School of Arts and Culture

Unleashing Multicultural Creativity —

If you have recently wandered into the Mexican Heritage Plaza, you might have been drawn in by the sound of children playing Mariachi music or beating West African drums. Or you might have seen children painting murals or creating Mexican crafts. Welcome to the School of Arts and Culture!

Recently completing its second year of operation, SAC is hitting its stride. Following an extensive community assessment of potential uses for the struggling facility, in 2011 the City of San Jose turned over operation to 1stACT Silicon Valley to launch the School of Arts and Culture.

SAC has transformed the underutilized facility into a hub of community activity in the low-income Mayfair Neighborhood. It recently became an independent nonprofit organization. The centerpiece of the facility is multicultural arts education for K-12 youth, complemented by a variety of community events and programs. Responding to the limited means of the Mayfair families, class fees are highly subsidized, enabling students who would otherwise not have access to the arts to participate. Course themes for summer day camps and afterschool classes are rooted in Mexican and other cultures’ arts, reflecting the rich diversity of Silicon Valley. Performing arts classes include Mariachi instrumental and voice instruction, Folklórico, Aztec dance, Samba, Reggae, Brazilian Dance, Hip-Hop/Break dancing, and West African hand drumming. Visual arts opportunities are also plentiful, offering sculpture, watercolor, mural making, paper maché and Mexican crafts.

Parents and other community members have expressed the appreciation for the new opportunities for their children:

For me as a parent, the classes and camps at the School are a way to conserve our culture, to have my three sons involved in a positive activity, especially during the summer. … I observe the children being able to have more tolerance for other cultures because of these types of activities.
Parent, Mayfair Community

SAC partners with over 20 local arts and community agencies providing the dual benefit of ensuring community access to a wide variety of arts and providing affordable venues to arts organizations, drawing audiences from across the region. Among SAC partners are Teatro Visión, Los Lupeños de San Jose, San Jose Museum of Art, Mariachi Azteca, Symphony Silicon Valley, Future Arts Now and Opera Cultura. As SAC gains visibility and a reputation for high quality inclusive arts, use of the Center has grown commensurately, growing from 280 children receiving arts instruction in 2011 to 578 in 2012.

Deepening their connection with the neighborhood children, SAC also partners with a growing number of local schools and community organizations providing arts instruction, conducting presentations during assemblies and providing venues for schools to hold their assemblies.