Chat Room with Rosalie Tucker: Creating Cultural Empathy Through the Arts

By Elena Epstein

positive parenting

Rosalie Tucker with daughter, Adelaide. PHOTO COURTESY ROSALIE TUCKER

Rosalie Tucker grew up loving the spotlight. Her passion for dance and performing began at age 5 and continued through college. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in World Arts and Cultures and Choreography at UCLA, she discovered another passion – arts education. For Tucker, dance and theater were always the gatewayS to explore the larger issues of social justice and cultural understanding. As the Head of School and Teacher Programs for the Skirball Cultural Center, she is on a mission to further examine these big issues with thousands of children and educators. Tucker manages a robust education program at the Skirball, connecting students and teachers to inspiring artists and programs to foster creativity, empathy and civic engagement.

Tucker oversees the planning, delivery and evaluation of the Skirball’s gallery- and performance-based programs for students in pre-K through 12th grade, as well as professional development for K-12 teachers. She also manages ongoing coaching and assessment for all school-tour facilitators. Prior to joining the Skirball, Tucker taught arts integration in public schools and worked professionally as a dancer, choreographer and actor.

What is the main focus of the Skirball’s arts education program?

Cultural connection and – at the core level – a human connection. L.A. is such a diverse city with a huge population. Our goal is to bring people closer to share their stories. Through immersive tours that use storytelling and art-making, performance programs, and workshops, we are able to explore individual histories while also exploring universal values that connect us to one another.

Give us an example of some programs that have resonated strongly with students.

The immigrant stories in our tours connect with many students. In particular, the second-grade tour, “Journey Through Time: Stories of the Jewish People,” the fifth-grade tour, “Americans and Their Family Stories,” and a recent exhibition we did on Manzanar sparked a lot of conversation. By using storytelling, we give people a chance to connect with one another and build empathy. For me, and I know for the Education team, those moments of empathy are so powerful. Suddenly, you feel seen and not so alone and you begin to open up about your own personal stories.

You have a 4-year-old daughter. How has motherhood affected your views as an educator?

Being a mom has made every single issue in the world even more profound. My first reaction is always, “How will this affect my daughter?” Social justice and empowering children from a young age to make a difference is even more crucial now. Teaching kids about the value of community, taking care of the Earth, helping others, respecting one another – these are the themes we keep coming back to when creating our programs at the Skirball.

What do you hope visitors take away from the Skirball?

That this beautiful public space is part of their L.A., their community. What I love is that we have families coming from all different parts of the city and we can create an opportunity to share a moment together. I want everyone who comes here to be able to enjoy the exhibits and have fun and at the same time leave with a feeling that we are all working together to do something really good, that we’re having a positive impact on our community.

For more information about the Skirball Cultural Center, visit their website at

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