Celebrating the Creativity of Students Across the Nation: Turnaround Arts Student Showcase

Dancers from McKinley Elementary School
Images courtesy of The Kennedy Center and photographer Jati Lindsay

We were beaming with pride as students from three California partner schools took the stage at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ historic Eisenhower Theater on Sunday, April 7th, 2024. The National Turnaround Arts Student Showcase brought together 100 students from Turnaround Arts partner schools nationwide to celebrate their creativity and artistic achievements.

Willard Intermediate Jazz Band

Nearly 30 students from McKinley Elementary in Compton, Hoopa Valley Elementary in Humboldt County, and Willard Intermediate in Santa Ana performed to a packed audience. 6-8th grade students from Willard Intermediate’s jazz band performed Jammin’ with Charlie. Two students from Hoopa Valley Elementary performed original poems about their indigenous identities and cultural traditions. 6-8th grade dancers from McKinley Elementary performed an original routine to Cynthia Erivo’s Stand Up from the film Harriet about the life of Harriet Tubman. You can watch the full student showcase on The Kennedy Center’s YouTube.

Carmen (left) and Avery (right), student poets from Hoopa Valley Elementary School

The nerves and excitement were high leading up to the showcase. The rehearsals gave students and their teachers time to hone their performances, and the result was incredible! As Turnaround Arts: California’s Program Manager Chelsey Brunelles shared, “Seeing the journey from their audition tapes to the final performance was so special. The final show was the best version of their performances they had ever done!”

The weekend spent in D.C. brought many firsts for some of the participating students – their first time on an airplane, their first time outside of California, and their first time performing on a stage of that caliber. Students also had the opportunity to experience dance and hip-hop workshops and tour our nation’s capital. Music Teacher Dylan Aguilera shared, “Our students will cherish the memories made, learning garnered, and the feelings of support delivered through this trip for the rest of their lives. The arts are truly a vehicle for change.”

Students from Turnaround Arts: California partner schools

We extend a huge thanks to the many individuals who joined us and worked so hard to get these students across the country and onto the Kennedy Center stage, an unforgettable moment in their lives:

Dylan Aguilera, Willard Intermediate School
Dr. Alfonso Alvarez, Santa Ana Unified School District
Dr. Jerry Almendarez, Santa Ana Unified School District
Jacqueline Ball, McKinley Elementary School
Bertha Benavides, Willard Intermediate School
Dr. Darin Brawley, Compton Unified School District
Katelyn Brazer, Santa Ana Unified School District
Jeremy DelaCuadra, Willard Intermediate School
Lenora Hall, Hoopa Valley Elementary School
Stephanie L. Jackson, McKinley Elementary School
Dr. Jennifer Kang-Moon, Compton Unified School District
Naju Kim, McKinley Elementary School
Jennifer Lane, Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District
Robyn MacNair, Santa Ana Unified School District
Emilee Marshall, Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District
Chris Minev, Henry T. and Elizabeth Segerstrom Foundation
Mayra Ordonez, Willard Intermediate School
Elizabeth Segerstrom, Henry T. and Elizabeth Segerstrom Foundation
Stephanie Silvia, Hoopa Valley Elementary School
Takisha Spears, McKinley Elementary School
Tahasijan Taylor, McKinley Elementary School
Wendi Turk, Santa Ana Unified School District


Students Create Original Poems with the Support of Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

Following her special virtual visit with Hoopa Valley Elementary last school year, United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo worked with poet and retired Hoopa Valley teacher Stephanie Silvia to design a poetry contest inspired by Wallace Stevens’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Following are the winning student poems and honorable mentions.

First Place Winners

Six Ways of Listening to a Drum
Johnny Erickson, Third Grade

I listen to drumming-
when my Dad and the men
play Indian cards.

The sound of the drum
makes me feel happy
in my heart.

When people died
other people played drums for them.

My ancestors made drums.
First they made a frame out of wood.
Then they put a deer hide on the jump ring.

I made a drum with my father.
We play together.

Drums are indigenous.
All Native People play drums
in ceremonies.

