“What’s this? Student work in a museum? What a wonderful way to support art in schools!” commented a visitor who’d come to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibit and discovered the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Festival at the Asian Art Museum. The Asian Art Museum had the extraordinary opportunity this spring to host the 27th annual SFUSD Arts Festival from March 2nd through March 10th. The Arts Festival is the culmination of a collaborative effort between the SFUSD School District and the Asian Art Museum to fulfill the district’s Arts Education Master Plan “for equality and access in arts education for every student, in every school, every day.” Public school arts teachers from across the city submitted student work to the Asian Art Museum, resulting in a week of vibrant art installations, poetry readings, screening of student films, and musical performances.
After a year of planning, the actual installation of the festival brought museum curators, exhibition and preparation staff, education department staff, and museum and SFUSD volunteers together to showcase 500 two-dimensional and three-dimensional student pieces. Display cases were pulled out of the basement, given a fresh coat of paint, and student work curated for display. Over 50 student groups performed in Samsung Hall during the festival, showcasing styles from taiko drumming to choral music. Meanwhile, yellow school buses brought over 4,000 students from city schools to see and participate in the Arts Festival. “This is what education is all about,” stressed SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza at the festival’s opening ceremony.
One of the major themes of the Terracotta Warriors exhibit is legacy, and museum staff applied this theme to the Arts Festival to showcase and preserve the legacy of San Francisco teachers and administrators in art education. Professional development throughout the week for San Francisco principals, elementary, and secondary school teachers created an opportunity for district and museum staff to dialogue about the connection between arts education and the museum’s collection. During the awards evening, Dreamcatcher Awards honored individuals who inspire the educational community with “the power to capture dreams.” Eight individuals from local schools and arts programs were recognized, including: Melecio Magdaluyo as Artist Partner, Elizabeth Brodersen as Community Arts Partner, Jan Link as Administrator, Eric Guthertz as Principal, Carla Lehmann and Jackey Toor as Credentialed Arts Teachers, and Sandra Berger and Jeff Larson as Arts Coordinators.
In collaboration with the Arts Festival, Japanese artist Takayuki Yamamoto brought his “Children’s Pride” project to both Rosa Parks Elementary School and Redding Elementary School in San Francisco. Yamamoto’s artistic process includes working with school children from around the world on co-created art. Students worked with Yamamoto to identify a personal desire for change to make their world a better place, representing their desire on a placard. Students then took their placards, advocating everything from “No Guns!” and “Be a Better Reader!” to “Turn into a Fairy!” on a protest march with their classmates to the Asian Art Museum. “It is okay for them to be different, to want different things, and to advocate for them,” says Yamamoto. The ability to share their personal perspective through art is something Yamamoto’s students will take with them from their experience of the SFUSD Arts Festival. And every student who visited the SFUSD Arts Festival at the Asian Art Museum will take home with them the importance of art in public education. “Just as athletes need to exercise every day, children need to make art every day,” concludes Ruth Asawa, San Francisco arts educator.