Arts Advocates: Socorro Vasquez
Q&A with Socorro Vasquez
Socorro Vasquez is a community leader who is passionate about bringing arts to young people across Orange County and has been involved with the Claire Trevor School of the Arts for more than 15 years. She is a board member emeritus of The Wooden Floor, which inspires young people through dance and access to college scholarships; a trustee emeritus of the South Coast Repertory; and a past board member of the Smithsonian Latino Center. She and her husband, Ernesto, were founding members of the Orange County Hispanic Education Endowment Fund.
Q. Why are the arts important to you?
SV: I grew up in a very difficult household, and the only time I knew everything was OK was when I heard my dad playing operettas on the old record player. Art helps people emotionally and it helps them along their difficult journeys. When I come across a painting or a song that’s meaningful to me, I feel it inside, this wave of joyfulness. Now, music is used as a therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s, and kids do better in school when they are involved in the arts. There’s more that the arts do for people than we have even discovered yet.
Q. Why is it important to you to help young people to find their voice through the arts?
SV: I always believe you should put your efforts into children at the beginning of their education, when you have more influence. Art helps them in school by getting their brains working in a different way where it expands and it becomes more creative. Graduates from Wooden Floor who have gone to college and developed careers come back to mentor the current students, and they always acknowledge that the Wooden Floor was instrumental in their success.
Q. How have you seen the local arts community evolve over the years?
SV: We’ve had some visionaries in the community, like the Segerstroms, who put us on the map with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and then elevated the whole community because they helped involve and expose children to the arts. Also smaller community theaters are reaching into places where people haven’t been as engaged in the arts. I see a lot more arts programs in the community, many more summer and school arts education opportunities than in the past. I hardly hear artists from LA refer to us as being on the other side of the “Orange Curtain” anymore, and I think that’s because we have wonderful venues and programs now.
Q. You serve on the UCI-OC Alliance, which supports UCI as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). How do you see CTSA and the arts playing a role in this initiative?
SV: We need more arts classes and workshops in the community that reach students at vulnerable ages. The UCI-OC Alliance can connect the dots with the school districts and funders to give students access to the arts as a growing experience. It’s a universal language for people to experience and grow from, and the brain starts expanding when you engage with arts.
Q. You and your husband, Ernesto, were honored with the Visionary Arts Patrons Award by Arts Orange County in 2019. What is your vision for the future of the arts in Orange County?
SV: We need to get more people to understand and support the arts and artists; make them understand that art is just as important as any subject in school. We need to teach the families why the arts are important for them and their children. Arts can be a bridge to taking care of the community through creative expression.
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