Six Ways of Looking at a Brush Dance
Anieya, Fourth Grade

The dress is pretty
pine nuts

The dress jingles
making a happy noise
to help a sick baby

I sang in the all-girls round
I sang all night

(I had to drink coffee
to stay up
all night)

Boys wear feathers in their regalia
Boys carry medicine
to jump center.

Dancing made me feel good
it made the baby feel better

Six Ways of Looking at Hoopa
Avery Benson, Fifth grade

The Trinity River is full of salmon,
The river is moving.
The salmon are moving.

We dance for babies who are sick.
We dance all night.
We dance all night.

We gather acorns from the tanoak tree for acorn soup.
We gather bear grass for making baskets
We use the baskets for gathering
the acorns for our soup.

The bears go down to the river to eat fish.
When the dams come down the salmon
will rush.

In the morning
we will go down to the river
to catch salmon
for our family
as the sun rises.

The Trinity River is full of salmon.
The river is moving.
The salmon are moving.

Five Ways of Looking at a Lake
Khoko Bailey, Sixth Grade

The yellow and red leaves flowing through the wind
over the lake.

The bright moon shining off the cold water.

Cold trees shiver in the
cold blue night next to the
cold blue lake.

A red boat floating from the lake to the river
while fish jump by its side.

One fisherman pulls up his net
full of fish
as the moon watches.

Five Ways of Looking at the Wind
Charlie Perry, Seventh grade

1. Wind blows whistling through the trees.
2. Wind crying throughout the night.
3. Wind blustering winter wide.
4. Wind swirling, whipping, around earth like a drift with dust.
5. I rest with my bones
the lies’ truth deep in the wind

7 Ways of Looking at My Mom
Analycia Branham, Eighth grade

1. The broken silence of the little girl crying, as the high of her mom scares her

2. The crying and anger courses through my blood, my mom laughs

3. As the crying girl weeps the birds chirp

4. The actions by her broke her, again she weeps

5. The lies my mom tells fill me with heartbreak

6. The little girl asks why, and no reply again she asks why, and again no reply

7. Always why?

Second Place Winners

Three Ways of Looking at a Night Sky
Azaelea Doolittle, Third Grade

The night shimmers
with the moon.

Looking at the night
blue through the truck window,
it moves fast
it looks like the sky and the moon
and the stars
are all mixed together
one big glowing

the bright blue night sky
the blue night sky
the night sky

Five Ways of Looking at a Wild Iris
Lola Bailey, Fourth Grade

wild iris are pretty
they are violet

wild iris grow in the forests of Hoopa

wild iris fibers woven into fishing nets
in the Trinity River

ancestors catching salmon

and light blue inside the purple

Seven Ways of Looking For a Space Dragon
Daniel French, Fifth Grade

Looking at the sky midnight
I saw a Space Dragon midflight

I wished to be with it midflight

The next night I tried and tried to go
with the Space Dragon midflight
I couldn’t find the door

I wish to sleep with the Space Dragon
on top of the stars,
with stardust as my pillow
and stars as my blanket

Another night came
I went up to the roof and jumped into the dark

I prayed

It opened up to a sky full of wishing stars
falling down around me
and a Space Dragon in midflight

Five Ways of Looking at Medilden Sanchez
Medilden Sanchez, Sixth Grade

A young man with an unwritten future
ripe for action

A young man with the red skin of his family

A man who will be molded by his time

A man in a boy’s body living like a boy

A person who accepts both his boyhood
and his manhood

Third Place Winners

Four Different Ways of Looking at a River
Maybelle McConnell, Third Grade

The river is coming.

When the river makes a beautiful sound
it makes a sound like this,
“Wish… Wish… Wish…”

I like when the river makes its beautiful sound
it calms me.
At night

When the river makes its “wishing” sound
it helps me fall asleep.

Four Ways of Looking at a Basket
Isde:w Tracy, Third Grade

Baskets are part of my culture
for more than a millennium.

Baskets are for leeching acorns
for making acorn soup.

The beads on a xe:q’ay
make beautiful sounds as the jingle
helping the baby being carried
to fall asleep.

Gathering beargrass
by the river
with my mother
and my auntie
makes me happy.

Four Ways of Looking at a Monster
Braydon Padilla, Third Grade

Why is the monster covered in red?
It’s blood.

