• Cassie Kaawaloa

Meet Natalia Valerdi-Rogers

Natalia Valerdi-Rogers serves as an advisor to the Arts & Culture: San Diego Community Advisory Council through the lens of collaboration. Her career has evolved through crossing boundaries, whether cultural, political or conceptual. She was born in Mexico City and raised in the

near-border town of Ensenada, Mexico and later San Diego, CA. She lived abroad throughout her career, but her love for the rich diversity of the coastal borderland has set her roots in San Diego.

Natalia’s early artistic career dissolved the intersections of video projection design, contemporary dance, and arts education. She completed a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of California, San Diego where she participated in the university’s first Crossing Boundaries class. She later

received an M.F.A. in Dance and Technology from the University of California, Irvine, and toured a guest artist and guest lecturer to Latin America, Europe, and throughout Southern California for over 15 years.

Natalia served as Associate Director of the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective (PRDC) for ten years. The collaboration produced dance and film work focused on research around border cultures, the immigration debate and the American Dream. She produced PRDC’s Salon Dances Series and the Blurred Borders Dance Festival, and toured throughout Europe, including a stop at TANZINOLTEN festival in Switzerland. They also researched the impact of cultural displacement on indigenous women in Central Mexico.

Natalia’s dedication to arts education evolved through her work as lecturer for dance and technology at the University of California, San Diego and adjunct instructor at San Diego City College and Southwestern College. She volunteered her time to mentor students at critical junctions in their education as artists. She also worked in K-12 schools, mentoring public school teachers throughout San Diego County as a teaching artist with Collaborations of Teachers and Artists. Later, as program manager with Arts for Learning San Diego, she worked with dozens of school district leaders and principals to customize arts education programs for their schools.

As a working dance artist/educator/administrator, Natalia’s focus shifted to her local community. She noticed there was no single dance collaborative in the San Diego area. With the intent to change this she attended an arts and culture conference in Los Angeles, where she first heard the term “ecosystem” being used to describe the cluster of arts organizations within a city. It changed her view of the arts landscape away from competition. Soon after, San Diego Dance Connect (SDDC) was born to strengthen the dance community by providing opportunities to network, communicate, advocate, and share resources. Natalia served on the inaugural SDDC Board for three years, and later participated in the Arts Think Tank for the City of Chula Vista. The shape of San Diego’s arts and culture ecosystem was changing.

Natalia currently works on raising the voices of underrepresented communities as Education and Community Productions Manager at the Media Arts Center San Diego (MACSD), where youth are taught to become conscious producers of media. In her role she manages film education programs for youth, and also facilitated Little Saigon Stories, a multimedia exhibit documenting the Vietnamese-American community living in San Diego’s Little Saigon District. Through a cross-collaboration of Districts 3 and 9, she brought together arts, culture and business partners to develop community engagement opportunities and activate neglected spaces.

Natalia also facilitates Speak City Heights, a collaboration between KPBS, VOSD, the AjA Project and MACSD with support from the California Endowment to amplify the voices of City Heights residents, one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods.

As a member of the Arts+Culture: San Diego Community Advisory Council, Natalia is looking forward to making collaborations visible and documenting what makes them successful to support continued artistic collaborations across communities and mediums. In doing so, she hopes to reveal the interconnections within San Diego’s cultural ecosystem to inform the creation of the City of San Diego’s Cultural Master Plan.