ARTS believes all individuals need and deserve opportunities to define who they are and what their purpose is—their true identities—in order to live healthy, resilient and fulfilled lives, which in turn creates healthy and vibrant communities.

This is especially crucial for youth facing adversity, and their low-income communities, both of which are often already assigned negative labels by society.



Youth facing adversity need support to build a positive sense of identity and purpose, which critical to reaching their full potential in life. We believe that the arts and creativity, through guided mentorships are the most powerful avenues through which youth discover who they are and why they matter. In doing so, the arts build hope, self-confidence, resiliency, and 21st century life and work skills among youth. In addition, studies show participation in the arts increase academic scores, leadership skills and civic engagement.


ARTS offers multi-disciplinary informal art experiences and professional skill-building and jobs in a specially equipped ARTS Center and through customized 1:1 or group classes.  A unique and effective sequential program model called Heal (therapeutic arts), Inspire (arts education) and Empower (creative life and career preparation) invites youth to participate “where they are” emotionally, socially, developmentally, and artistically.

This customized program model is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which asserts that individuals must have basic needs met (Heal) before progressing into fulfilled adults contributing to society with purpose (Inspire and Empower).

Core Programs

ARTS offers three core programs, each with unique approaches and outcomes to ensure that youth receive the guidance, training and opportunities they need to succeed.


Therapeutic Arts
  • Small group and 1:1 expression sessions with trained artists
  • Process over product approach
  • Focus on building hope, joy, creativity, and trusting relationships with adult mentors


Arts Education
  • Structured classes with professional artists and educators
  • Formal skill building approach in a variety of mediums
  • Focus on building skills, self-confidence and self-esteem, creativity
  • Field trips and culminating events


Creative Life & Career Preparation
  • Professional and paid apprenticeships with working artists
  • Paid creative industry jobs
  • Focus on 21st Century life and work skills
  • Social Worker oversees Social and Emotional Development, and Career/College Planning
  • Projects emphasize Civic Engagement and leadership

Social Work Team

ARTS expanded its Social Work Team in response to increased need for crisis intervention due to abuse, self-harm and other adversities.  The Social Work Team, which is led by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), assess all youth enrolling into ARTS programs, and place them in appropriate program area.  The Team supports the psychosocial well-being of youth across all programs and collaborates with 100+ community agencies and therapists to reach youth in need.  Children work closely with Social Work Team members at the ARTS Center, and families are involved in crisis intervention and quarterly meetings to assess benchmarks.  The Team delivers therapeutic arts classes to HEAL program participants, trains volunteers, offers on-going professional development sessions to teaching artists, and forms partnerships with graduate school therapeutic arts internship programs to expand the reach of services.

Apprentice Program

The Apprentice Program provides opportunities for youth to participate in paid apprenticeships and employment in creative industries for middle and high school age students. The apprenticeships encourage long-term individual and community change by investing in youth with artistic talent and drive, providing them with life skills, workforce development, paid employment, and artistic training. Since relocating to National City in 2012, ARTS has partnered closely with City leaders.  The partnership has created opportunities for students to apprentice with professional artists and urban planners to develop public artwork, community spaces, and marketable goods and services that involve and improve community.

Products and services include artful bike racks and way-finding signage placed throughout National City, repurposed furniture and home decor, aesthetic and educational community murals throughout San Diego, community gathering places that transform blighted areas, designs for printing on clothing, and the production of ARTS-label music CDs.


We carry all this out by offering the following services to our students and community:

ARTS Center Campus
Community Revitalization
ARTS Enterprises
Community Outreach Initiatives