Why does the monster have bolts in his head?
It’s a robot metal and machine monster.

The monster is an it.
The gender doesn’t matter.

Why do they make movies about monsters in the basement?
Monsters don’t like to be seen.

Monsters like the dark.

Five Ways of Looking at the Ocean
Chime Pratt, Fourth Grade

1. Looking from the sand out at the horizon is pretty

2. Clear blue water

3. The sea creatures
clownfish, turtles, seahorses

4. The shells that washed up out of the water
on the shore

5. The sun going down
the light shining down
reflecting on the water
like an abalone shell

Four Ways of Looking at the Ocean
Roxy Latulippe, Fifth Grade

The ways the waves crash
can calm an upset soul.

Swimming with
schools of colorful fish
can be peaceful.

The sheen on the shiny waves,
the way it moves eases me.

The reflection of the moon off the ocean waves
at night
is as beautiful as a deer’s deep eyes.

Six Ways to Look at Ceremony
Spey-gee Bussell, Sixth grade

At ceremony is not good to have bad energy
(It can mess things up)

Not all ceremonies have the same meaning
(or the same rules)

If someone older tells you to do something
You Do It

And try to help out in any way
(you can)

In ceremony people wear traditional regalia

abalone shells
dried plants
animal hides
gathered from the forest to the ocean

In ceremony people dance and sing

In ceremony we pray for our ancestors
For the loved ones we have lost

Honorable Mentions

Four Ways of Looking at a Trampoline
Paul Aubrey, Fourth Grade

It makes you jump high

2: If you have no net
you can jump
off your roof
into your pool

3: Squeak

4: This is who I play trampoline with in my yard
all my cousins
my little brother
my friends
and me.

Four Ways of Looking at My Grandparents
Casius James, Fifth Grade

My grandparents are great bakers.
Especially their cinnamon buns
with exactly the right texture on my tongue.

We celebrated birthdays at their house
and we partied for a long time.
Apple juice.
My auntie’s red velvet birthday cakes.

My grandparents loved all of their kids and their grandkids.
They talked to us if we were scared.

Oh dear, how I miss them.

Five Ways of Looking at a Pencil
Lennox James, Fifth grade

It is the reason I can write this

A pencil can erase everything I write
And more.
A pencil can erase itself.


Sometimes you have to write paragraphs




A pencil is
a very skinny object
full of all
our mysteries and ideas.

10 ways of looking at a friend
Grace Kane, Sixth Grade

People can say friends are mean some of them are
Untrustworthy. Or they might be hard like rocks are
hard they might be squishy like emotions. They are
very complicated or confusing a lot of the time. Friends
are very hard work. Mainly it makes me happy to see
them. Mainly it makes my heart warm to see them. Mainly
it gives me a lot of joy to see them. If they talk about me
it makes me feel like a raging river. If they are bratty it makes
my eyes feel like a rainstorm.

Six Ways Looking At A Blackbird
(after Wallace Stevens)
Rose McCovey, Seventh grade

1) The shadow is flapping
The river is flowing
with the wind blowing
up you see a blackbird

2) The blackbird is sitting
The blackbird is waiting

3) A black bird is hovering over the sweeping water
flying in multiple circles

4) One man is one man,
One blackbird is one blackbird.
One man and one blackbird is still one

5) Sun or night,
refreshing rain the blackbird likes

6) Blackbird sitting in the black of night
waiting for the river to drift

4 ways of looking at a black bear
Jesse Roberts, Eighth grade

The black bear soundfully asleep

When the salmon run the bears come out

The black bear cubs always playful with each other

When the snowdrops fall
the black bear lay in their den resting for winter

Teacher Retreat: Fostering Collaboration to Build Arts-Centered and Equitable Schools

“It is a great experience to share and reflect with fellow supporters of the arts. The professional development is inspiring, and you walk away with a wealth of strategies. It motivates us to be advocates for the arts.”
– Attending Teacher

Turnaround Arts: California’s annual Arts Leadership Team Lead Retreat brings teacher leaders from our 24 partner schools across the state together for two days of immersive arts learning and peer sharing. This annual retreat is aimed at building teacher leadership and fostering a collaborative approach to strengthening our public schools through the arts. Following are highlights from our time together.

