: she wants her local school district to have a Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator who supports dedicated fulltime credentialed arts teachers at each school in the Live Oak Unified School District with access to a designated classroom. She knows that in order to move her vision forward, she needs to complete an assessment of the existing arts education programs in each school. After collecting enrollment data from school principals, she will be able to assess the strengths, weaknesses and issues of equity in the current arts education offerings. In addition, Marks works to establish community relationships and build support for arts education. She strives to make it clear that the goal of arts education isn’t to train all students to become artists, but rather to create well-rounded and engaged students who are creative and collaborative thinkers –traits key to success in the 21st century workforce.  Arts Now Live Oak is launching with a 5-year plan in mind, working in collaboration with schools and organizations, equipped with a clear picture of where the schools are and how everyone can work together to achieve equitable access and success for the students of Live Oak. 


According to Greg Solomon, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD), the biggest challenge we face as arts education advocates is changing mental models. Once we can shift the mindset that the arts are supplemental, the potential for impact is huge! MVUSD, with the help of Jesus Holguin and the school board, became the first district in California to adopt the Declaration of Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning. Receiving a Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant in the Arts they guaranteed special education students were included in the ‘All Students’ portion of the Declaration by establishing first time arts instruction.  He worked during the summer with classroom teachers, teaching artists and curriculum specialists to bring arts integration to five focus schools in Moreno Valley Unified School District. His efforts to complete their District Arts Plan has inspired the district and community to meet their largest goal of constructing a new performing arts center on the campus of Moreno Valley High School.  Greg is making huge strides in bringing all art forms to his students by shifting mental models and coming up with creative ways to create change.


Eliza Tudor and Brian Buckley, of Nevada County Arts Council, knew that a sure-fire way to start a conversation was by introducing data from a high-quality assessment. That’s why they set about collecting baseline data about arts programming in Nevada County schools, highlighting their unique and creative “flagship” programs, and identifying gaps in addressing standards or issues of access. They gathered a team of retired educators, including two leading lights of the Council’s Education Committee, Liz McAteer and Stan Miller, and used those connections to interview principals in the TK-12 schools. They established a set series of questions to develop a comprehensive picture of every arts offering in the county. After amassing the data, they created a draft that was brought to county principals and open to public consultation. After finalizing their numbers, they presented their findings at their Arts Now Breakfast Launch event held by all the local partners. They then completed a successful application for Strategic Arts Planning Support via California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) in partnership with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, which they will implement with the help of the California Alliance's Arts Now Planning Initiative. In the context of planning, this survey will assist local school leaders in making decisions that will affect future generations of students, the quality of education they receive, the livability of their region, and the likelihood of investment in it in years to come. Check out the results of their State of the Arts survey here.


Iris Lin, 10th grade student at Silver Creek High School, tied for first place in the Student Voices Campaign last year with her video ‘the arts matter’. Her video was seen across her school district (and the state!) and was highlighted by her Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, Jeannine Flores, at the Young Artist Showcase. Her principal recognized Iris from her video and engaged her in a conversation about arts education resources. Through their conversation, they came to realize that there was a disconnect between the values students placed on the arts and how administrators prioritized the school budget. It was clear that students and administrators needed to start a dialogue! The principal and vice-principal encouraged Iris to attend PTA meetings in order to continue communicating the needs of the student body. By attending the meetings, Iris will be able to continue the conversation about arts education with the school administration. Iris is taking the steps necessary to open clear lines of communication with her principal and PTA to support arts programs with school funding.


Michelle Holdt, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for San Mateo County Office of Education is a collage and bookmaking artist who integrated her artistic practice into the creation of a county-wide arts plan. She assembled a leadership team that worked with Peggy Burt, of the California Alliance for Arts Education, to collaboratively create a Strategic Arts Plan for San Mateo County. After the plan was written, Michelle and the team realized that it would be fitting to create a Strategic Arts Plan that was in itself a piece of art!  They had used the arts as a critical component of their planning work - so why not allow it to culminate in a beautifully artistic plan?  Michelle decided to create an interactive and visually inspiring piece of artwork that viewers would invest in emotionally. This unique strategic plan is presented in the form of an accordion book that helps the viewer become a participant, therefore ensuring the plan will be a living, breathing document. Check out the plan here


