Hundreds of San Diego County arts educators took over Balboa Park on Thursday for the Arts Empower Mega Conference presented by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).
This was the fourth year of the professional learning designed by arts educators for teachers, administrators, and others involved in the arts in San Diego County schools. Arts Empower is led by SDCOE in partnership with school districts and professional organizations.
Interim county Superintendent of Schools Edward Velasquez kicked off the event in the Casa del Prado Theatre.
"Growing up in East L.A., I really believe I wouldn't be here without the arts," he said. "I believe that every child should be afforded the opportunity to learn an instrument, perform, and get involved in the arts."
A longtime colleague and friend of Velasquez, actor Tony Plana also addressed the more than 600 attendees.
"I have spent the last 20 years dedicated to the importance and necessity of the arts," Plana said. "The arts are no longer marginal. No longer an elective. The arts now have to be considered central to education."
The event featured 90 different sessions covering topics from data and equity to arts integration and career technical education.
The conference is unique in that it unites educators from all arts disciplines, said organizer Pauline Crooks, the visual and performing arts coordinator at SDCOE.
"This is an exciting time in arts education with the arts included in the new federal and state education legislation and the priority local school districts have placed on the arts with strategic arts education plans," she said.
"Our vision is that from kindergarten to 12th grade every child has the opportunity to study all art disciplined in school," she said.
Pictured above are participants in a Arts Empower Mega Conference session. Photo credit goes to the Sweetwater Union High School District student photographers.