Our wonderful hosts at Nickelodeon helped us kick off the retreat with a tour of their studios and a drawing activity with one of their animators. An attending teacher shared, “Drawing with Nickelodeon was an awesome experience, especially since I’m currently doing animation with my students.”

Our partners at P.S. ARTS then led attendees through an arts integration workshop where we learned theater games to use in the classroom, as well as strategies for incorporating creative movement and theater into social studies lessons. One participant shared, “I LOVED the drama activities! I’m already planning on sharing them with my students starting tomorrow! I love that there are different entry levels for engagement and the opportunity for student voice and choice.”

We ended day one with a review of schools’ strategic arts plans to assess progress and identify areas for further support.

We started day two with a soul line dancing workshop with J&J Soulful Steps. We discussed how the arts help us learn persistence as we try new things and how we can create environments where students feel safe to explore.

Mackie Saylor from the Turnaround Arts program in New York shared her work with NYC public schools developing community arts projects that foster more equitable shared spaces for students and teachers.

Program Manager Chelsey Brunelle supported teachers in exploring strategies for developing strong collaborative arts leadership teams at their school sites.

We wrapped up the retreat by exploring student impact evaluation and sharing key takeaways from our two days of learning.

“The arts strategies shared were so engaging, and the safe space provided helped us all feel comfortable to take risks and experience joy.”
-Attending Teacher

Annual Principal Retreat: Leading for Change Through the Arts

“It’s wonderful to be able to connect with like-minded colleagues who are champions for the arts.”
-Attendee, 2024 Principal Retreat

Principals from our 24 partner schools across California gathered for two days of community-building, leadership development, hands-on arts workshops, arts planning, and peer exchange. This year’s retreat focused on the intersection of shared leadership, equity, and arts integration for school leaders.

While research shows that effective principal leadership catalyzes positive school change and that the arts improve school climate and student outcomes, principal development programs rarely focus on arts leadership. Our innovative principal program builds the capacity of principals to lead for positive change in their schools and ensure greater access to high-quality arts instruction for the marginalized communities served by their schools.

This retreat provides a unique opportunity for principals to gather, learn from each other, and engage in their own development as school leaders and as leaders in the arts. With the many challenges our schools continue to face, an important component of this retreat is also to care for and celebrate our principals. Thanks to Elizabeth Segerstrom, attendees were also treated to a special dinner and performance of Lion King the Musical at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Following are photos and highlights from our time together.

We kicked off the retreat with a welcome reception, including a Creative Leadership Award for Superintendents , and a performance from middle school jazz band students at our partner Willard Intermediate School in Santa Ana.

Our first full day of the retreat began with community-building as each attendee shared a personal identity object to create a collective art installation in our shared space.

Attendees then participated in hands-on arts integration workshops led by our partners at Collaborations: Teachers and Artists, where they designed lessons for students that met learning goals in the arts and in other subjects such as math, science, English language arts, and history. One attending principal shared, “Participating in the art activity was a great experience. It really allowed me to think about what this would be like for students and teachers.”

Day two began with a mindful painting moment to solidify key learnings from a reading, an activity that could be replicated at their school sites.

Principal Linh Roberts from Los Cerritos Elementary in Paramount, and Principal Logan Manning of Westlake Middle School in Oakland, presented on their successes in developing arts-integrated curriculum as part of our Lesson Labs program.

Principals also participated in a group study of best practices to create more inclusive and equitable schools.

The retreat concluded with a check-in on progress toward strategic arts plan goals and vision setting for the remainder of the school year. An attending principal shared, “Time with Turnaround always re-energizes me and helps to re-ground me in the importance of centering the arts.”

