Students’ ARTS work design greets tourists, travelers

Students participating in ARTS gain skills that increase their potential for developing life and career skills.

After travelers touchdown at the San Diego International Airport, they’ll be greeted by prototypes for potential immersive airport seating designed by local youth designers, thanks to a collaboration between the airport and ARTS, A Reason to Survive.

ARTS is a National City based creative youth development organization that aims to help young people gain the skills and creative confidence to navigate through life’s challenges, develop positive relationships, thrive in the workforce and build equitable communities.
San Diego International Airport partnered with ARTS through DesignAHEAD, a pilot program created by the airports’ arts program that aims to showcase local students’ artwork and develop the next generation of innovators.

Julius Joplin, a 15-year-old sophomore at Mar Vista High School, is one of 19 ARTS youth designers from seven different Sweetwater High School District Schools that took part in Design­AHEAD.

“I’m really happy because thousands of people, thousands of people come through that terminal everyday and they’re going to take away something that they’ve never thought about or that they’re learning about which is tuna in San Diego,” Joplin said.

After looking for opportunities to put his woodworker and craftsmen skills to use, Julius got involved in ARTS last June.

He said more than 100 hours went into creating his prototype, which pays tribute to his Sicilian heritage and his passion for fishing, and strives to inform San Diego goers about the history of the tuna industry in San Diego.

While creating his prototype, Joplin said he had to make sure his immersive seating plan would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and accommodate both children and adults.

His full project encompasses a to-scale model of the seating arrangement, historical context and an explanation of the creation process including insight about how the design is family-friendly and allows for privacy.

“My favorite part was probably the exposure to new tools that I don’t have access to here at home because they have a really good shop at this ARTS program, an outstanding shop. It has everything you could wish for,” Joplin said.

He added that ARTS has given him the support of mentors to pursue art seriously, develop his thoughts and bring his ideas to life.

San Diego International Airport Arts Program Manager Lauren Lockhart said the way ARTS empowers students to use art to change their communities closely aligns with the Design­AHEAD program goals, making the partnership a perfect fit.

DesignAHEAD falls into the temporary exhibition component of the airport’s arts program, which consists of public art and performing arts components as well. The exhibit featuring ARTS youth designers’ seating prototypes will be up at the airport through March.

“We’re really trying to encourage these aspiring artists and designers to try out the design process and help them think about the power of design in public spaces,” Lockhart said. She added that the DesignAHEAD program gives students the opportunity to work like a professional designer with a client.

Before diving into the prototype creation process, Lockhart explained that students had an orientation where they met with design and construction staff, arts program staff and the operations team at the airport and had the opportunity to explore the airport.

“We use the art vehicle to welcome folks to the region and so I think this does that really nicely by showcasing the work of local students and talent we have right here, home grown talent,” Lockhart said.

Through DesignAHEAD, the San Diego International Airport has also partnered with San Diego City College, High Tech High School Chula Vista, Southwestern College and the University of San Diego over the past couple of years.

Lockhart said in the future, the airport’s arts program plans to formalize DesignAHEAD beyond it being a pilot program and extend its reach to other local schools in San Diego across a variety of grade levels.

“Our long-term lofty goal for this program is that were helping to cultivate the next generation of designers and especially that might lend their talent to the aviation field,” Lockhart said.

Participating schools included: Sweetwater High School, Hilltop High School, Chula Vista High School, Olympian High School, Mar Vista High School, Castle Park High School, Otay Ranch High School.