"It was Al Williams’ fault, " said Jeri Denniston, co-founder of ArtsBusXpress. Former US Ambassador Albert N. Williams was starting the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society in 1998 or 1999 and pulled together a board that included Patty Smith and Jeri Denniston.
Working together to broaden local understanding of the two cultures (US and Mexico), Al, Jeri, and Patty formed a friendship that has lasted more than 30 years. In 2002, Jeri became president of the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society while working as Community Relations Manager at The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Society was looking for a project to support. During a meeting Patty shared her story about taking a field trip on a school bus from Riverside’s Chemawa Junior High School and how it changed her life, setting her on a path to a life-long love of the arts. She ran an Art Gallery at the time. The project was born. What started as a way to transport children and families across the border for cross-cultural experiences evolved into transporting students to arts venues across San Diego County.
Jeri and Patty hosted a meeting at Patty’s gallery of art venue representatives, school teachers, and San Diego Unified School District’s school bus director. The common thread that arose was the lack of funding for field trip transportation.
They learned that many San Diego Children had never left their neighborhoods or ventured outside the classroom to visit a museum or coastal tide pool. They were equally astonished to find that San Diego school districts did not have the funding to send each county K-12 student on a field trip just once a year.
The mission and purpose had been identified!
The name came next – ArtsBusXpress. Patty tapped one of her artists, Ros Hill, to design the logo, and the rest, as they say, is history!
On October 21, 2002, ArtsBusXpress officially launched as a project of the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society at an outdoor event at Heritage Park in Old Town San Diego. Two busloads of students were brought to the park.
Senator Dede Alpert kicked off the festivities with a proclamation of ArtsBusXpress Day in San Diego. The San Diego Symphony Brass Quartet performed, and Ros Hill flew in from San Marcos, TX, to draw and sign pictures for students to take back to their classes.
Starting as a project to support only San Diego Unified School District schools, ABX quickly expanded to support all districts within San Diego County, thanks to donations from founding donors such as the Linda Brandes Foundation.
On March 16, 2006, ArtsBusXpress officially separated from the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society and became its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Since its founding in 2002, ArtsBusXpress has transported more than 200,000 students on “A Ride to the Arts and Sciences” throughout San Diego County.
Through this effort, ABX is committed to providing students access to rich, integrated in-depth learning experiences outside the classroom at more than 100 regional venues.
The program is available to over 500,000 children in the 42 school districts and 646 schools in San Diego County.
It’s ABout the eXperience!