Creative Bridges fills the gap in Sonoma arts education



Creative Bridges unites 22 organizations under one roof

Between Art Escape, the Sonoma Community Center, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, and over a dozen other nonprofits focused on enriching children’s lives with art, the children of Sonoma have many possibilities to explore their creativity. When the pandemic disrupted the way these artistic experiences were managed, 22 organizations came together with the common goal of providing more comprehensive arts education under a new umbrella.

“We are building creative bridges,” said Connie Schlelein, president and founding member of the new effort, Creative Bridges. “Together we are all magic.”

Schlelein was a professional arts educator in Colorado and was vice president of the National Art Education Association before retiring to Sonoma Valley. She noticed that California schools were struggling.

“Supporting. 13 has really deconstructed the California education system,” she said of the tax law that cut funding for schools.

Schlelein saw that elementary music and art were not taught in schools in a regular and fair manner. “They were hit and miss, some schools had it, some didn’t,” she said. “There was no vertically articulated curriculum for art and music, and the curriculum was not integrated with other subjects.”

Schlelein decided to try and do something. She got involved with the Sonoma County arts council, Creative Sonoma. She joined the leadership team and a task force of about 40 professionals who worked together to create a strategic plan for the arts, called the Sonoma County Framework.

After that, Schlelein focused on Sonoma Valley. “I realized that there were a lot of people right in the valley who were keen to take an initiative forward,” she said.

She quit her leadership role at Creative Sonoma and began building Creative Bridges in the Sonoma Valley, a program that she hoped could become a model for the entire county.

For decades, the many nonprofits working to support the arts for children of the Sonoma Valley competed for funding. Schlelein helped them believe they could get more financial support by working collectively, like rising tides lifting all boats.

Even funders, like the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, have joined Creative Bridges and support their mission to “Re-imagine Education”.

Schlelein said they spent the first 18 months building a strong alliance and now, coming out of the pandemic, they are strategically working to improve arts education.

“We focus on the education of the child as a whole, and this social, emotional and creative expression component is really important for children,” Schlelein said. She noted that this is especially true at this time as children cope with the stress of the pandemic and catch up in school and society.

She hopes the new alliance will soon have even more community involvement, including student members and a parent coalition. “We have adopted the attitude that it takes a village to raise a child,” she said.

Creative Sonoma provided Creative Bridges with leadership training. By streamlining communication and soliciting feedback from schools and teachers on how to improve programming, the Creative Bridges Alliance is positioning itself to achieve its goals.

For more than 20 years, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s long-standing educational program, Art Rewards The Students (ARTS), has brought art to schools for fourth and fifth graders, as well as students at the museum. for an immersive experience. Help them streamline the work of the alliance within the school district.

Schlelein said they had a request for the new superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, Dr. Adrian Palazuelos. They requested that a member of the administrative team join their alliance of 22 nonprofits to help coordinate artistic resources in local schools.

“Our new superintendent said not only that he would supply someone, but that he would be the person who would join our organization,” Schlelein said. ” It is most encouraging.

When Palazuelos heard about Creative Bridges, he jumped at the chance to go meet them. Palazuelos has worked as a superintendent, principal and teacher in several districts of California.

“I will say it’s definitely one of a kind,” he said of Creative Bridges. “I think this offers huge positive opportunities for this community. This alignment of groups may have very different approaches, may have different interests, but at the end of the day it’s really about moving this ambitious agenda forward around the ability to recognize the arts, to cultivate them and I think to more, to create a building in our community that supports all the members of our community.


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