Kristin Reese, Executive Director of the Mono Arts Council, understood that in order to get the Strategic Arts Plan adopted and implemented, she would need to create a strong relationship with Mono County Superintendent, Dr. Stacey Adler and take a deep dive into the education community in her county. The Arts Plan was created in partnership with the Alliance and coach Peggy Burt with Superintendent Adler, with partner funding support by Sarah Anderberg, Director CCSESA Arts Initiative.  Having grown up in Mono County, Kristin had a head start at the relationships necessary to make her plan a reality. Her existing relationships were strengthened and new ones were established by her persistent communication and passionate commitment to the arts. She set up monthly meetings with Superintendent Adler to discuss the progress of the arts plan and organize the arts integration training that Kristin’s organization, Mono Arts Council, is helping implement. The members of Kristin’s community are aware that she is a partner on the journey to equitable arts access and when she commits to a project, she will be there every step of the way. Kristin takes the time to build the relationships necessary to support arts education in her district, and as a result of those relationships, she has amplified her impact.

Embracing Community Partnerships in Riverside

Annemarie Guzy, Visual and Performing Arts Specialist at Riverside Unified School District, brought together a group of diverse community arts leaders to help define goals for the district Arts Plan. With the expert facilitation of Annemarie, the group brainstormed fresh, creative ideas to coordinate community and city resources with the district, connect professional artists with students, and develop possible ways to weave RUSD students into the arts community of Riverside. The California Alliance for Arts Education believes that working in this collaborative way – bringing leadership together from all different sectors - is a key element for a successful Strategic Arts Plan. The Alliance has captured this and other important practices in the Insider’s Guide for Arts Education Planning, produced in partnership with the Arts Education Collective. Learn more about Annemarie’s strategy and the arts planning process in Riverside here.

“We are here to help!”

Meghan O’Keefe, leader of the Amador Alliance for Arts Education, was looking for a way to gain visibility and inspire district leaders to take action in support of arts education, so she turned to the inspiring message of the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning. Meghan and her fellow advocates decided to use this document as a way to say, “We are here to help!” and provided the community with more information about the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), attended the LCAP meetings held by the district, and recommended the creation of a district strategic arts plan. Attending the school board meeting to offer support and resources, the Amador Alliance hoped to spark excitement and start conversations about how to bring arts to schools. The upbeat, collaborative and helpful approach of the Amador Alliance has proved to be highly successful and as a result of their work, the school board adopted the Declaration! Learn more about Meghan’s strategy here.

Sharing Information about Resources Opens the Door for Collaboration

Arts Now leader Susan Miyamoto alerted district leadership about an arts education grant opportunity and then served as a community representative in the proposal brainstorming process! Susan heard about the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program offered by the California Department of Education and hoped her district might apply for funding for the arts. Susan sent information about the grant opportunity to Jodi McClay, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services, who she had met at the launch of the Temecula Arts Now Community. As a result of Susan’s outreach, Assistant Superintendent McClay invited her to join a meeting of VAPA teachers and school administrators who worked together to come up with ideas for possible projects to include in the grant proposal. She worked with the group to identify ways to connect project proposals to the district Arts Plan and LCAP. Susan was able to participate in this meeting because of the relationships she had built as an Arts Now leader and the coaching she received from the Alliance.

Student Speaks up for Arts Education

Lulu Briggs, senior at Amador High School, brings her student perspective to nonprofit board meetings, statewide advocacy summits and convenings, and her local school board meetings. By speaking about how the arts have impacted her life, Lulu effectively advocates for increased access to arts education for her fellow students. As a sophomore, Lulu became a student director at AmadorArts, where she represented a student perspective at board meetings. With the support and encouragement of Meghan O’Keefe, Executive Director of Amador Arts, Lulu also participated in competitions like the Student Voices Campaign and Poetry Out Loud. She wrote and directed the Amador High submission to the Student Voices Campaign, which placed third statewide and played a part in adopting The Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning in the Amador County Unified School District. Her role as an arts advocate has helped Lulu realize the power of her own voice and empowered her to take on a leadership role in her school theatre program. Because of her impressive arts advocacy efforts, she was invited to speak on a panel entitled “Nothing About Us Without Us: Meaningful Student Leadership” at the Create CA Statewide Convening. Lulu’s high school experience has been shaped by her role as an arts education advocate and influenced her goals for the future. Originally setting her sights on becoming a theatrical performer, Lulu is now focused on directing theatre and participating in the fundraising, logistics and administration of theatre production.