Special thanks to our supporters of this retreat:
Elizabeth Segerstrom
The Segerstrom Foundation

Turnaround Arts: California Honors Six Superintendents With the Inaugural Creative Leadership Award

From left to right: Malissa Shriver, Dr. Gudiel Crosthwaite, Dr. Eduardo Reyes, Dr. Darin Brawley, Jennifer Lane, Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, Dr. Eduardo Reyes, Barbara Palley, and Holly Bass

Turnaround Arts: California was thrilled to honor six superintendents from partner school districts with a Creative Leadership award in recognition of their commitment to the arts as an essential tool for learning engagement and college and career readiness in the 21st century. The award reception took place on Wednesday, February 7th, at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Honorees included:

Dr. Darin Brawley
Compton Unified School District
Dr. Eduardo Reyes
Chula Vista Elementary School District
Dr. Gudiel Crosthwaite
Lynwood Unified School District
Jennifer Lane
Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District
Jerry Almendarez
Santa Ana Unified School District
Dr. Michelle Rodriguez
Stockton Unified School District

“With everything a District Superintendent oversees and is accountable for, it is a rare and brave leader who empowers principals and teachers to do this kind of innovative and creative work. We have been blessed to be able to partner with these extraordinary professional educators, who have amplified learning and are enhancing teaching through the arts,” shared Malissa Shriver, Co-founder and Board Chair of Turnaround Arts: California

Decades of research show that students with arts-rich instruction see big leaps in reading and math skills, are 5x less likely to drop out of school, and 4x more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Yet in California, the creative capital of the world, a staggering 61% of public school students don’t have access to music and arts education. By partnering with Turnaround Arts: California, these superintendents have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring access to high-quality arts instruction for their students – from arts-integrated math and history curriculum, to murals, poetry and drumming workshops, family art nights, and more. Turnaround Arts supports the 11 partner schools within these districts to use the arts to boost academic engagement, social-emotional learning, and ensure equitable outcomes for all students.

“At a time when schools are grappling with an unprecedented student mental health crisis, ‘learning loss,’ and high rates of teacher burnout, the arts have been a powerful tool to improve the well-being of students, deepen their engagement in classroom learning, and empower teachers to better meet student needs,” shared Turnaround Arts: California’s Executive Director Barbara Palley. “The arts are an essential tool for building connections and the joy of learning in schools.”

From left to right: Willard Intermediate Principal Bertha Benavides, Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District Jerry Almendarez, Music Teacher Dylan Aguilera, and Band Director Jeremy DelaCuadra with members of Willard Intermediate’s Jazz Band.

Photos by Rudy Torres at NightFlare

Turnaround Arts: California welcomes four new schools to our statewide network!

Following an in-depth search and selection process*, we are thrilled to welcome Finney Elementary in Chula Vista, Arts in Action Elementary and Middle Schools in Los Angeles, and Echo Valley Elementary in Salinas to our network of 24 schools, extending our reach to 1,600 additional students and teachers across California. 

As we begin a new school year, we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that all students, no matter their zip code or background, have access to a high-quality and rigorous education that includes the arts. Our new partner schools share this vision and understand the power and potential the arts hold to create joyful, inclusive, and engaging learning environments for all students. 

Turnaround Arts: California will work closely with these schools in the coming years to help them develop a comprehensive approach to using the arts across all facets of the school environment to benefit students, teachers, and families.

Meet our new partner schools:

Finney Elementary, Chula Vista
Finney Elementary is a K-6 grade school that serves 385 students. 84% of students receive free/reduced-price lunch, and 29% are English language learners. Finney’s team believes that the arts will engage their students, spark curiosity, and make them excited to be at school.

Principal Dr. Beverly Prange shares, “We are excited to expose Finney students to more of the arts and expand arts integration at our school. We know the arts help students develop collaboration, confidence, and creativity and can positively impact school engagement. Our students have faced a number of challenges as a result of the pandemic. We believe that investing in this partnership with Turnaround Arts will help us better address student needs.”

Arts in Action Elementary and Middle Schools, Los Angeles
Arts in Action Elementary serves 377 students in grades TK-5, while their middle school serves 248 students in grades 6-8. 95% of students receive free/reduced-price lunch, and 34% are English language learners.

Arts in Action Elementary believes the arts are how their students can connect to the world around them – to communicate across languages, engage in activism, and express themselves. They look forward to building collaboration among their teaching staff and offering more professional development opportunities in arts-based teaching strategies.

