2021 Grants Challenge

The Curtain Rises: Village Arts Theater in the Schools Program

Idea by Village Arts

The Curtain Rises: Village Arts in the Schools Program is a one-of-a-kind free, after school theater arts program for students at Colfax and Lankershim Elementary Schools. Since 2012 Village Arts has offered high-calibre, fun, and inspiring theatre programs that have become an annual tradition for families in the San Fernando Valley. Fall of 2021 Village Arts wants to remove all financial barriers to their after-school program. Theater has an undeniable power to connect, uplift, and inspire, especially when it is accessible to all.


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

San Fernando Valley

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Village Arts annually provides 12% of their students with some form of financial aid and has never turned a child away due to lack of funds. Despite this, many in our community are still unable to afford after school programs in the arts. As of 2018, 86% of Lankershim students and 25.5% of Colfax students qualify for free and reduced lunch. These inequities have only been exacerbated by COVID-19 and particularly impact BIPOC and immigrant families. Drama programs are shown to significantly improve literacy development and skills in English language arts, as well as building community and improving self-confidence. It is essential that all students have the opportunity to participate in equitable and high-caliber theater education. In order to help our most vulnerable community members rebuild, Village Arts wants to eliminate cost as a barrier to participating in our after-school programming.

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

The simple and most effective solution to guarantee all students access to Village Arts fall theatre programs is to remove the barrier of cost. ALL students at both Colfax Charter and Lankershim Elementary, K-5th grade, could then participate in the rehearsals and performances of a musical. Village Arts adheres to all LA County COVID protocols and currently, LAUSD plans for full school reopening in the Fall ‘21. If infection rates rise, we are prepared to work closely with the schools to make accommodations or postpone programming. Awarded funds would underwrite the significant rental fees charged by LAUSD for the auditorium and rehearsal spaces. It is imperative that Village Arts after-school programming occurs on campus to best support all families. After school programs on campus create safe, educational spaces for children whose families need after school care or for whom transportation is a barrier. Salaries for artistic and technical staff, as well as hard material costs would also be covered by the grant. Year after year we have witnessed the benefits of our work and parents remark on our “inclusive and nurturing environment.” The process of creating a show naturally creates a bond with children, differences dissipate, and the necessity of collaboration is experienced. By extending our reach to families in need, as well as to underserved schools like Lankershim Elementary, Village Arts programs will have an even greater impact on more community members.

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: 150

Indirect Impact: 1,240

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

A free after school performing arts program would create a space for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. Elimination of tuition provides equal access to families at Lankershim and Colfax. At Lankershim this is imperative because many families are not able to afford the cost of any tuition. Our programs will help the region of Los Angeles to transform into one of the few places where all students have equal access to the benefits of a performing arts program. A continuing partnership with local schools would exist; offering students a safe and inclusive space to find community on campus. Village Arts holds a strict policy of color-blind casting and is inclusive of all abilities. In this environment, kids learn what they are all truly capable of and the power of working with others. By providing this accessible and valuable experience, we will help the next generation of Angelenos discover the power of community, the arts, and their unique voice.

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

Village Arts has documented past success by measuring growth in annual enrollment, reach across LA and rise in social media numbers along with testimonials from participating families. In Fall 2021 Village Arts will expand its theatre program to Lankershim while continuing its work at Colfax. Outcomes for programs at both schools will be measured through pre and post surveys distributed to guardians and children. Surveys will measure the impact of programming on a student’s sense of connection to community, self-esteem, and confidence in their abilities. Similarly, the children’s surveys will allow students to self-report on their experience as a community member, cast member, and participant. Success will be defined by the number of new students reached, as well as the number of low-income families who are able to participate in Village Arts programming when cost is not a barrier.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

Our partner organizations will be Colfax Charter and Lankershim Elementary School. Both principals of these institutions have signed on for proposed programming in the Fall and have spoken at length about the significant benefit of a free theater arts program at their schools. The schools have agreed to let us use their auditorium space for after school rehearsals and for the final performances. There will also be a performance during the school day presented as an assembly for all students to attend. Prior to registration, the schools will help market the program and distribute fliers to families. This will be a unique and lasting partnership, providing students with easily accessible and free theater arts education right at their school.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Arts education

Enrollment in afterschool programs

Student proficiency in English & Language Arts

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to CREATE