• Elizabeth Tobias

“Full STEAM Ahead!” with Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

By Elizabeth Tobias

Councilmember Barbara Bry’s creative vision for District 1 and the city of San Diego is rooted in her love of the city, her successful background as a tech entrepreneur, and her long-time support and advocacy of the visual and performing arts.

Reminiscing on her own childhood in Philadelphia, where she had the opportunity to see all of the Broadway plays that previewed locally before they went to New York, Councilmember Bry remembers falling in love with theatre as a young girl. “I particularly love theatre as an art form. It is my all-time favorite.”  Knowing the impact that it made on her own life, she now advocates that all children should be given access to the arts.

“Science, technology, engineering, arts and math all fit together. I say Full Steam Ahead. They are important to bring to every neighborhood. They are part of developing the whole person. The arts play an essential role in developing critical thinking.”

She also underscores the importance of the arts sector to the local economy. “A vibrant art scene helps to create a very healthy economy,” Bry says. According to a study released in 2015 by Americans for the Arts, San Diego’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates over $1 billion in annual economic activity. As Janet K. Poutré, chair of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture explains in the study, “the arts are a powerful force not only for enriching the lives of citizens in a community, but as a driver of economic activity.”

Locally, the nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $894 million dollars in household income for local residents, creates nearly 36,000 local jobs, and delivers $116 million in local and state government revenue.

"A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. The arts mean business,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, on the economic impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences.

The effects of a vibrant arts community also lift the prospects of the entire city.  Councilmember Bry asserts that in order for San Diego to continue developing new creative jobs and businesses, it is critical that the city attracts and retains talent. She says, “People who move to San Diego move or remain here because of our beautiful natural environment, our emerging economic sectors and because of our vibrant art scene. STEAM provides opportunities in empowering the next generation.”

Accessibility is one of Councilmember Bry’s top priorities. She emphasizes that community members of all ages, from school aged children to seniors, should have access to the arts and culture offerings found in District 1 through collaborative relationships between The City of San Diego Arts and Culture Commission, arts organizations, schools, libraries, recreation centers and community centers. 

She acknowledges San Diego Unified School District Superintendent, Cindy Martin for her continued arts advocacy, as well as Doreen Schonbrun, Vice President of the VAPA Foundation board and District 1 Arts Commissioner, for all of the work they do to ensure that all K-12 students have access to arts and culture programming.

With an eye toward the future, she is open to the possibility of La Jolla becoming a California Cultural District. A Cultural District is a well-defined geographic area with a high concentration of cultural resources and activities. Each district helps grow and sustain authentic arts and culture opportunities, increase the visibility of local artists, and promote socio-economic and ethnic diversity through culture and creative expression.

“In a sense, Council Districts are artificial boundaries. I really view San Diego as a whole city. I want people from all over San Diego to enjoy what is offered in District 1. There is The La Jolla Playhouse, The La Jolla Music Society, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, The Athenaeum, The Historical Society, The murals of La Jolla, The upcoming expansion of The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Jewish Community Center, The LOT Theatre and performances at La Jolla High by various organizations. And, there is UCSD, which is an arts hub in itself.”

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