Inner-City Arts meets the need of a community truly in need – arts education for the children of working class families of inner city Los Angeles. The organization bridges socio-economic gaps by connecting with key influential individuals, such as Mayor Richard Riordan and Michael Maltzan. Their service has been ongoing for more than 12 years and affects a positive impact on the children they serve and their families, as is evident through improved test scores and behavior. Finally, they use truly innovative and cutting-edge techniques to provide the students with the most positive experience possible.
Inspired by the idea that art is an invaluable educational tool, co-founders Bob Bates and Irwin Jaeger established Inner-City Arts in 1989. In response to severe funding cuts for art instruction in Los Angeles area public schools, the founders solicited the support of business leaders and educators in the community to establish a center that would bring the arts back to school curricula. A structured series of innovative bilingual arts courses was carefully developed to meet the specific needs of students at one downtown elementary school.
Since the organization’s inception, Inner-City Arts has grown from working with just one school in temporary facilities to serving 11 schools in a state-of-the-art six-classroom/studio campus. The facility currently accommodates courses in ceramics, dance, music, visual art, animation and drama for 8,000 students each year and affords each child the opportunity to explore the arts through hands-on activities in a real artist’s studio environment.
Programs have also been initiated to serve local children after regular school hours and on weekends. In addition, a series of workshops and events geared toward greater family involvement in the learning process are now provided by Inner-City Arts.
Inner-City Arts’ primary objective is to make a difference in the lives of inner-city children. The mission of Inner-City Arts is to foster the most progressive and effective arts education possible. It is the organization’s goal to maintain a culture that rewards innovative thinking, hired dedicated, visionary staff and enables them to flourish in a unique physical environment. In addition, close ties are maintained with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the educational standards established therein.
The ethnic makeup of Inner-City Arts’ students population is: 4.3% African American, 9.23% Asian, .87% Caucasian, .26% Filipino, 84.96% Latino and .25% Native American. Seventy-eight percent of the children served are classified by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as English Learners with limited English language proficiency. These children are among the nation’s neediest. More than 90% of Inner-City Arts students are in the free or reduced lunch (Title I) program.
Inner-City Arts, and the 11 schools served by the center, are located in the heart of the Los Angeles Downtown Industrial District. Most of the children live in an environment with violence and crime. Poverty and homelessness exacerbate the challenges students face each day. Students classified by LAUSD as homeless (their permanent address changes every 30 days) attend many of the schools served by Inner-City Arts; at one of the participating schools, 33% of the student body is considered homeless.