Arts in Action Middle School’s focus on social justice means they envision creating a learning environment where all students have the opportunity to explore various art forms and see themselves and their backgrounds reflected and celebrated daily. They see the arts as a way to serve the whole child and are excited to create more opportunities for their teachers to build their skills in leading for change in and through the arts.

Executive Director Kalin Balcomb shares, “We have found that the arts are incredibly important in meeting the needs of all learners. Art provides the forum for equity and access and can be harder to sustain and fund in low-income schools. The arts are an amazing tool for students to express themselves and understand the world around them. We look forward to expanding our art program and our capacity to reach all our students.”

Echo Valley Elementary, Salinas
Echo Valley Elementary is a K-6 grade school that serves 531 students. 100% of students receive free/reduced-price lunch, and 66% are English language learners. Echo Valley’s vision is to become the arts school in their community. Families are eager to become more involved, and the teachers and principal believe the arts will offer a greater access point into the school community. They are excited to expose their teachers to more art forms to use in their classrooms.

Principal Jacob Gile shares, “Our students are resilient, hard-working, creative, and kind. They have a passion for learning and thrive whenever we provide enrichment through the arts. We are excited to serve our students through the equitable, engaging, and student-centered learning offered and supported by Turnaround Arts.”

Now, what does our first year of work with these schools look like?

Turnaround Arts: California commits to working with each partner school for at least four years to ensure the long-term sustainability and impact of the arts across all facets of the school environment – including teacher collaboration, student learning, family engagement, and school culture and climate.

Our first year of partnership with these schools focuses on two parallel approaches: 1) team building and arts goal setting at each school site, and 2) engagement with our statewide network of schools and arts partners to exchange and amplify learnings built over the years. We focus on four primary areas:

  • Mapping the rich cultural and family assets in each school community that can be leveraged to support student success.
  • Building a team of teachers at each school who will, with the principal, create annual arts goals and act as the arts champions in the broader school community.
  • Teaching new strategies to infuse the arts into classrooms to build engagement, learning, and community.
  • Creating a multi-year plan to identify and roll out key strategies for targeted use of the arts across the school environment.

We are grateful to these schools and their teachers for choosing to invest deeply in their students through the arts, and we look forward to sharing more about their journeys in the coming year!

*Schools eligible for partnership include public elementary and middle schools where at least 75% of the student population qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. We also prioritize schools that serve a majority students of color, English Language Learners, and schools identified by California for “comprehensive support and improvement.”

Watch: Community Arts Projects

Turnaround Arts: California launched our Community Arts Project initiative to support community-building and well-being as schools returned to in-person instruction following the pandemic. Partner schools, including teachers, students, and families, were paired with local artists and arts organizations to conceptualize and implement unique art installations on their campuses.

We thank the partnering schools, artists, and arts organizations who made these projects possible!

Partner Schools:
Ellen Ochoa Learning Center, Cudahy
Garfield Elementary, Alhambra
Hoopa Valley Elementary, Hoopa
Janie P. Abbott Elementary, Lynwood
John J. Montgomery Elementary, Chula Vista
Willard Intermediate School, Santa Ana
Zamboni Middle School, Paramount

Partner Artists & Arts Organizations:
ArtReach San Diego and Liesel Plambeck, Artist
Budding Artists, and Bryan Arellano and Glenna Avila, Artists
Dionisio Ceballos, Artist
Liliflor, Artist
Naishian Rainflower Richards, Artist

The 2022/23 School Year By the Numbers

The 2022/23 school year was full of creativity, connection, and joy as we were finally back in person with our partner schools full-time!

It also had its challenges. Our partner schools, teachers, students, and families continue to deal with the lasting impacts of the pandemic. Turnaround Arts: California is so grateful to our partnering schools, arts organizations, funders, and YOU, for investing deeply in students and families through the arts – supporting engagement, community-building, and healing.

Here’s what our community made possible at public elementary and middle schools across California over the past year…

The impacts we are seeing…

“Students were happy to share about the different works they saw and created. They talked about painting, crafting, and the artists that visited the campus with such excitement! These positive experiences motivated them to be risk-takers and try new things in my class. It facilitated conversations between peers.”

