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Union Square in San Francisco Fosters the Creativity of the Youth

Between the tall structures and continually flowing traffic, music flows through the speakers on the stage where people of all ages dance together. Even on the outskirts of this square, the sounds of various instruments from the street performers can be admired. Tourists and city-natives alike gather at Union Square in San Francisco to witness the expressions of creativity that take place and inspire those around them.

“It’s so communal in the way that people just come together and start moving,” 13-year-old dancer Alice Werthman said. “I think it’s special in a way that you can’t really find anywhere else.

With the overwhelming amount of culture and displays of art in this area, the youth of San Francisco find their own inspiration and encouragement to pursue creativity and their passions. They are allowed to express themselves and learn from those around them in the Square just how great it is to be creative.

 “I love it,” Werthman said. “I mean, I think I wouldn’t be able to dance anywhere else because it is such an artistic city, where there’s like art everywhere you go down the city and there’s just like music playing. I think it’s why I started dancing, like I just started moving to music and never really stopped.”

Union Square is the home to the yearly Heart with Lines performances presented by the Alonzo King Lines Ballet, where children from schools in the area gather to perform dances that they have spent hours working on. Werthman has been dancing for 10 years and this year was her second performing in the Heart with Lines. The spectators with looks of amazement in their eyes have helped her build confidence in performing and encouraged her to keep dancing. 

“I think it’s helpful for them to see the community that they’re around every day and when they’re walking through,” Alonzo King Lines Ballet Admin Isadora Kolmorgan said. “And I think it’s helpful for them to be able to show their artistry to their community and kind of connect with it.”

The artistry in the community at Union Square helps inspire the kids to take their own leaps in performing. For 11-year-old Bryant Aleman, this was his first performance. While it was a nerve-wracking experience for him, this event may have had a really big impact on his life. 

“[Dancing here] made me want to dance more,” Aleman said. “Maybe even become a dancer.”

Being able to perform there is an experience that helps build the confidence of the youth and allows them to connect with their community. This isn’t something that can be experienced everywhere, former Australian high school teacher Rod Wagg credits the American schools for this tradition and experience that they don’t have in Australia.

“I was a high school teacher a long time ago and it’s great to see kids out there, enjoying the sun and dancing,” Wagg said. “Great tradition in American schools.”

These experiences don’t just come from the organized events however, it can be found in the street performers who show up to put their talent on display for the bystanders each day. The courage they have to perform in front of others is admired by those in Union Square, especially the youth. Seeing others perform in the square and the reactions provides inspiration and gives courage to both the street artists and the dancers alike. 

“I think a lot of people come here for tourist kinds of stuff and they come here for the shopping,” Werthman said. “So they’re kind of not exactly here for the dancing and the art that comes here. So I think it’s kind of like a surprise when they see all these celebrations going on.”

The culture and the arts in Union Square are here to inspire the future of the city and foster the creativity in the community. Through the youth’s expression of creativity, they are building upon the culture of the city and showing what it is to live in San Francisco. 

“Culture is what youths need because it teaches them about life and what people do,” Street saxophonist Joe Cohen said. “The arts are a reflection of life. It’s really really important for youths to experience this.”