Jennifer Kuo, who joined our team as Programs Manager in 2020, shares what she learned from our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) as well as a handful of additional tools she gained over the past few years.
To what art form do you feel most connected?
I feel most connected with movement because it is layered with elements of multiple art modalities: playing music to dance to, forming artistic visuals with the body, expressing theatrical emotions through imagination and props, finding poetry within music lyrics, and discovering patterns in choreography. I believe we all hold our issues in our tissues, which is why movement is medicine.
With what populations do you work?
I predominately work with kids teaching yoga. In addition to physical benefits, yoga also includes social, emotional, and cognitive learning and can be incorporated with art modalities.
In what ways have you integrated your training in social emotional arts into the work you are currently doing? What difference has it made?
As the Programs Manager at UCLArts & Healing and a graduate of our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts, I feel at ease and confident in my mastery of our SEA curriculum. I definitely use the SEA language in my everyday speech, practice active listening, show empathy, and do my best to hold virtual space for each cohort.
What does “social emotional arts” mean to you?
I write when I don’t feel like speaking. I listen to music when I need to connect or relax. I dance when I need to release emotions. I color when I need to focus. I drum when I need to feel grounded. And I imagine when I need to escape into another world.
Looking back on the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts, what have been some of the most impactful components of this training for you, personally or professionally?
The Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts was not only a very beneficial professional development training, it was personally rewarding as well. I learned so much about myself, and was grateful to be with other like-minded people who believe in using the arts to help others. This is a safe space for sharing ideas, asking questions, and practicing the skills you learn as a facilitator. I also realized that my work has always revolved around social emotional learning, I just never knew that’s what I was doing! There were times I recalled thinking to myself, “Oh, that’s what that is called!” I also noticed that I had to unlearn some concepts and languaging that many of us experienced or were taught at home and in schools.
What skills did you learn in the SEA program that you use today?
There are so many gems that I discovered: the importance of using the social emotional language, the thoughtfulness of designing a lesson plan, active listening, and scaffolding art modalities—just to name a few!
What are your goals working with social emotional arts?
In addition to advocating for more people to become social emotional arts facilitators, with the rapid rise of evidence-based research on the impact of mindfulness practices and social, emotional, and cognitive learnings—in the future I intend to develop accessible mindfulness programs for diverse populations in under-resourced communities.
Have you experienced any “aha” moments since completing the SEA program?
There were many magical moments, such as learning that facilitating therapeutic arts is about the process and not the product. I’ve realized that with all that we’ve gone through collectively and individually with the pandemic and social injustices, the arts are essential. And we need more people out there helping others cope by using the arts.
Any words of advice to those interested in either taking the SEA Program and/or incorporating social emotional arts into their current profession?
This certificate training will provide more tools for your toolbox. You may gravitate toward one or a few art modalities, yet be open to stretching outside of your comfort zone and you may be pleasantly surprised. Whether you are interested in sharpening your skills or looking for a career pivot, I believe each person—whether you are a classroom educator, therapist, artist, or administrator—will learn something new to take with them. Additionally, you will meet our wonderful instructors and build a community with your cohort and other alumni. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work and learn from our incredible staff, faculty, and witness the growth of each cohort!
You can learn more about Jennifer on LinkedIn.