Since our inception in 2010, CITYstage has served over 100 of LA’s at-risk middle and high school youth with tuition-free performing arts instruction in the disciplines of dance, music and theatre. Our first pilot program at Manual Arts High School provided 25 students with free dance instruction and resulted in all program graduates going on to attend 4-year universities, as well as continuing to pursue the arts.

In 2012, we expanded our pilot program to include instruction in all three performing arts disciplines for 35 students at Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School. CITYstage also ensured high-quality instruction by employing working professionals in the LA performing arts community. During an Arts Discovery pilot, 25 students were taken to a variety of events including youth stand-up comedy at The Improv, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at the Ahmanson Theatre and music and dance performances at the Colburn School.

Students who visited the Colburn School live in the shadow of Downtown LA, yet had never visited the cultural center of their own city — less than 3 miles from home. They marveled at the sight of LA’s skyline; the discipline and training required to develop the ballet dancer physique and enjoyed the opportunity to apply their newfound knowledge of classical ballet positions in their discussion of the performance.

In late 2012, CITYstage formed a partnership with All About Kids to serve 50 additional children who are victims of domestic violence and abuse. With this partnership, mental health support was made a new priority for CITYstage.

In a conscious effort to provide our youth with leadership opportunities, we have added a former graduate of the Manual Arts High CITYstage pilot program to our Board of Directors as the first Student Director. We believe that including students on our board empowers them to become the next generation of leaders and advocates of LA culture and art. The Student Director role also gives a powerful voice to our most important stakeholders — our students. We can only ensure the viability of our programs and build a lasting foundation for the arts if we actively listen to and address the needs of the communities we serve.


1 Submitted Idea

  • 2013 Grants Challenge

    The CITYstage Arts Discovery Project

    Imagine the anticipation: a curtain rises on a magnificent stage; the crowd hushes as orchestral horns and violins burst forth; dancers leap and seem to defy gravity; something magical has occurred. It’s happening right here in your own community, but you’ll never experience it. You’re just a kid, you could never afford a ticket, and no one could take you there. In fact, this world of captivating performance and art isn’t part of your world at all. But it could be. Thousands of LA kids ages 12-18 have never been to a professional performing arts production in dance, music or theatre. Many have never even taken a performing arts class. In fact, less than 10% of LAUSD middle school students receive instruction in a comprehensive arts program. CITYstage would like to change that. Founded in direct response to the diminishing performing arts programs in LA, CITYstage is a non-profit dedicated to inspiring and preparing inner city youth to become the future performers and arts leaders in the Los Angeles community. Currently, CITYstage provides tuition-free summer and afterschool programs in the performing arts for underserved middle and high school students of LAUSD. But this is not enough. Answering the Goldhirsch Foundation’s call to provide more opportunities for participation in and support of cultural and artistic activities, CITYstage proposes an Arts Discovery Project for youth. The goal of this program is to recruit, train and retain the next generation of creative artists. How would the Arts Discovery Project do this? To start, youth would take part in “field trips” to professional stage events, such as Alvin Ailey at the Music Center, Lion King at the Pantages, or the LA Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s Saturday. Imagine going to the Pantages Theatre with 49 of your classmates to see the Lion King. Before leaving for the show, you learn about the costumes and puppetry that bring the animals to life, explore the themes of the story, and learn the lyrics to “Hakuna Matata” which you discover means, “No worries.” With much excitement, you are finally off to see the show! You arrive at the most beautiful theatre you have ever seen – the historic Pantages – where 50 ft. high dancers and giraffe puppets ascend the aisles amid thundering African beats. You’ve never experienced anything like it. Something magical is happening! After the performance, you meet the cast, see the puppets up close and get to ask all your burning questions. After school on Monday, the Arts Discovery staff brings in a puppet from the show and introduces you to African drumming and dance classes that you weren’t even aware were available in your very own neighborhood. In an effort to increase access for youth participation in “formal” arts in Los Angeles, the CITYstage Arts Discovery Project would provide tickets and transportation for 50 LAUSD youth to attend 9 events (3 Theatre, 3 Dance, 3 Music) for a total reach of 450 youth per year. The project would foster awareness and appreciation of LA’s rich cultural offerings, making professional performing art accessible for low-income youth. According to a recent study by the Arts Education Partnership, even a small exposure can effectively result in long-term participation in the performing arts. In addition to arts “field trips,” the Arts Discovery Project would host free weekly community events, where art would be taught, learned, appreciated and shared. Fridays, from 6-8 p.m., LA residents would present art from their neighborhood and culture in an informal setting at Art Share LA. For example, dancers from Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles might perform and instruct the audience in Mexico’s traditional dances. It’s Friday night. Female dancers appear in colorfully embroidered skirts that seem to spin and dance on their own. Live mariachi guitars and trumpets resound with joyful, energetic melodies. Men in traditional Mexican costume stomp out powerful, percussive dance steps that interweave with the music. Your pride as an Angeleno grows as you begin to realize the diverse cultural heritage of LA. The eyes of parents in the audience light up as the value of a traditional art is passed down to a new generation. With the Arts Discovery Project’s collaborative approach, we can impact the indicators identified by the Goldhirsch Foundation. Fieldtrips for 450 students to attend professional arts performances will increase youth access to and participation in the arts, as well as fostering support and building a youth audience for formal art in the concert setting. Additionally, the project’s community events will provide weekly opportunities for youth arts enrichment within their own neighborhood. Introducing our youth to a mix of formal and informal, institutional and community arts affords our students many points of entry in our effort to recruit, retain and train the next generation of artists and leaders in the LA arts scene.