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Saying yes to creativity

It’s not news that many U.S. schools are slashing funding for arts education, despite the fact that the arts are proven to boost critical thinking and increase test scores. Enter CREATE (Creative Residencies for Emerging Artists Teaching Empowerment) — a student-led group that teaches visual arts, theater, dance, and/or creative writing in local organizations. CREATE pairs students with teaching artists, who mentor them on subjects such as how to design a curriculum and age-appropriate activities.

As a first-year student, Alex Cabana ’19 stumbled upon CREATE’s table at the Calapalooza activities fair. Eight semesters later, as a graduating senior, she’s still teaching weekly classes. Each semester she’s assigned to a different site — from elementary and middle schools to the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, whose adult clients struggle with housing instability — and has taught collage, vegetable stamping, origami, clay, and watercolor.

The students, in turn, inspire Cabana. One adult student worried that she wouldn’t be able to do origami by herself. “But after we worked through the project together, step by step, she was able to produce her own version,” Cabana says. “Art class expands our technical abilities but, more importantly, it ... allows us to show ourselves how capable we really are.”

Cabana had originally planned to become an architect. But her experience with CREATE has prompted her to shift toward searching for a job in museum education. “Often a student will ask if they can take a project in a new direction or incorporate a new material,” Cabana says. “It’s my favorite question — because the answer is always yes.”

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