When talking with someone who doesn’t have kids in our city’s public schools, I’m sometimes reminded that some people assume we don’t offer arts and music education. We do, at every grade level, in multiple disciplines.
In fact, we’ve been growing our arts programs for years. And we recently received a huge boost in our plans to further develop arts and music offerings to all students in the San Francisco Unified School District.
On Nov. 8, San Francisco voters approved $100 million to kickstart development of a new SFUSD Arts Center, including a new home for the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, to preserve and promote music and art. That will be added to the tens of millions already raised, with plans for more private and public investments to come.
The center we envision will take up the entire city block, including the historic 135 Van Ness Ave., a landmarked building that was once a high school but now badly needs repair and retrofitting. The new Arts Center will be a legacy landmark for all of San Francisco.
Why that spot? We want Asawa SOTA students and tens of thousands of others served by the Arts Center to be near the thriving arts hub of the Civic Center. Our students would neighbor Davies Symphony Hall, SFJAZZ and San Francisco Opera and Ballet, allowing for rich learning opportunities and partnerships.
This center will be far more than an arts high school. It will nurture, create, inspire and connect artists, teachers, students and community members and include studio and rehearsal space, artists-in-residence and a network of art teachers and interns.
This project will contribute to the strength and integration of arts throughout our curriculum. It is also an investment in the diverse, creative culture and character of San Francisco. Providing our students and school communities access to a thriving Arts Center as part of their core school experience will foster generations of artists and arts audiences to come.
So, next time you hear someone wonder aloud about arts in San Francisco’s public schools, you can take pride in saying the SFUSD has always prized and protected arts and music education. And pass along the buzz that exciting plans are in the works to create a world-class Arts Center that will bring students from across The City to create, experience and appreciate art in school and for decades to come.
Myong Leigh is interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.