LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Cultivating Creators

BBMT requests support for Cultivating Creators, the theater's official apprenticeship program. Through our puppeteering and fabrication workshops, the program will prepare young people for creative careers in and beyond puppetry, including animation (via character design), fine art (via woodworking and sewing), and TV/Film animation and special effects (via sculpting and mold making), to name a few. Cultivating Creators will focus especially on training women and people of color, groups vastly underrepresented in these technical careers.


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

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by the Snap Foundation)

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?

The BBMT (Bob Baker Marionette Theater) Cultivating Creators apprenticeship program directly addresses major gender and race disparities in the artistic realm. Although US data indicates that working artists represent a roughly 50/50 male/female split, careers in craftsmanship are 88% male/12% female, and exhibit building is a stark 93% male/7% female. What is more, the same data indicates that workers in the artistic field are nearly two-thirds white. (Source: Zippia) On some level, this is unsurprising, given the high cost of living in cities like Los Angeles, the many institutional barriers to entry for creative careers, the prioritization of hiring those that come from elite educational spaces, as well as general socio-economic racism, which inhibits access to the development of a creative practice. Cultivating Creators seeks to combat this by providing free-of-cost and paid hands-on training in puppetry and fabrication at one of today's most renowned marionette theaters.

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

Cultivating Creators is a formalized apprenticeship program for puppetry and fabrication, born out of BBMT's long standing practice of open access teaching and hands-on training opportunities. Cultivating Creators will focus on a wide variety of highly applicable skills for creative industry careers--workshop and tool safety, woodworking, sculpting, mold making, soft foam fabrication, patternmaking, sewing, basic electronics, painting and finishing techniques, and mechanization, all with an eye toward making an inanimate project come to life. Karina De La Cruz is just one member of the BBMT community that exemplifies the potential of this apprenticeship program, and its capacity to uplift women of color. Beginning in 2018 as a volunteer while studying animation at CSULA, Karina began to come weekly to the BBMT workshop. At first pulling puppets and props and doing basic painting, she eventually moved into more specific fabrication training, all free of cost. Karina worked towards her degree and continued to develop her fabrication skills, and was eventually offered employment in the theater--she graduated last month, and is now a part-time puppeteer and part-time fabricator. Thus far, the apprenticeship program has existed as a combination of part-time staff and eager volunteers, but with funding and additional outreach to underserved communities, BBMT hopes to formalize Cultivating Creators, expanding its impact and creating sustainable structures for its future.

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

The success of Cultivating Creators means BBMT will be a platform and learning lab for young people of all backgrounds to gain premiere hands-on training (free-of-cost and paid) that equips them for technical careers in the arts. Professional roles in fabrication, building, and associated skills represent a stark gender and race gap--the BBMT apprenticeship program will create ripples in LA and beyond, eradicating barriers to entry. A long-term goal for the program is the building of intentional partnerships, such as with LAUSD and CSULA (with whom we are discussing a recruitment program), understanding that opportunities for creative engagement may be few and far between, before anyone ever encounters BBMT. By instilling awareness of the apprenticeship program, young people from the LA's public institutions (which serve a majority BIPOC population) are invited to participate, rather than expected to extensively seek out this sort of training, which is often elusive and exclusionary.

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

Apprenticeship has been a critical part of the theater's ethos since its founding, training over 100 puppeteers and artistic professionals. When the theater moved locations in 2019, BBMT officially created a new workshop department and embedded apprenticeship into the theater's operating model. Since then, BBMT has trained 15 aspiring puppeteers and artists, two thirds of them women (including Karina De La Cruz, mentioned earlier.) Impact is measured not only by these diversity factors, but by tangible movement from trainee to professional. Just this year, 2 trainees were hired as puppeteers in the theater, and in the last 5 years, theater staff has grown exponentially--there are now 7 full-time and 16 part-time employees, all with livable wages. Cultivating Creators will continue to define success by such measures, and will work intentionally to recruit widely, gather demographic data, and ensure that professional pathways are being filled by those traditionally left out of them.

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

Direct Impact: 188

Indirect Impact: 36,000