CoTA is a professional development program that tackles the possibilities of making the arts a lively, essential, and ongoing aspect of elementary school education. CoTA is based on the belief that integrating the visual and performing arts into other content areas promotes engagement, accessibility, and relevance for students. Since its inception in 1998, CoTA has collaborated with 1,200 teachers and more than 25,000 students at 33 schools from 5 districts throughout San Diego County.


Board of Directors

  • Lucille Neeley | president
  • Hans Schoepflin | treasurer
  • Sally Yard | secretary

Staff and Artists

  • Dennis Doyle | executive director
  • Danielle Reo | program director
  • Rich Cimino | program assistant/photographer
  • Kristin Rosevear | digital content coordinator
  • April McBride | lead artist/program coordinator
  • Danielle Michaelis Castillo | lead artist
  • Leonardo Francisco | lead artist
  • Annika Nelson | lead artist
  • Reneé Weissenburger | lead artist
  • Amanda Banks | teaching artist
  • Jodi Brisebois | teaching artist
  • Christine Carino | teaching artist
  • Carmela Castrejon | teaching artist
  • Iain Gunn | teaching artist
  • Evie Mantone | teaching artist
  • Patrick McBride | teaching artist
  • Ernest McCray | teaching artist
  • Sarah Reece-Cusey | teaching artist
  • Albert Songalia | teaching artist
  • Christina Thurston | teaching artist
  • Natalia Valerdi-Rogers | teaching artist


  • Featured Works
  • What We Do
  • How We Do It
View all Student Works

CoTA encourages learning-in-action and exploring new ways to integrate arts learning with other curricula such as literacy, history, science, and math. By enhancing the curriculum with new approaches using the arts, students are engaged in learning through two or more of the seven intelligences famously outlined by psychologist Howard Gardner (such as bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, logical-mathematical, and linguistic). Through CoTA projects, students are encouraged to work in groups, thus learning collaborative skills, sharpening problem-solving skills, listening/responding to each other during presentations and performances, developing their humanistic side (development of the whole child), and engaging in learning through the arts.

Each collaborative project is hand-tailored to meet the needs of a particular class. CoTA projects offer a variety of approaches and benefits. By incorporating the arts into the existing curriculum, teachers challenge students with the task of establishing a deeper connection to the units at hand.

Unlike traditional artists-in-residence programs, where the project is dependent upon the presence of the artist, CoTA seeks to provide teachers with creative strategies, which they may use to create arts-rich classroom learning contexts long after the initial project has ended. Instead of simply working with a teacher once, CoTA collaborates for three ten-week sessions over the course of three years. During year one, teachers learn how arts integration can enhance and extend student learning in other curricular areas and how to engage multiple intelligences while collaborating with a CoTA artist. In year two, teachers continue to connect arts to the existing standards while assuming a larger role in directing the project. By the third year, teachers take the lead while an artist provides support.

Repeatedly, we have witnessed the power of the arts to ignite a genuine interest in learning other core content material. It has been well observed by teachers and principals alike that visual and performing arts, particularly when woven into core academic area content, can improve students’ communication skills, nurture varied modes of intelligence, sharpen critical thinking, develop students’ practice of judgment, encourage imaginative problem solving, and intensify skills of observation. As well, many CoTA projects foster teamwork, nourish the practice of negotiation, and teach the value of process.


  • Sponsors
  • Partners
  • Schools


  • City of Chula Vista Office of Cultural Arts
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • US Department of Education


  • Panta Rhea Foundation
  • San Diego Foundation
  • The Lucille and Ronald Neeley Foundation
  • The McCarthy Family Foundation
  • Satterberg Foundation


  • Certé Group
  • Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek
  • The Walt Disney Company
  • US Bank
  • Wells Fargo Foundation
  • Heidi Bergener | principal | San Miguel Elementary School, LGSD
  • James Catterall | director | Centers for Research on Creativity, UCLA
  • Joseph Frescatore principal | Kit Carson Elementary School, SDUSD
  • Jodi Greenberger | principal | Park Dale Lane Elementary School, EUSD
  • Jeremy Lyche | principal | Flying Hills Elementary School, CVUSD
  • Mike Seal | director | Explorer Elementary Charter School, HTH
  • Explorer Elementary Charter School, High Tech High (HTH)
  • Flying Hills Elementary School, Cajon Valley Union School District (CVUSD)
  • Kit Carson Elementary School, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD)
  • Park Dale Lane Elementary School, Encinitas Union School District (EUSD)
  • San Miguel Elementary School, Lemon Grove School District, (LGSD)



UT San Diego Features CoTA

UT San Diego featured CoTA and our work with the National School District, which has earned the CoTA Program a Golden Bell Award. The article highlights a plant life cycle CoTA lesson in progress and how art fits in to the Common Core.


