I gained a great deal of perspective while teaching in inner city schools for over 20 years.

I experience the joys and challenges of working with and within San Diego’s many cultures on a daily basis while seeking to spark interest in my students to learn and explore. Whether supported by a tight-knit family or having to strive without that assistance, the thirst is always there if you can just tap it. And the intrinsic reward to meeting the students’ needs to the best of your ability is so very gratifying.

One of the most important lessons I learned was just how impactful the arts can be to tap this thirst!

For example, on days when music, dance, drama or visual arts sessions were scheduled, I noticed that absenteeism declined. Students were more engaged and excited too. I also recognized that when arts were integrated into the curriculum, student confidence and the ability to grasp other core subjects also rose.

While I saw it first hand, Americans for the Arts is just one source that validates there is a direct, positive correlation between arts education and test scores, graduation rates, behavior, attendance, dropout rates and intended college attendance.

Simply put, the arts and an interdisciplinary curriculum in my classroom helped children learn better.

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Economic Growth

But the benefit of the arts doesn’t start and stop with our youth. A vibrant art culture is one of the core aspects of any thriving, innovative economy.

In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts to measure the impact of arts and culture on the economy. According to their estimates, more than $500 billion, approximately 3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, can be attributed to the arts and culture sector.

Here in San Diego, hundreds of millions of dollars flow through the economy each year thanks to the arts and culture sector. Even tourism enhances the economy, as cultural tourists spend nearly twice as much in San Diego compared to traditional tourists.

Personal Commitment to Arts Education

Growing up I personally benefited from having access to arts education and experiences that helped shape my values today.

They translated to sharing the arts in the classroom and evolved into a lifestyle of doing, teaching, and supporting the arts as an everyday aspect of my life – not only in the schools for which I’ve worked, but also as a volunteer on nonprofit boards and through The San Diego Foundation.

I’m proud to have been on the ground floor as we began to develop and implement The San Diego Foundation Creative Catalyst Program.

Creative Catalyst Grantee Noe Olivas

In his project “Low & Slow”, 2015 Creative Catalyst grantee Noé Olivas’ transformed a 1967 delivery truck into a lowrider, which expresses his spirit of collaboration and commitment to bringing different groups of people together in art experiences.

Since its inception, this individual artist fellowship program has partnered with more than 20 arts and culture nonprofits and 35 artist fellows, reaching more than 170,000 community members.

I’ve witnessed how the program has helped artists develop new work that advances their careers, increases civic engagement, and fosters new collaborations that thrive beyond the twelve month grant.

It is with great pride that I support the Creative Catalyst Program and enthusiastically applaud the artists, the mentor arts organizations, and the many sponsors that have been involved!

To grow these numbers and enhance San Diego’s creative economy, we need your support. With the help of local donors, we plan to increase the impact of this program and make Creative Catalyst a model for all communities nationwide.

Please join me in supporting this important and exciting endeavor for San Diego.

Donate to the Creative Catalyst Program

Jill Hall is a local philanthropist and former inner city public school educator in San Diego County who currently serves as Chair of the Creative Catalyst Program at The San Diego Foundation. She believes everyone has the potential to be an artist and enjoys helping others find their creative paths through workshops, retreats and artist networks.