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News Release: Hundreds of Students Recognized at San Diego Unified’s Annual Art Exhibit and VAPA’s Academy Awards-Style Ceremony

News Release: Hundreds of Students Recognized at San Diego Unified’s Annual Art Exhibit and VAPA’s Academy Awards-Style Ceremony
Posted on 03/13/2019

Annual Art Exhibit and VAPA's Academy Awards-Style Ceremony

The San Diego Unified School District has transformed its halls into an art gallery for the next few weeks for its annual Student Art Exhibit. A diverse array of 640 artwork pieces by students in grades TK-12 are on display through April 12 from 12 high schools, 10 middle schools, 1 K-8 school, and 26 elementary schools.

The district opened the event with a reception on March 11, followed by an Academy Awards-style Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) ceremony honoring students and teachers who create, innovate, and inspire others to improve the world through the arts. The 2019 VAPA Spotlight Awards Presentation began following the reception at 6:30 pm in the Board Room of the Eugene Brucker Education Center, located at 4100 Normal St., San Diego, CA 92103. The Spotlight Awards presentation celebrated successes in the visual and performing arts across the district and in all disciplines. In addition to the awards, the VAPA Foundation presented four $250 scholarships to the student award recipients.

“We know that the arts are an essential part of unlocking the genius in all of our students, and I am grateful for our community's support of the VAPA Foundation that helps art and music thrive in our schools,” said Cindy Marten, Superintendent of Schools.

The VAPA Spotlight Awards highlight outcomes that are aligned with the goals of VAPA's strategic plan, adopted by the Board of Education in 2016. Awardees were nominated by the district's VAPA stakeholder community including teachers, parents, community arts partners, administrators, and students. The winners were selected by a committee that included a teacher and representative from the district's VAPA Advisory Council, a representative from the VAPA Department, and a representative from the VAPA Foundation.

Award recipients shared a common theme of how the arts have impacted their development as creative, compassionate, collaborative, and resilient human beings. Reyna Turner, a teacher at Loma Portal Elementary who received an Artistic Innovation Award, has always believed in the importance of art and art education: “Emphasizing beauty in imperfection and originality over perfection and competition and the need to be ‘right', builds positive classroom community, tolerance, acceptance, and personal pride. I have found art allows children to think creatively and explore other points of view. It promotes independent thinkers. Art is the great equalizer in the classroom. Everyone can be an artist and everyone can create beauty.”

Erin Cortes, a teacher at Taft Middle School who was honored with an Artistic Growth Award, concurs: “The arts not only benefit our youth, but our entire community. Whether it's a collaborative or an independent project, our students are engaged in the process of learning while creating. The arts build self-confidence, problem solving, teamwork and a means to communicate powerful messages. Students have the ability to better understand various cultures, demonstrate empathy towards others, and begin an adventure to better understand themselves.”

The arts can also prove to be healing. Kelly Hatfield, a student at Serra High School who was presented with an Artistic Achievement Award, was able to find her bearings again after the death of her brother through theater and music. “When I was able to put my emotions on stage and channel it into a character I found that I could let go of any anger or sadness I was holding onto and grow as a person. Becoming drum major also gave me a sense of purpose which I lacked after my brother died. I love watching my fellow band members grow as musicians and people and helping them appreciate something as much as I do. The arts teaches you so much about who you are, what it takes to succeed. I truly don't know where I would be without it.”

The four student award recipients are: Kelly Hatfield, Katherine Perrine, Noah Sanchez, and David Robinson.

This year's VAPA Spotlight Award winners are:

  • Artistic Achievement Award

    • Kelly Hatfield, Student, Serra High School
    • Katherine Perrine, Student, La Jolla High School
  • Artistic Growth Award

    • Erin Cortes, Teacher, Taft Middle School
    • Dr. John Reynolds, Teacher, San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts
  • Artistic Innovation Award

    • Carmen and Kevin Kasner, Parents, Mira Mesa High School
    • Bill McClain, Teacher, Carver Elementary School
    • Reyna Turner, Teacher, Loma Portal Elementary School
  • Creative Community Engagement Award

    • Catalina Valenzuela, Classified Staff, Crown Point Junior Music Academy
    • Daniel Kriley, Teacher, Mira Mesa High School
    • Jeanne Christensen, Teacher, Mira Mesa High School
    • Matthew Mulvaney, Teacher, Mira Mesa High School
  • Creative Leadership Award

    • Derek Murchison, Principal, Zamorano Fine Arts Academy
    • Aaron Blokker, Teacher, Serra High School
  • Rising Star Award

    • Noah Sanchez, Student, San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts
    • John Riley, Teacher, Crawford High School
    • David Robinson, Student, Crawford High School

*Students who received $250 scholarships

The not-for-profit VAPA Foundation works to enhance the quality of and access to arts education in the San Diego Unified School District. The VAPA Enhancement Program, one aspect of this work, enables any TK – 12 San Diego Unified teacher to apply for programs, field trips, professional development or materials related to the visual and performing arts that are not covered in a school budget. The VAPA Enhancement program is supported, in part, by a partnership with UC San Diego and by donors from community that recognize the value of arts education.

The VAPA Advisory Council advises the VAPA Director and VAPA staff on implementation of the SDUSD Strategic Arts Education Plan, and helps inform and educate district VAPA teachers and community on implementation of the plan. Council members include San Diego Unified staff, and representatives from community and arts organizations.


VAPA Contacts: VAPA Director Russ Sperling, [email protected]; Program Manager Tim Benson, [email protected] 858-256-2700

Media Contact: Communications Director Maureen Magee, (619) 318-7930