San Miguel Elementary Selected for Collaboration

CoTA has selected San Miguel Elementary from the Lemon Grove School District for Collaboration starting in Winter 2015.



CoTA Presents at the Arts Empower – MEGA Conference

The Arts Empower – MEGA Conference is a “mega” collaboration between VAPA content areas including music, drama and visual art. CoTA will present on making math fun through art, stepping into historical figures’ shoes through composition, and on the issues with arts assessments and how to apply creative assessment.



CoTA Launches Beacon School Three Year Initiative

CoTA has selected three San Diego County public elementary schools to receive approximately $200,000 each in professional development training. A several different individuals and foundations are funding the three-year initiative. Park Dale Lane in Encinitas, Explorer Charter in Point Loma, and Flying Hills in El Cajon, were selected as “Beacon Schools.”  The project will involve professional development workshops and one-on-one collaborations between artists and teachers over three years. CoTA artists will train classroom teachers and parents in arts-infused instructional methodologies that are aligned with critical thinking and 21st century learning skills.


CoTA collaborates with CRoC

James Catterall and CRoC Associates Partner with CoTA

CoTA is launching its three year initiative to integrate the arts in schools. CoTA artists will train classroom teachers and parents in arts-infused instructional methodologies that are aligned with critical thinking and 21st century learning skills. Joining the initiative is Professors James S. Catterall of University of California and his team from the Centers for Research on Creativity (CRoC). Dr. James Catterall’s research focuses on the roles of the arts in human development. As a well known researcher, he has published numerous articles and books. Dr. Catterall and the CRoC team have joined the CoTA three year Beacon School initiative as research partners to determine the effect of arts integration as a learning tool.


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CoTA Presents at the UCSD-EDS-CREATE Conference

At the UCSD-EDS-CREATE Conference: Implementing Innovative Strategies in the Era of the Common Core and NGSS, more than 350 educators gathered to learn about the Common Core State Standards and New Generation Science Standards from local educational leaders and each other. At the conference CoTA Executive Director, Dennis Doyle, presented about the importance of incorporating the Common Core anchor standards into an instructional design that honors students as critical thinkers and creative makers. His presentation explored how arts-infused pedagogy allows students to construct, demonstrate, and communicate their understanding of academic content through an art form, serving as evidence of learning.



CoTA Presents at the 61st Annual Young Audiences National Conference

At the National Conference, a gathering of arts education leaders and practitioners from around the region and the country, CoTA and Young Audiences San Diego presented their work of implementing an arts integration grant. Working in a strategic partnership, CoTA and Young Audiences San Diego provided sustained and intensive professional development to 40 elementary school teachers. Educators were able to explore arts integration as an instructional methodology and transformed their teaching.



CoTA Presents at the California Association for Bilingual Education Annual Conference, 2014

At CABE 2014: Creating Multilingual Magic – Success for English Learners through the Common Core, the new ELD Standards, Technology, and the Arts, CoTA presented outcomes of an evaluation of teacher professional development and the impact of arts-infused pedagogy in an elementary school district with 67% English Learners.



CoTA Presents at the High Impact Practices: Interdisciplinary Collaborations and Creative Connections

The High impact practices: Interdisciplinary collaborations and creative connections, an Experiential Learning conference, brought together those who would like to develop creative ideas related to interdisciplinary collaborations and the expansion of high impact education practices. CoTA presented the best practices established through our collaborations with artists and teachers. We also discussed findings from our research partners in the Education Studies Department at UCSD to demonstrate the impact this interdisciplinary work has had on student achievement.


Baeza Philippines Box

CoTA Partners with National School District

CoTA continues Collaborations program with National School District. During the 2013-14 school year, CoTA will work with 64 teachers and nearly 1,572 students, grades K-6.



CoTA Partners with National School District

CoTA continues Collaborations program with National School District. During the 2012-13 school year, CoTA will work with 86 teachers and nearly 1,877 students, grades K-6.


Reyes Savannah Assemblage

CoTA Partners with National School District

CoTA launches Collaborations program with National School District. During the 2011-12 school year, CoTA will work with 74 teachers and nearly 1,864 students, grades K-6.


