Social Emotional Arts Spotlight: Julio Hanson


Julio Hanson (he/him/his), SEA Alum – Fall 2020
Principal of Loyola Village Fine and Performing Arts Elementary School

From forging his own artistic journey to empowering students around the globe, Julio Hanson shares how our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) has nurtured his process as a creator and educator.

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

My first memory of singing was standing next to my mother in church. I was 5 years old, and I  sang “There’s Something About that Name”. I love to sing. But I would bet my last nickel (or $20 in modern times) that I came out of my mother’s womb dancing. It seems strange to me today that I never studied dance intensively. I should have. I would have been “the next someone in dance” by now, I think. Today, intensive study in dance is still not in my short-term plan because I have concluded that I am more than a dancer or a singer. And so much more than I might have been if I just focused on one art. I’m not a one-art type of guy. But put on a good song, and I’ll probably dance to it before singing the lyrics. I can’t stay still with good music.


What population(s) do you work with?
I work mainly with African-American and Latino elementary school-age children. But I have had a truly international experience that has included so many children from around the globe. I hope to work more with adult populations at some point.


Podcast with author, Kitty Felde

What does “social emotional arts” mean to you?
There is a sense of fear that can give way to freedom. The fear is triggered by what we think others will think about what they see in us and how they will respond to what they see. But the freedom that you feel from learning how to express yourself through music, dance, art and so many other ways is like building a solid house, the last house that withstood the hurricane, because you faced those turbulent fears head-on. You know what they look like. They spoke to you. You heard them and you recognized them for what they represented at that time. Then you put them in a specific box or place so that you can live the rest of your life completely and fully. That is Social Emotional Arts.


In what ways have you integrated your training from the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) into the work you are currently doing? Have you experienced any “Aha!” moments since completing the program?
All of us need healing from something. It might even be healing from ourselves. At one of my staff meetings, I placed some varied craft materials on a table and asked teachers to create an object that represented them. I learned this from the program, and though I had just done this activity as a participant a few months before, there is nothing like leading your own group through it and trying to remember all of the words to say. Nevertheless, teachers created beautiful artifacts from their thoughts and emotions that spoke for themselves. Fortunately, the “words” became self-evident. I was initially a bit skeptical of the possibilities. I now believe that we can get somewhere as human beings together through the SEA process. 

Today, I reviewed the California Arts Framework in Dance with my teachers. Something prompted me to spontaneously stand up on the Zoom camera and dance with tissue to demonstrate a point. I had done that before in the certificate program and remembered how it felt so fun and liberating. One of the teachers stood up with me and danced. I thought, “Wait, I need to do this for real.” 


Looking back on the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA), what have been some of the most impactful components or skills from this training that you have applied, personally or professionally?
We “Virgos” tend to think product over process. Or maybe that’s just me. The program challenged me to take the time to appreciate the big and the small. I learned to enjoy the moments of the journey. I remember hearing that this was not “therapy” because we are not clinicians, and that we were learning to utilize art forms as therapeutic tools. But I felt comfortable calling it therapy for me. It was truly healing for my soul. For my mind. For my heart. I have become more compassionate from it, and I am grateful that I found a better version of myself in the process.


What do you envision as your future goals for working with social emotional arts?
I am creative. I am a creator. In this regard, I hope to infuse my sense of compassion and love in everything that I do. I think we have enough of the other stuff (the hate, bigotry, judgment, self-pity, isolation, fear, etc.). I have taken my writing more seriously lately, and I frequently think about how I can help others see themselves in the characters or storylines that I create.


Julio Hanson as James Baldwin

Any words of advice to those interested in either taking the Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) and/or incorporating social emotional arts into their current profession?
If there ever was a time to feel free, it is now. With all that is going on in the world, give yourself the gift of focused, concentrated, dedicated time to grow in an area where you think other people are so much stronger than you are. You may realize those other people got there before you, but the race is not over. You have probably been enjoying the process. Your process. And what a joy it is to share it with others.



Learn more about Julio by visiting his website.