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By Amy Knutson, Education & Programs Assistant

Two years ago, P.S. ARTS introduced a new element to our in-school programming: a unifying theme developed by our Teaching Artists that would guide their curriculum throughout the course of the school year. The 2012-2013 theme, Tree of Life: Roots and Branches, focused on community and cultural roots, and last year’s Exploring Our Dreams, Expanding Our Universe theme encouraged students to reach above and beyond and explore their greatest aspirations. This year, I have the privilege of announcing that the 2014-2015 theme is Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers. Our staff and I really excited to see how our Teaching Artists incorporate this theme into their classroom projects and lessons.

In May we met with our 40+ Teaching Artists to brainstorm the concepts we wanted to focus on in our classrooms this year. Elda Pineda, our Programs Director, facilitated the session using engagement and consensus building techniques from Richard Axelrod and Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center. During the session, our Teaching Artists and Education & Programs staff talked a lot about wanting our students to explore the ideas of transforming, connecting, migrating, and overcoming obstacles.

As you can imagine, finding a statement that would incorporate all these ideas in an easily accessible (and easy to remember!) way was a challenge.  After throwing out lots ideas, we thought of using bridges as a metaphor.  Suddenly, we knew we were on the right track.

After considerable fine-tuning of the concept, we began to search for masterworks that could relate to our new theme. What are masterworks? you ask. These are productions of well-known art, music, poetry, dance, or drama that we (the P.S. ARTS faculty and staff) recognize as masterpieces and that we believe are important for our students to study.

For our visual arts masterpiece, our Teaching Artists and Education & Programs staff chose Chicano Park Bridge.

Chicano Park is a 32,000 square meter (7.9 acre) park located beneath the San Diego–Coronado Bridge.  The park is home to the country’s largest collection of outdoor murals as well as various sculptures, earthworks, and an architectural piece dedicated to the cultural heritage of the community. Created by a community of artists, the park is an incredible example of how collaboration can transform something functional and invasive (the bridge) into a work of art.

The winning music masterwork was “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel.

This choice was pretty much unanimous for our Music Teaching Artists! Not only is this song a classic, but it also speaks beautifully to the idea of overcoming obstacles together.

For a literary masterwork, we chose two pieces, one for our older students, “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole, and one for our younger students, “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” A Norwegian Fairytale, in hopes that they will be inspired to explore the themes of selflessness, bravery, and courage that we found to be so inspiring in these stories.

“This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

Between our acquisition of Inside Out Community Arts and the expansion of our programming to an additional 5,000 students, the 2014-2015 school year is sure to be one full of excitement, and I can’t think of a better theme to encompass the growth of our organization as we begin our 24th year!



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