– Special Education Teacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. School of the Arts

“Turnaround Arts has allowed me to see the arts as a tool in my classroom rather than this scary thing that was too big to try and tackle. Having the arts as part of my class has made my teaching more inclusive, and exciting for both me and my students, and has helped engage my students in ways they weren’t before.”

– Teacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. School of the Arts

“The arts serve as a catalyst as we continually work (following COVID) to rebuild relationships and connections with students and the community.”

-Teacher, Zamboni Middle School

“We had some very traumatic events occur in our community. Using the arts as a calming strategy, as well as a processing strategy, has been wonderful. Our students also got to experience drama, visual arts, and music this year. They really understand that we can express ourselves artistically in many different ways.”

-Teacher, Garfield Elementary

Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Through the Arts: A special project at Hoopa Valley Elementary

We are proud to share our recently completed Community Arts Project at Turnaround Arts: California’s longtime partner school, Hoopa Valley Elementary!

Hoopa Valley Elementary is located in Humboldt County in Northern California. Students are 90% Indigenous Americans and members of the Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk tribes.

The community has strong traditions rooted in Indigenous American cultures that they wanted to honor and celebrate through a public art project. Students worked with local artist and cultural bearer, Naishian Rainflower Richards, to create a unique art installation, that runs along the school’s fence. Entitled “Na:yk’idilyeh,” which means “necklace” in the Hupa language, the piece is inspired by the traditional necklaces created and worn by tribal members. This large-scale “necklace” showcases oversized wooden, painted replicas of the community’s invaluable dentalium used to make their necklaces.

Naishian worked with the high school woodshop students and their teacher, Mr. Johnson, to create the necklace pieces, and the elementary school students painted them in traditional patterns. Naishian shared: “This project represents our wealth in culture. Dentalium was the currency in our local tribes, and this is a reminder to those in the school that we still have this wealth.”

We send a very special thank you to Ms. Stephanie Silvia, Arts Integration Teacher, who oversaw this project and has been a tireless advocate for the arts at Hoopa Valley Elementary.

About Naishian Rainflower Richards: Naishian Rainflower Richards is a member of the Western Shoshone tribe and a descendant of the Northern California tribes of the Hupa, Yurok, and Redwood Creek. She shares indigenous arts in the Hoopa community, previously serving as a Cultural Consultant for the Indian Education Program at Hoopa Valley Elementary. Naishian has also served as a youth and college mentor with Two Feathers Native American Family Services, teaching about local ceremonial grounds, food sovereignty, and revitalizing coming-of-age ceremonies. Through this work, she has come to understand the gap in access to these teachings. She shares that she is proud to see “students creating our local history and learning how to stand tall in this world.”

As highlighted in this NPR report, the arts have been a powerful tool to build safety and self-expression for young people amid an unprecedented mental health crisis. Turnaround Arts: California launched our Community Arts Project initiative in 2021 to support arts projects like the one at Hoopa, to create space for healing and connection since schools have returned to in-person instruction. We’ve been pairing local artists with teachers, students, and families to design and implement unique art installations on their school campuses ever since.

Annual Arts Leadership Team Lead Retreat

In March 2023 we were back in person bringing together teacher leaders from our 22 partner schools across California for hands-on arts learning, leadership development, and peer exchange at beautiful Loyola Marymount University.

This retreat supports teachers to further develop in their roles as arts leaders at each of their schools. It provides an opportunity for them to connect with their peers around challenges and successes and exchange ideas and promising practices. Following are some photos from our time together.

After getting to know each other, our partners at Collaborations: Teachers and Artists (CoTA) led attendees through a collaborative arts integration project. Inspired by photograph, Boy with June Bug, by Gordon Parks, we created a collaborative poetry piece.

Participants then created their own personal interpretations of the poem inspire by Illuminated Manuscripts.

This workshop provided a tangible example of arts integration to our teachers – meeting learning goals in English Language Arts and visual arts simultaneously. The uniqueness of the creative process was beautifully captured by the diversity of the finished products.

On Day 2, attendees had the opportunity to engage in in-depth peer exchange around their experiences as they have implemented arts-based strategies at their schools.

We closed out the retreat with a reflection on key learnings and next steps.