The California Institute of the Arts has selected Veronica Alvarez as its newest director of the Community Arts Partnership, touting her robust background in arts education and community building.
The Santa Clarita resident will oversee the programs offered by CAP, which provides free arts education to Los Angeles County’s youth — often in high-need neighborhoods. She plans to reach out to areas that have not yet benefited from these opportunities, including parts of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“The arts were cut when I was growing up,” she said. “Some principals don’t see the importance of the arts, and so they’re cut but the arts is an alternative way for students to express themselves, their culture, thoughts and feelings. It’s such an important part of society, and I’m eager to reach a much larger audience through our partnerships.”
For 29 years, CAP has offered after-school and school-based arts opportunities for more than 3,000 students ages 4 through 18 in every discipline taught at CalArts, including classes in music, digital photography, audio and film production and dance.
Exposure to arts education benefits students of color and of low socioeconomic backgrounds the most but often their access is the most limited, Alvarez said she found through research for her doctoral dissertation.
“In terms of the educational landscape, we often see that the arts are underfunded and there’s a larger focus on math and science but the arts are just as beneficial,” she said. “Research shows that students with higher levels of arts education have better grades and higher attendance.
“I’ve lived here for 18 years and I’ve seen a change here, even in my kids’ schools, in terms of race and socioeconomics. There’s a huge percentage of English learners and when language is a barrier, the arts is their language. We’re a very diverse community and we want to be responsive to different students and each students’ abilities.”
Alvarez can personally relate. As a formerly undocumented immigrant who arrived from Cotija, Mexico at the age of four and with extensive experience in education and curriculum development, she said inclusion and exposure are vital in helping students succeed.
CAP currently serves Newhall, Bridgeport and West Creek elementaries and will look into additional schools across the valley, said Alvarez. Teacher training, something she previously focused on as director of School and Teacher Programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is something she would also like to bring to the Partnership.
“Veronica has worked closely with a wide range of diverse communities,” said CalArts Provost Tracie Costantino in a prepared statement. “She comes to CalArts with extensive experience in education, curriculum development, and arts education.”
CAP was previously headed by Interim Director Bailey Cool, who will assume a new role with CalArts Patty Disney Center for Life and Work, according to the Institution.
To find out more about CAP, visit calarts.edu/cap/overview.