Representatives from the Humboldt Alliance for Arts Education Leadership Team


Arcata Playhouse

CCSESA Arts Initiative

Eureka Symphony

Humboldt Arts Council at the Morris Graves Museum of Art

Humboldt County Office of Education

Humboldt Folk Dancers

North Coast Section of the CA Association for Music Education

About the Humboldt Alliance for Arts Education

Last year the California Alliance for Arts Education selected Humboldt County to participate in their Local Arts Advocacy Networks project. CAAE offers technical and financial support to coalitions of community members representing education, arts organizations, local businesses, and parents who want to help preserve and expand arts education in the California public schools. Lucy Quinby and members of the Humboldt Arts Council’s Arts Education Committee offered to take leadership of the Humboldt advocacy group in partnership with the Humboldt County Office of Education.

Goals of the Advocacy Network

The group is working to develop broad support for arts education as an essential part of a comprehensive education for every child. The group aims to increase backing for arts education among local and statewide decision-makers such as school board members, school administrators and elected officials.

Local Activities

The Humboldt Alliance for Arts Education meets regularly to plan and carry out a variety of advocacy activities. Some current projects include letters and articles in local print media, radio interviews, school board presentations, stories about student experiences in the arts, profiles of school arts programs, promotion of arts education events, and presenting recognition and awards to schools committed to providing strong visual and performing arts education for their students.

The Humboldt Alliance for Arts Education maintains a local page on the California Alliance for Arts Education’s website:

       “When I first came to Peninsula School I felt out of place, didn’t fit in and didn’t have any friends. The first year was rough, because I didn’t have any hobbies and was bored all the time. I was really off-track with no schedule to follow. I had really bad grades when I started playing the piano in the Peninsula School instrumental program. Now I am on track and my grades are improving. My classmates admire my musical talent and I have many friends. Music is helping me stretch – I am trying new things even though I might be scared (like playing a solo at our Winter Program!). For me, this music program has really made a difference in my life.” (Billie, a 12 year old 7th grader)

This past fall our school was fortunate to have a gifted musician and community leader, Melanie Kuhnel, offer to teach our After School Program students, instrumental music. Melanie Kuhnel, with a degree in music from HSU, and Julia Whelpton, who is presently working on her music degree, are both coordinating this program as volunteers.

Last summer Ms. Kuhnel worked with Superintendent Dr. Mary Beth Wolford to acquire 7 violins, 3 keyboards and 4 guitars for the students. The instructors work with the students twice a week and during the rest of the week Abigail Todhunter-Reid, the Director of the After School Program, supervises practice sessions for the students.

In this rural community most of our students have never had the opportunity to play an instrument or have a private lesson. They have made amazing progress and have already played for our Board of Trustees, our Thanksgiving feast and our recent Winter Program. They are preparing now for a Spring Talent Show.

Dr. Mary Beth Wolford Superintendent/Principal, Peninsula Elementary School

Xochitl Salazar is a delightful teenager who fully understands that art as well as the benefits of attending the North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy saved her emotional and academic life.

Xochitl is a Latina who and was raised in a home where Spanish was the primary spoken language. While her mother did speak to her in English, her father and extended family all spoke Spanish. As a result, she felt insecure about her expressive and written language skills in the classroom. Consequently, Xochitl, although considered very bright and talented, claims that she never did well on standardized tests.

As a child, Xochitl lived in Los Angeles and suffered the emotionally painful events of her parents’ separation as well as multiple moves and different schools; these factors negatively affected her academic and social life. Despite these difficult times, Xochitl was able to immerse herself in her love of art; she painted, did collage, and played the violin. She was able to work through much of her emotional upset with creativity. Her father, a musician, and her mother, a teacher, both encouraged and supported her expressive arts. Xochitl feels very fortunate, because many other kids she knows who were in similar circumstances in the public school system got involved with drugs and eventually dropped out of school altogether.

When Xochitl moved to McKinleyville, she enrolled in the North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy, a charter school devoted to the concept that arts are an integral part of the learning process, not merely an adjunct to education. (It is important to note that this school is ranked number 3 among the top public schools in California and number 30 in the nation.)

At NPA Xochitl was also exposed to theatre arts which she knows helped her expressive language and self-esteem. Xochitl affirms, “The arts inspired and motivated me to want to learn more.” Now a senior, Xochitl’s dream is to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. She is currently employed part-time at Los Bagels, a job that she loves and regards as part of her financial opportunity to attend college.

Xochitl is indeed a remarkable young woman who clearly serves as an example of how the arts, which are integral to education, develop motivation, relevance, confidence, and imagination, skills most certainly necessary to survive and flourish in today’s society.

Shelley Holstein

Shelley is a retired psychotherapist who serves on the Art and Culture Commission of Eureka and is currently a member of the Leadership Committee of the Humboldt Alliance for Arts Education.