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

Inspiring a generation of diverse creators

The PLUS ME Project will inspire the next generation of creative arts professionals by bringing relatable role models from a variety of creative industries who will speak about their career pathways. While the field is slowly diversifying, there is still a large representation gap between the numbers of people of color currently working and the demographics of LA County. This guest speaker series will help demystify the many pathways into the creative arts by exposing youth to relatable role models who have found success in this growing field.


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?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

South Bay


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?

According to the most recent LA County Arts and Culture Department demographic study, the creative arts field does not yet match the diversity of our county. While White people are only 26% of LA County, they make up nearly 60% of this workforce. Non-whites remain vastly underrepresented with Latinos at 20%, Asians at 9%, and Black people at 5%. This is especially true behind the camera (a large part of LA's creative economy) where only 17% of directors and 12% of writers are people of color. One of the first steps to securing a career is by offering real-life examples of what that professional pathway can look like. By connecting underrepresented people in the creative arts with high school students, PLUS ME will help inspire a new generation who more accurately represent the diversity of our county. As guest speakers from a variety of creative fields describe why and how they entered their jobs, they offer powerful models for young people to follow and expand upon.

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

PLUS ME will bring our Guest Speakers program to forty high school classes at schools with a population of at least 75% students of color. There will be two guest speaker presentations in each class, representing different creative arts disciplines. Each volunteer guest speaker receives a ninety minute training and builds a story based on the characters, settings, events, and lessons that brought them to their career. They also have access to one-on-one feedback sessions with our staff to fine-tune the structure of their stories and ensure the delivery is engaging for students. Every story is centered on a career pathway and is approved by staff before guest speakers are matched with a classroom. Volunteers are encouraged to vulnerably connect with students, leaving impressionable memories. Initial classroom presentations are scheduled for the Fall semester. In the Spring, Guest Speakers have the opportunity to deepen the knowledge shared with students by returning to the same classroom later depending on interest from educators and students. This hour-long conversation will center around specific questions prepared by students and tailored to their future career interests and the experience of the guest speaker. This opportunity for students to ask questions of guest speakers is especially important so they can better understand the specific challenges of entering a slowly diversifying workforce and how they can be overcome.

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

If this Guest Speaker series is successful, the representation of people of color within the creative arts industry will begin to match the diversity of our city and country. In the 2019 LA County Arts and Culture demographic report there was evidence that younger people in these fields are already closer to matching the ethnic diversity of LA County. We hope to continue to improve upon this trend by connecting students from underrepresented backgrounds to those who have "made it'' in this competitive field. Shifting culture is a small but essential aspect of addressing systemic inequity. That would mean a flourishing of stories, experiences, and artworks that more fully represent the variety of experiences and perspectives across LA County and beyond. This work feels especially important as the creative fields in our county have reach far beyond Los Angeles, through avenues like Hollywood and the fact that we are the second largest city in the United States.

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

We have been measuring impact and gaining participant feedback since we launched public programming in 2016, primarily through post-program surveys. Students receive a virtual survey (shared through their teachers) after completing both the guest speaker presentations and in-depth Q&A. On a scale of 1-5, surveys will measure the quality of the presentation overall (was it engaging?), relevance of the story shared, and whether each student is more inspired to enter the creative arts. Open-ended answers will gather any remaining questions students may have and general feedback for the program. We will also collect survey data from guest speaker volunteers to assess the general experience building and delivering their stories, suggestions for adjusting the program, and memorable highlights of connection with students.

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

Direct Impact: 1,200

Indirect Impact: 3,000