2023 Grants Challenge

Breaking barriers of access to quality arts education and creative jobs

Inner-City Arts empowers K-12th-grade youth to discover their creativity, explore a variety of art forms, and express their unique voices in a safe environment that builds community and supports their journey into the creative economy. Approximately 84% of students in our school-day program come from underserved communities, and 40% are English language learners. Through our after-school program and theater, we serve middle and high school students, community members, and local artists from system-impacted neighborhoods in the city.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

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

County of Los Angeles

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

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

When budget cuts eliminated arts instruction from Los Angeles public schools in the late 1970s, it was up to local communities to fill the gap. Our founders were determined to bring the benefits of a safe, creative environment to children in downtown neighborhoods, who would otherwise miss out. Today, our steadfast commitment is stronger than ever. Without our commitment to providing a safe and creative environment for underserved youth to thrive, students from high-poverty neighborhoods would not have access to high-quality arts education and immersive art experiences. A classroom teacher from Middleton Street Elementary, noted: "Most of my students have never been exposed to media arts because of the communities that they live in. I feel it is important that they get exposure to art and creativity. Thank you for offering media arts to our students here at Middleton Street Elementary. The children learned, were engaged, and looked forward to their art class!"

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

We believe the arts are a powerful tool for self-expression, growth, and learning. We offer young people from historically marginalized communities a safe, creative space where they are invited to explore art and their own voices in a vibrant, non-judgemental environment. During the school day and on weekends, elementary, middle, and high school students come to our campus to engage with professional teaching artists and receive hands-on instruction in well-equipped art studios that include dance, drama, music, visual arts, media arts, ceramics, a creativity lab, as well as our Rosenthal Theater. Across all programs, we focus on the following student objectives: social and emotional learning competencies, 21st-century skills, and art-based skills, to boost both personal and academic achievements. Committed to providing critical services to students that have experienced continued inequity, and understanding the added challenges they have been facing as a result of distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded our programming in 2021 to offer on-site classes to partner schools and reach schools outside of commuting distance from campus. Additionally, through a partnership with Para Los Ninos, we also expanded our offerings to provide on-site mental health and wellness support to students and teachers and consult with their experts on curriculum development. We see these investments as permanent, vital elements to support students and staff.

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

Arts education has been proven to help level the learning field across socioeconomic boundaries, reducing or eliminating educational achievement gaps. As a result of our programming, we anticipate that students will demonstrate increased: Knowledge of the fundamental art skills and practices Improved ability to problem solve, think critically, express reasoning Creative confidence and capacity, including improved self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness Interpersonal and collaboration skills Communication skills Self-efficacy With creative and educational partners across the city, we have formed a network of support for students and artists in L.A. We assist the development of an abundant supply of new talent into the creative industries. Through our paid internship program, we tap into the strengths of our BIPOC and vibrant youth and support their journey to assume their rightful place as drivers of the creative economy of Los Angeles, California, and the nation.

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

Inner-City Arts, L.A. Unified School District, the Center for Research on Creativity, and Indiana University collaborated on a research project funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. The results strongly support the efficacy of our flagship program model, with a significant measurable impact on academic achievement in mathematics and English (particularly among English language learners), and student creativity. Feedback from partners and survey results from students, teaching artists, and classroom teachers at the end of each term, give us great confidence in our work and our ability to adapt to the changing needs of our community. As long-term arts education providers, we are privileged to witness the further development of our alumni, like Ruby Barrios. Ruby is a first-generation college graduate who wrote and published a children's book, Ruby's Button. The book was recently adapted for the stage in partnership with Inner-City Arts, and had its world premiere in May 2023.

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

Direct Impact: 6,000

Indirect Impact: 10,000