Column: The Visual and Performing Arts Foundation of San Diego brings creativity into the classroom

Help restore the small grand piano at Crawford High School. A math and music curriculum for Wangenheim Middle School. An after-school theater program at Point Loma High School, art class materials for Hardy Elementary, and a series of ballet masterclasses for Grant School TK-8.

These and many other programs are offered to students and teachers in the San Diego Unified School District through the Visual and Performing Arts Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization that provides funding and support to help make the richer and more accessible arts education for students in the district. .

From major programs like the annual Spring Honors Concert to the Targeted Improvement Program – which provides grants to schools and teachers for field trips, guest artist programs and other specific programs and projects – the Visual and Performing Arts Foundation is a support system for people who understand why the small act of creating can make such a big difference.

People like artist and Morse High School teacher Jess Rogawski.

With an Enhancement Program grant, Rogawski was able to hire local artist Regan Russell to help the students create a mural celebrating the diversity and accomplishments of Morse’s student body. The plan is for the mural to be the start of a public art legacy at the school, and much more.

“I’m really passionate about empowering young people to transform their personal environment,” Rogawski said.

“Art is a way to integrate yourself into something and help you belong in it. To be able to walk past something like a mural and be able to say, ‘I was in it’, that creates agency, it helps transform the world.

The Visual and Performing Arts Foundation was established in 2017 to enhance the district’s arts education programs, address needs that fall through funding cracks, and provide foundations and philanthropists with an effective way to give to the arts.

With the support of many renowned sponsors – including UC San Diego, the City of San Diego Arts and Culture Commission, the Burnham Foundation, and the Parker Foundation – as well as private and corporate donors, VAPA has provided more than $702,000 in cash and in-kind donations to support arts education at San Diego Unified Schools.

And when the foundation supports art in schools, it also helps support local artists, arts organizations and venues that power our creative community.

“Contrary to popular belief, we have arts in our schools and we have classes for kids to take. But they may not have the experience of bringing an artist into their class or going out to see a performance,” said Russ Sperling, director of visual and performing arts for the San Diego Unified School District and Treasurer of the VAPA Board of Directors. .

“In the upper grades, we were able to expand opportunities for children to perform in the community. A few weeks ago we rented the Civic Theater for the High School (District) Honor Band and Orchestra, so we were able to give these truly accomplished kids the opportunity to perform in a professional venue. We couldn’t have thought of this scale before.

Some of the fruits of VAPA’s nurturing support will be on display during Sunday’s “Beyond Brilliance” performance at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.

The event will feature musical and theatrical performances by San Diego Unified students. There will be a student art exhibit and culinary arts students assisting chef Giusepppe Ciuffa on the food front. Students will work with the event photographers and will also be part of the backstage team.

“People are going to see very impressive performances and artwork. We have the most amazing jazz bands. You close your eyes and you’ll think you’re in a jazz club,” said Phyllis Epstein, VAPA board member, longtime arts supporter and volunteer, and gala co-chair.

“We know people are going to be impressed and proud to be citizens of a community that thinks art matters.”

After the gala is over, there will still be plenty of reasons to celebrate what art is doing for young people in San Diego, as well as plenty of reasons to appreciate what the Visual and Performing Arts Foundation is doing to help make Magic.

“One of the great strengths of this organization is its breadth and diversity. We’re able to reach every school in the district and bring those opportunities to kids who wouldn’t normally have them,” said Doreen Schonbrun, VAPA Board Chair and Gala Co-Chair, who also teaches art and art history lessons. at risk children at the San Diego Center for Children.

“It is the healing and cathartic qualities of art that can change a child’s life.”

The Visual and Performing Arts Foundation’s “Beyond Brilliance” gala will be held Sunday at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla. The event starts at 5 p.m. Tickets start at $100. Go to for information.