Agency of Assets – Incubating LA’s Future Arts Leaders

ICA LA’s Agency of Assets program introduces youth to professions in the arts to foster a diverse and inspired arts workforce for tomorrow and shape the course of LA’s creative potential. Agency of Assets provides high school students from Downtown, East LA, and South LA paid summer jobs, workshops, excursions, and one-on-one consultation and mentoring. This seven-month diversity pipeline program engages local arts institutions, creative businesses, artists, community organizations, and the City of Los Angeles to serve 15 students each year.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Agency of Assets (AoA) addresses the lack of diversity in the arts, especially in leadership. People of color now comprise 69% of LA County’s population, but its largest cultural institutions do not yet reflect this reality. This disparity can be attributed in part to arts leaders not committing sufficient resources to enact systemic changes and narrow visions for our collective future. In a 2018 American Alliance of Museums study, Dr. Johnetta Cole explained, “The need for seeking and sustaining diversity has never been greater... All of our museums must boldly commit to rethinking what takes place in our museums, to whom our museums belong, and who the colleagues are who have the privilege of telling important stories.” The 2015 Mellon Foundation Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey found that people of color only hold 16% of museum leadership positions in the US and called for “diverse educational pipelines” to these positions to achieve “truly diverse staff and inclusive cultures.”

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Agency of Assets addresses the lack of diversity in the arts by shifting the opportunity disparity for local youth today and incubating a diverse and inspired arts workforce for tomorrow. The program empowers underserved youth through: - Personal Agency and Community Empowerment: AoA is offered at a critical and formative period of young people’s development to recognize and grow their capacity as creative leaders, civic stakeholders, and community advocates. - Important professional skills: As their first real-world experience in the creative sector, students develop essential work skills, including: using software/hardware, verbal and written communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, office management, and workplace attire. - Understanding of the arts sector: Art projects, direct encounters with arts leaders, and immersive professional experiences give participants an understanding and appreciation for the range of arts organizations that make up the cultural sector--museums, commercial galleries, artist-run spaces, and studios, as well as the businesses that support them--and introduces them to the professional roles in creative development, production, conservation, communications, publishing, fundraising, relationship management, and administration. - Financial literacy: Students, all of whom come from LMI households, receive training to develop fiscal survival skills, such as how to exercise good judgment about earning, spending, investing, and saving.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 200

Indirect Impact: 30,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The success of Agency of Assets will play an integral and significant role in creating a vibrant, equitable, accessible, and inclusive arts industry in Los Angeles County that truly reflects and aligns with the diverse populations it serves. As a member of the City of Los Angeles’ Invest in Youth Coalition, our goal is for alumni to pursue and complete academic careers and attain professional and economic mobility, leading to greater potential for gainful, steady employment, financial independence, and healthy families and communities. By entering and committing to the arts workforce, AoA alumni will be leaders in the cultural sector who will ensure that it remain diverse and inclusive for many generations to come. By diversifying the creative labor force, arts organizations will support the work of those who have been marginalized in the past, tell the stories of diverse communities, and commit to structural change that will make these institutions truly equitable.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

“I always think about my time with AoA and the Ball-Nogues Studio. It was there that I found out that architecture is where I belong.” - Angel Simental (2019) studies architecture at Santa Monica College, and founded a chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students. Total number of internship placements: 31 = 11 students (2017), 9 (2018), and 11 (2019). Total number of host sites: 17 Following our 3-year pilot period, AoA is already making an impact. 100% of AoA’s 13 high school seniors are now attending university (54%) or community college (36%). Of the 54% already working on art career paths, 18% still work at their AoA site. ICA LA will continue collecting qualitative and quantitative data on college attendance, employment status, and alumni retention. AoA will deepen its student/alumni engagement, expand its partnership network, build bridges to extant diversity pipelines, and hire a program evaluation consultant.

Which of the CREATE metrics will you impact?​

Employment in the creative industries

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

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