Culture: Humanity’s Blueprint

By Cindy Bravo, director of Visual and Performing Arts

The visionary work of James Comer, M.D., M.P.H., began to unveil the infinite amount of threads between art, community and education. Learning requires a sense of one’s freedom. A thriving community gives its people the time and space to self-reflect and experience joy in learning. As a community, we can influence someone else’s understanding, yet how do we come to understand the power we each possess? As we make progress, how will we transform personal power into infinite possibilities? Dr. Comer’s community vision illuminates how human relationships impact our fears, openness and willingness to change.

Dr. Comer is the first Black man to achieve tenure and full professor rank at Yale School of Medicine. He is also a Howard University graduate and a child psychiatrist. In 1960, he dedicated his life to uplifting the lives of Black youth. Today, we refer to Dr. Comer’s work as Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Emotional Intelligence (EI). 

Research from the Comer School of Development Program (SDP) examines how we reach the whole child. External information cannot alone activate a love of learning within a person. Interdisciplinary environments are a part of possessing an inclusive mindset. Educators and students are continuously in the process of learning. Every person, mindset, age, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, gender and sexuality have perspectives worth understanding. 

[Theory of Change Diagram. Resource Yale School of Medicine Comer School Development Program

Another thread to SEL is the influence of creative freedom. In concert with SDP’s Theory of Change diagram, the late 19th-century Bauhaus modern art movement regarded teaching as the art of connecting creativity, science and technology into one seamless relationship. 

By exploring the Theory of Change, we observe the many indirect and direct effects on every community members’ experience in the learning environments we create. Culture is constantly evolving because we are always learning, growing and developing meaningful relationships. Students benefit from a learning environment where they gain both a sense of understanding as well as being understood. Trust is built from this foundation, and self-reflection is a process that we must cherish. Possessing a fresh perspective metaphorically helps us blur all boundaries. 

Those who design art education must ebb and flow between what is and what can be. Students who can transform information into an interpretation begin by taking creative risks. Stepping into the unknown with any art form requires trust that you can be yourself and that your perspective matters. Then, resources and tools quickly become awe-inspiring creative projects that result in posters, productions, videos, drawings, songs, dances, ceramics and set designs for the community. 

The Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) team continues to challenge its thinking and collaborate in new ways to connect with our community. VAPA’s partnership with the San Diego Opera will open doors for collaboration with other San Diego organizations and schools. From San Ysidro to La Jolla, we will be connected through a commitment to creating a more equitable society and the value we place on nurturing youth leaders for the world. This year’s adjustments and assessments include sustaining and advancing culturally competent K–12 visual art, instrumental music, theater and choir programs. Social-emotional learning, modernist art movements and abolitionist educators remind us that we each possess the genius to unlock potential.

Cindy Bravo
Cindy Bravo

Director of Visual and Performing Arts

Cindy Bravo was drawn to the field of education in her first year of graduate school while working as a teaching assistant in the Community Arts Partnership program at California Institute of the Arts. Ms. Bravo worked with teens in East Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Boyle Heights, teaching printmaking and video. At the same time, she worked in the education department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, creating experiences for youth to make personal connections with the ancient, modern and contemporary art collections.

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