county boards
Riverside COE students experience the healing power of the arts during quarantine

The week following the closure of all 500-plus schools in Riverside County due to COVID-19, Superintendent of Schools Judy D. White discussed with a group of employees how the closures might affect students. White shared an idea that art might be a great way for students to express themselves and help process this disruption to their lives. Eight days later, still in the midst of work-from-home transitions, the Art Connects virtual student arts competition was officially announced.

Promotions were launched, local artists were tapped as judges and the Riverside County Office of Education Foundation secured prizes. Weekly winners from multiple age groups and their inspiring work were highlighted on the RCOE website and social media, and information was distributed to local media. Students’ work was also shared with educators to keep them connected with the organizational mission of serving students.

More than 1,300 student creations of poetry, visual arts, dance, theater, videos and music shared artistic expressions of change, possibility, kindness, persistence, connections and hope. The project garnered interest as other county offices of education, school districts and arts organizations across the state began contacting the Art Connects team for tips on creating similar programs for their students.

“Despite the closure of schools, students in Riverside County continued creating, dreaming and expressing their ideas through their own unique talents and abilities,” White said. “Artistic expression is a healthy way for students to process their feelings, exercise their creative abilities and expand their understanding of a changing world. These expressions have the power to uplift others and bring meaning to their life and the lives of others during challenging times.”

Feedback from students and parents revealed the power of the arts to motivate students, develop confidence, refine skills and practice using the arts as a social and emotional outlet to process what was happening in their world.

Despite the disruption of students’ school routines, the program helped meet their needs — even if unspoken or unidentified — and developed creative and technical skills in innovative ways. This program illustrates how educators can focus on student experiences despite the tumultuous upheaval of a pandemic.

A composite image of a student donning their grad cap and a mask
First place in visual arts
The reviews are in!
  • “This was a great experience for my kids. They learned about filmmaking, editing, narration and persistence. This was a wonderful way to learn a lot … thank you for the opportunity!”
  • “Thank you for this program, it has been the only thing that gets my daughter out of bed every morning and it is pretty much all she talks about.”
  • “This has been the highlight of my whole quarantine time!”