“I try to give people a 
different way of looking 
at their surroundings. 
That’s art to me.”

Maya Lin

San Luis Obispo County is a beautiful slice of California located three hours south of the Bay Area of California and about three hours north of Los Angeles, stretching over 70 miles down the 101 along the Pacific Coast and inland through deserts and mountains to Kern County, covering 3,616 square miles, with just over 284,000 in population. Agriculture, tourism, building and design construction, knowledge and innovation, advanced manufacturing, health services, and energy are some of our major economic drivers. What does each of these economic drivers have in common?  “Arts-Based Leadership.”  

SLO County Superintendent Jim Brescia
SLO County Superintendent Jim Brescia

Many corporations are recognizing arts-based learning as an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Additionally, some firms are using the arts as a pathway to explore non-art topics such as leadership, change, and innovation in business. San Luis Obispo County is fortunate to have growing Arts Partnerships for many of our schools, districts, and communities. These partnerships acknowledge four profound leadership impacts. Involvement in the arts helps us quiet the mind and puts us in touch with inner wisdom.  The arts create bonding experiences that facilitate collaboration, and accelerate the ability to get to the root causes of an issue. 

Arts-based activities can be used strategically to create safety, build trust, find shared values, and shift perceptions.  Finally, arts-based learning, along with whole-brain creativity and design thinking, is shown to improve creative skills. 

Local arts organizations are partnering with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education in support of arts outreach. Our partnerships provide opportunities for students to experience and participate in the arts with professional artists in professional settings. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and Opera San Luis Obispo recently hosted the summer Opera Camp for students and plans to partner for multiple student activities related to the October 12 and 13 productions of “South Pacific” at the Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo.  

To date, this partnership has afforded more than 7,000 students the opportunity to experience and work with professional artists in a professional venue. Funds for recent events were provided by Mary Bianco, David Burt, Virginia Severa, the Moca Foundation, the Paso Robles Education Alliance, and the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education.

According to the most recent Arts and Economic Prosperity Survey, San Luis Obispo County arts and arts-related activities enhance our local economy by nearly 30 million in funding and expenditures. The arts is one of the most popular Career & Technical Education (CTE) pathways selected by San Luis Obispo County students, and the most recent Central Coast Economic Forecast refers to the positive impact the arts has on our local economy.  Our county is also growing in cultural and artistic vibrancy because of the dedicated individuals that make the central coast their home.  We invite any interested arts organizations to partner with our local schools in building up our community.  

It is an honor to serve as your county superintendent, and I hope that this article will spark discussion among all educational stakeholders about the power of becoming involved in arts outreach as a volunteer, patron or participant. 

“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.”

Jackson Pollock