Many Angelenos might recognize Inner-City Arts as the place where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge painted with local children and watched a hip-hop dance performance during their trip to Los Angeles in July 2011. The Royal couple -like many viewers at home watching the news footage - were probably unaware that this “oasis of learning, achievement, and creativity” in heart of downtown is actually part of the front line in the ongoing battle to defend arts education.
Earlier this year, persistent budget woes prompted the Los Angeles Unified School District Board to propose eliminating arts education entirely for elementary grades. Thanks to public outcry and a collaborative agreement between the LAUSD Board and United Teachers Los Angeles, the programs were spared though not restored to their previous levels. In the past three years, the arts education branch of LAUSD has been cut by 70%.
Inner-City Arts helps address this gap through its landmark program, Learning & Achievement Through the Arts (LATA), which is the only program of its kind where students primarily from under-served schools are bussed to Inner-City Arts’ gorgeous campus – designed by Michael Maltzan – for what is often the only arts instruction they receive all year.
The program’s name, however, highlights the seemingly constant demand for arts education providers to defend the need, importance, and utility of teaching the arts to students, particularly during times of fiscal crisis. The merits of arts education programs are often defined through improved test scores, graduation rates, and language proficiency – results which Inner-City Arts has proven it can deliver, according to research conducted by UCLA, Harvard University, and the U.S. Department of Education.*
In the accompanying video, co-founder of Inner-City Arts, Bob Bates, makes the case for more intangible (yet equally vital) benefits. He recounts his inspiration for founding the place and why after nearly 30 years of teaching art, he has no plans to retire.
*links to these studies can be found at inner-cityarts.org/why-were-here-research.php
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