• Cassie Kaawaloa

Meet Elizabeth Tobias - District 1

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Elizabeth Tobias' purpose revolves around creating positive change. With 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, interdisciplinary artist and mental health professional, she leverages art to create awareness in the community about a wide range of issues.

As both an artist and advocate, Elizabeth is a risk-taker at heart. With an MA in Spiritual Psychology from The University of Santa Monica and a Professional Diploma from The Expressive Arts Institute in San Diego, she has wholeheartedly prepared herself to create game-changing programs and initiatives that confront some of the most serious issues of contemporary life.

Calling her work experimental as well as experiential, Elizabeth says “I work to engage the community in a process that helps to bring awareness to very sensitive issues.” Art is unique in its capacity to provide the tools and platforms for community members to represent their own experiences and aspirations; enable visionary thinking and practice; and bring communities together to engage in challenging conversations that can lead to advocacy, action and change.

Elizabeth has opened hearts and minds, assisted with mental health issues, and addressed and offered relief from traumas. A common thread throughout her career is her unique ability to address cultural and societal issues that impact a broader audience while also affecting smaller groups and individuals. In 2011, she addressed food scarcity with Let Them Eat Cupcakes, an installation exploring the hunger epidemic in America. She set up homemade cupcake pop-up shops, exchanging cupcakes for stories about hunger and homelessness. She earned a Durfee Grant for this exhibition in 2012 and traveled the project nationwide to destinations including Harvard University and The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 2018, the LA Art Association selected Elizabeth to develop an immersive public art project for The LA Art Show. The project, entitled Survivor! 98 Second Stories, centered on pressing and prescient issues like abuse, interpersonal violence and assault. Survivor! is a strong continuation of her multi-faceted approach to art and therapeutic transformation. Tobias’ advocacy on this subject has received commendation from Sen. Kamala Harris, City Council President Pro Tem, Barbara Bry, The ACLU and The San Diego Unified School District Department of Advocacy.

Originally a San Diego native, Elizabeth lived in Los Angeles for 20 years after attending college in France. She relocated to La Jolla in 2013, where she was drawn to the sense of community, the quality of the local schools, the breathtaking landscape and the abundance of visual and performing arts.

Upon her arrival in San Diego, Elizabeth was selected as a Learning Innovation Fellow as part of a National Science Foundation grant project, The Art of Science Learning. This project partnered artists and scientists to develop creative solutions to environmental dilemmas. For Elizabeth, this was the catalyst that changed her career path. The fellowship gave her the opportunity to recognize the potential of art as a tool of change. This inspired her to seek training at The Expressive Arts Institute at Liberty Station to learn to use art as a form of natural medicine. With more and more scientific proof that art therapy is good for improving mental and physical health, doctors have begun “prescribing” patients with creative endeavors like community painting groups or dance workshops. This is a model Elizabeth aims to follow.

La Jolla, a cultural destination in District 1, is brimming with offerings: the Stuart Collection at UCSD, The Atheneum, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, the Murals of La Jolla, the upcoming new expansion of the MCASD, The Riford Library, The Birch Aquarium, The Salk Institute and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Local visual and performing arts businesses such as La Jolla Music, Ooh La La Dance Academy, Kalabash School of the Arts and Parachute Art Studio all offer many varieties of classes and workshops. Local bookstores, such as Warwicks and DG Wills, have a stimulating schedule of book readings and author talks. With some coordination La Jolla could become a California Cultural District, a designation Elizabeth hopes to help this neighborhood achieve.

The restorative benefits of art apply not only to individuals but also to building more flourishing communities. As the Arts and Culture Advisory Council Representative for District 1, Elizabeth will work to create greater engagement between schools, community groups, artists and arts organizations. She aims to build on the foundation she has been laying since 2016, when she piloted a Social Emotional Learning Arts Program for La Jolla High School and La Jolla Elementary.

Representing one of San Diego’s most picturesque districts, Elizabeth is deeply committed to enriching arts and culture in District 1 through new local initiatives and programming that make people fall in love with the arts and recognize, as she has, the innumerable benefits that literature, music, dance, performance and visual art have to offer.