Local arts organization is making big changes to survive COVID


Things were looking good in 2020 for what was then called Arts For Learning San Diego. The organization, founded in 1963, has grown over the years from teaching music only to five artistic disciplines.

Then COVID-19 hit.

“When you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring you, you need something to bring you back and anchor you and that’s what we get from the arts. “

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This is what Adrienne Valencia told KPBS in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic. What she didn’t know then was the extraordinary challenge COVID-19 would be for the organization. Like so many others, the group has gone virtual.

Local arts organization is making big changes to survive COVID

Hear this story from John Carroll.

“Our teaching artists have been absolutely brilliant and made these changes very quickly,” Valencia said when KPBS interviewed her last week.

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But other changes should be made. COVID-19 has resulted in a significant loss of funding.

“Schools found they had to put their funding in different places and so we lost around 50% of our income pretty quickly,” Valencia said.

She and her staff knew that for the organization to survive, difficult decisions had to be made.

“We have abandoned our offices and have been working remotely since the end of October 2020. We have taken a few elements of our business practices and put them in-house, such as our grant writing and our accounting,” she said. .

But all this was not enough. Another big change – a painful one – was yet to come. The group had been affiliated with Young Audiences of America since the late 1960s. The national group has branches across the country dedicated to bringing the arts to school children. Valencia and its board decided that staying in the Young Audience group just wasn’t worth it.

“We just found out that it made more sense for us to part with them,” she said.

Carlos castillo

KPBS reporter John Carroll chats with Arts Education Connection Executive Director Adrienne Valencia at the Malcolm X Library on November 3, 2021.

Separating from the Young Audience meant a change from top to bottom. The group renamed itself; they are now known as the Arts Education Connection San Diego. But while the band has a new name and logo, the mission hasn’t changed.

A dedicated group of teaching artists always share the arts with children across five disciplines: music, theater, dance, visual and literary arts.

Sharing and teaching the arts to children during the darkest days of the pandemic revealed a silver lining: Separation from friends and family was made a little easier by the kind of togetherness that only arts can bring.

“It really ties into our new name because the arts really connect us to each other, connect us to history, connect us to science, connect us in so many different ways,” said Valencia.

Now, as COVID-19 recedes and arts education returns to libraries and classrooms, Valencia has said she is more confident than ever for the future.

“The whole rebranding was a very intense process – it actually re-energized us and re-energized our name in the community,” she said.

KPBS interviewed Valencia in the Malcolm X Library, one of the many places where Arts Education Connection San Diego has conducted its programs. The process of returning to places like this is now underway.

“A lot of schools are very excited to have face-to-face programs again so it’s getting started. Some sites are still asking for virtual programs and so we will continue to do so, ”said Valencia.

To continue to do so requires financial support. If you would like to help out, or if you are just curious about Arts Education Connection San Diego, you can check out their newly redesigned website. The first thing you will see is their mission statement: the arts are essential, learning is essential, and art in learning is transformative.

Local arts organization is making big changes to survive COVID


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