The Arts Matter in Our Schools – Vote Yes on Measure S

By Sarit Swanborn - SPUSD Visual Arts Instructor

PHOTO: | Visual Arts instructor at all three elementary schools, Sarit Swanborn, in front of student work displayed at a recent open house at Arroyo Vista

Artist Pablo Picasso made the important assertion, “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one once we grow up.” As SPUSD’s Visual Arts Teacher at the elementary level, I whole-heartedly embrace his assertion having observed the artistic intelligence that children possess from a very young age. Working with over 2,000 students annually to guide meaningful creativity, I am painfully aware that innate design skills will simply dissipate over time from lack of artistic exposure.

PHOTO: Sarit Swanborn | | Vibrant “Blue Dog” George Rodrigues inspired paintings by 2nd graders displayed at local lunch spot, The Munch Co. on Mission Street. The artists said, “we feel famous!”

I see every day what the power of Arts Education brings to a child’s academic repertoire during their formative years, instilling self-confidence, individuality, heightened sensitivity, diverse thinking and solutions, and attention to finite details in complex ways. From these skills, as children advance in age and interest, the Arts represent a natural springboard for further disciplinary study in the fields Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM). It can therefore be argued, that the Arts not only inspire, but also represent one foundational pillar of academic prowess that speaks to our status as a distinguished school district that meets the needs of the whole child.

PHOTO: Sarit Swanborn | | A student creates a still life of fruit

Yet the Visual and Performing Arts remain some of the most vulnerable programs within our school district. As it was five years ago, we continue to face a shortage of state funding today to sustain enriching academic programs. It is the faithful support of the South Pasadena community— an acknowledged partner and champion of academic excellence time and again— that has allowed the Arts to thrive within our schools through each parcel tax cycle. With your support, I can attest that the Visual Arts Program has not only thrived, but has evolved in scope and sophistication. Stimulating art courses that capture a child’s imagination have been developed and implemented over the years, because as a community, we can see the far-reaching implications that stem from quality and diversity of instruction, not only on our campuses, but also within our neighborhoods with respect to property value.

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PHOTO: Sarit Swanborn | | A first grader explores Chinese minimalist design and compostition working with watercolor and bamboo paintbrushes

The momentum that you have helped sustain thus far is establishing powerful roots within our school district as a whole. Currently, Visual and Performing Arts Curricular Pathways are being developed from K-12th Grade, creating a linage of artistic, skill-based instruction from elementary school through senior year of high school, should a student embrace one of these pathways.

PHOTO: Sarit Swanborn | | Fresh flowers expressed in watercolors

If you stand for academic excellence across grade levels and disciplines alike, please Vote Yes on Measure S by February 27th to secure the legacy that the Visual and Performing Arts are establishing within our schools. We need the Arts!

Sarit Swanborn

SPUSD Visual Arts Instructor


Read more about the art program and view more student art in our interview with Sarit Swanborn here. For more information regarding the Visual Arts Program in South Pasadena Unified School District, go to