Social Emotional Arts Spotlight: Lydia Glenn-Murray

Lydia Glenn-Murray, Director of 2727 California.

Lydia Glenn-Murray, SEA Alumni – Summer 2017
Nonprofit director, arts educator

Lydia Glenn-Murray, Director of Berkeley based 2727 California, shares how she believes “creativity and curiosity are for all people” and how training in social-emotional arts has guided her decision making for intergenerational arts programming. 

To what art form do you feel most connected? How did you become connected to it?

I grew up drawing, painting, making little sculptures, and sewing. I then went on to study visual art in college. Lately though, I have been drawn to poetry. I turn to poetry first in times of suffering. I love the material spareness of it—so much power from so few materials. In order to experience so many art works fully, it feels like I have to physically go to them. While googling is useful, it is not a replacement for traveling to a museum to look at an exhibition of paintings. Whereas with a poem, if you look it up online or get the book from the library, or hear it out loud, or even memorize it, it’s like you have it with you in some way. Kinda like it comes to you, and that it’s complete and not just a copy. I’m really appreciating that feeling. I have an E.E. Cummings poem memorized,  and I say it to myself almost every morning and I feel like the poem is with me, not just an image of it.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of allnothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Group photo after kids propped their ladders and hung their “Today” flags on 2727 California building.

With what populations do you work?

I run an art space in South Berkeley called 2727 California and we serve our neighborhood community. We are an all-ages space, and we have lots of programs that are for both kids and are  intergenerational (not just kids with guardians, but really an age inclusive community space). All of our programs are free and open to the public.

In what ways have you integrated your training in social emotional arts into the work you are currently doing? What difference has it made?

Campers trying on their courage themed self portrait puppets.

We take on ambitious projects to create amazing experiences and build confidence, collaboration, and wonder. I collaborate deeply with a partner Frank Traynor, founder of No School, on much of the lesson planning, and we also bring in other guest artists on a regular basis. My SEA training has really helped me to collaborate in lesson planning. I learned to plan lessons around specific goals, which has become the north star for strategic decision making. For example, during Storytelling Week at Summer Camp we worked with a professional storytelling to guide us in telling stories from our own lives with the them of courage. We created puppets as self-portraits of each kid and their stories of courage. We had a parade where we all wore our puppets and danced in the street.

Camper holding her batik “Today” flag before dye vat.

What does “social emotional arts” mean to you?

Social emotional arts, in some ways, means returning to the true power of art. Coming from a stint in the art world, I had to shed some ideas of art related to economic investment and social capital. Centering the social emotional qualities of art making means returning to the reasons I made art in the first place and what’s at stake in it, like creativity, curiosity, freedom, space, and self-acceptance. It’s like a homecoming. 

Looking back on the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA), what have been some of the most impactful components of this training for you, personally or professionally?

Campers working on building ladders to hang up their “Today” flags.

I remember we started off the Certificate Program with introductions. It sounded like we were going to perform for one another and I felt a bit apprehensive. We were guided through different stages of the process, with so much gentleness and consideration, that by the end I felt so brave and satisfied, and amazed that I had gotten from point “a” to point “b” so smoothly. The amount of consideration and empathy that went into that process seemed so skillful. This type of facilitation demonstrated how important it is to understand where people are at when they walk into the room to really support them to bloom. I remember we were asked to stand in front of everyone and say our name, an observation, and finish by the phrase, “and that’s okay. “I am Lydia. There is a broom in the back left corner. And that’s okay.” I repeated “and that’s okay” like a mantra for weeks after this and found it so incredibly soothing – light and humorous and profound.

What are your goals working with social emotional arts?

Letting go of ideas of success, failure, deservedness, and experiencing the freedom and joy of creativity, wonder, connection, and self love!

Freshly dyed “Today” flags drying in the sun on California Street.

Any words of advice to those interested in either taking the Certificate Program and/or incorporating social emotional arts into their current profession?

Creativity and curiosity are for all people. If anyone is feeling drawn to this work I would give them a  big yes, go for it, it is healing work and that can happen inside of any profession and person.


Learn more about 2727 California by visiting their
website or following them on Instagram.