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CoTA Initiates Full-Scale Program at Palmer Way School

CoTA launches Collaborations program school-wide at Palmer Way School. This is the first school in the National School District to commit to the full-scale program. During the 2010-11 school year, CoTA will work with 18 teachers and nearly 450 students, grades K-6.



CoTA Announces New Executive Director

Noted educator and educational reformer Dennis Doyle joins CoTA as executive director.  Previously, Doyle has served as the superintendent of the National School District, the assistant superintendent of Chula Vista Elementary School District, principal at two schools, and a teacher. Doyle is a nationally recognized authority on charter schools, systemic reform, and developing strategies that support linguistically diverse student populations.


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CoTA Hosts Exhibition at Chula Vista Library

Chula Vista Library’s South Branch exhibits Collaborations projects created by K-6 students at schools in Chula Vista, National City, and San Diego. Assemblage, theatrical scripts, photographs, installations, and altered books are among the works represented.



CoTA Partners with National School District

CoTA initiates a pilot version of Collaborations in National City, teaming artists with 11 teachers at John Otis, Kimball, Las Palmas, Rancho de la Nación, Central, Ira Harbison, Lincoln Acres, and Olivewood schools. (Teachers from El Toyon and Palmer Way join CoTA in fall 2009.)



CoTA Becomes Independent Nonprofit

After a successful ten-year tenure under the aegis of Installation Gallery, CoTA becomes an independent 501(c)3 organization to focus on program expansion.



CVESD/CoTA Partnership Receives Third NEA Grant for Program Expansion

With its third award from the National Endowment for the Arts, CoTA expands to three schools, Joseph Casillas Elementary, Fred Rohr Elementary and Daly Academy, enabling it to serve 20 percent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District.


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CoTA Expands to Two Schools in Chula Vista

Clear View Charter and Salt Creek Elementary join CoTA in an effort to bring arts integration to new heights in Chula Vista.



CoTA Adds Twelfth School

CoTA offers artist-led workshops and in-class coaching to teachers at Perry Elementary in Paradise Hills.


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CoTA and USD Establish Multiple Literacies Program at Cherokee Point Elementary

CoTA collaborates with Kathleen Collins, assistant professor at the University of San Diego (USD), to establish a multiple literacies context at the new San Diego school Cherokee Point Elementary in City Heights.


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CVESD/CoTA Receive Second NEA Award

CoTA and the Chula Vista Elementary School District receive second National Endowment for the Arts grant for continued program expansion in Chula Vista.


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CoTA Reaches “Ten Schools” Milestone

CoTA expands programs to Olympic View Elementary in Chula Vista  (Collaborations) and Jack Kimbrough Elementary in Sherman Heights (San Diego City Schools’ Model Arts Program).


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CVESD/CoTA Partnership Receives NEA Award

The Chula Vista Elementary School District receives a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for Arts to expand its partnership with CoTA.


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CoTA Adds Eighth School

CoTA begins work at Greg Rogers Elementary, a unique campus that provides instruction to the majority of the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s special needs students, as well as neighborhood children.


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CoTA Hires Kathleen Collins as Director of Research

Kathleen Collins, associate professor of education at the University of San Diego, becomes CoTA’s director of research. (She conducts a three-year study tracking CoTA’s impact on student learning and teaching practice at schools in Chula Vista.)


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CoTA Expands to Florence Elementary

In conjunction with the Model Arts Program of the San Diego Unified School District, CoTA begins work at Florence Elementary in Hillcrest.


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CoTA Participates in San Diego’s Model Arts Program

CoTA joins efforts with the Visual and Performing Arts Department of the San Diego Unified School District to provide training in arts integration to fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary.


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CoTA Partners with Chula Vista Elmentary School District

Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest elementary school district in California, becomes the second district to partner with CoTA. Hilltop Drive Elementary and Myrtle Finney Elementary are the first two schools to practice CoTA’s methodology.


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CoTA Adds Third School

CoTA extends professional development training to Bayview Terrace Elementary in Pacific Beach.


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CoTA Expands to Sessions Elementary

Allan Richmond, principal of Kate Sessions Elementary and former vice principal of Walker Elementary, invites CoTA to work with teachers at Sessions Elementary in Pacific Beach.



Installation Gallery Inaugurates the CoTA Program

Installation Gallery, originator of the binational inSite exhibitions, establishes a collaborative artist/teacher program at Mary Chase Walker Elementary in San Diego’s Mira Mesa neighborhood. The program aims to provide teachers with accessible strategies for integrating arts into the existing curriculum.