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Meet Tara Graviss of Arts for Learning San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tara Graviss.

Tara, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As the daughter of a career military officer I attended over 7 schools from K-12 all across the U.S. Unfortunately, the states do not have aligned standards per grade levels and so this would sometimes mean I was ahead of the classes I joined and sometimes behind, and of course I’d always start a new school in the middle of the year and so endured the typical front of the room introduction of “class please welcome Tara (which they always mispronounced) in front of the whole class… a sure way to draw attention to yourself that was always awkward for me as a natural introvert.

I don’t have many childhood memories, but I know that from the time I could hold a crayon I’ve been an artist and from the time I learned a command of our written language I’ve been a poet; and so, my way to make friends and introduce myself to these new classmates was always through my art. Art was, in fact, the only common thread I had in school and the way I learned to express myself and deal with the tough times I faced in my formative years. When I felt alone, alienated, ashamed and like no adult in my life cared… I turned to my art to release the painful emotions I kept trapped inside.

I left my art practice on the shelf for 25 years even as I volunteered throughout San Diego provided arts and arts education experiences for children for over 15 years. I finally reclaimed my personal art practice in 2013 when I began my MA in Expressive Arts Therapy at the Expressive Arts Institute and European Graduate School. The same year I began volunteering at Arts for Learning San Diego on their Board of Directors.

I maintained my creative outlook on life throughout my career in the hospitality industry traveling around the world and then was provided the opportunity to guide Arts for Learning San Diego in 2015 as their Executive Director/CEO.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’ve always considered myself to be one of the luckiest people I know and yet I recognize that I have faced adversity and honed an incredible sense of self-resilience. I have no doubt that art was key to building that resilience and giving me a space to learn, to grow and to be all that I can be.

The loss of my mother 7 yrs ago was a catalyst for me pursuing my MA and getting back into my art practice. Every day I try and make choices and live my life in a way that allows me to live authentically in honor of my mother.

In my private practice as an Expressive Arts Therapist, I specialize in working with trauma survivors and individuals struggling with the effects of PTSD (including our service members). I think my clients sense the depth of my empathy and through art, they are able to say the things they have no words for.

My deep seeded belief in the arts, the basic need for arts for all of our children and the transformative power of the arts has guided me throughout my life first on a volunteer basis and now in my dedication to getting quality arts education in music, theatre, dance, visual arts and literary arts to all of our 42 school districts to ensure ALL of our children, families and communities have access to the arts.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Arts for Learning San Diego – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Arts for Learning San Diego is celebrating its 55th year serving San Diego County as the oldest, largest nonprofit arts education provider in the County.

Arts for Learning San Diego provides assemblies, workshops and residencies introducing students to the arts, enliven communities, and connecting to the school curriculum in areas including math, language arts, science, history, social studies and multicultural studies. Providing fundamental art education for children in San Diego County.

Arts for Learning San Diego (A4LSD), an affiliate of the Young Audiences National Network, has dedicated itself to advocating and providing for the arts in education and enriching the lives of all children of our region through an extraordinary range of high-quality performances, residencies and workshops to help our young people identify their cultural roots and discover their creative wings.

The world desperately needs workers and leaders who are creative, disciplined and visionary. The arts—music, dance, theater and the visual arts—foster those qualities in today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce.

At Arts for Learning San Diego, we believe that the arts and artists are essential community resources that deserve sustained advocacy and long-term investment. We train and commission artists of all disciplines to engage directly with diverse communities through vibrant partnerships at the individual, family, school, and community level. Our arts programming reaches participants of all ages, igniting the collective imagination of San Diego, and inspiring generations of change makers.

Arts for Learning San Diego offers customized arts education programs and packages for schools, districts, and community organizations that can include performances, workshops & residencies, family engagement activities and professional development.

We offer both discreet arts education – art for art’s sake – AND arts integration with full STEAM programming.

A4LSD serves students, their families and their communities: TK – 12th grade throughout San Diego. We are the only arts education nonprofit providing access to all genres: music, theatre, visual arts, dance and literary arts with a wide cultural array of ensemble artists (anything from bluegrass to blue man group, African drumming to Mariachi’s).

I’m deeply honored to be representing our small but mighty staff and team of over 200 Professional Teaching Artists. The work we do collectively with our students is nothing short of transformative!

Arts Education:
-Contributes to improved student achievement
-Engages students for increased motivation and effectiveness in the classroom
-Directly contributes to workforce development
-Allows for a deeper understanding of core curriculum
-Increases graduation rates and reduces the risk of drop out
-Builds creative innovative thinkers
-Increases self-confidence and attendance
-Build critical thinking and problem-solving skills
-Develops empathy, kindness and cross-cultural understanding

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Arts for Learning San Diego has experienced tremendous growth in the last 3 years expanding our partnerships with several school districts and overseeing several large contracts that engage multiple arts partner organizations in the delivery of quality arts education programming in both discreet arts and arts integration.

This rapid growth has been challenging as further programming demand increases the need for staff to manage that programming but doesn’t include funding for same. We have a healthy mix of support from earned revenue, foundation support and government support but none of these cover the overhead costs needed to run an organization serving almost 77,000 San Diegans a year.

Our focus for 2018-19 is on building partnerships with local corporations that understand the value of arts education in building a strong workforce for tomorrow while supporting their local schools and communities; and on engaging individuals as donors, advocates and volunteers.

We’ve committed to a 5-year campaign to raise to open a necessary Operating Reserve and take our organization to the next level ensuring its sustainability to serve San Diego for another 50+ years.

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Image Credit:

Jim Hornsby, Jerry Hager

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