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Inner-City Arts: a diamond in the rough

Juliana D. Norwood | 8/10/2011, 5 p.m.

Inner-City Arts is a learning oasis in the heart of Los Angeles' Skid Row, where professional artists teach students in a real studio environment. Since its inception, Inner-City Arts has served 150,000 of the city's most at-risk children at no cost to the students. Founded in 1989, Inner-City Arts works in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District to bring elementary and middle school students to the organization's studio during the school day for instruction in the visual and performing arts. High school students participate in after-school and Saturday programs.

Inner-City Arts provides young people with the skills they need to succeed academically and personally by giving youth the opportunity to work in well-equipped studios and performance spaces; the nonprofit provides the only arts instruction many students will have during the school day.

The after school program provides intervention and prevention education during the critical afternoon hours. On weekends, students are given the opportunity for focused, long-term study, devoted to a particular art form.

The Inner-City Arts Annenberg Professional Development Program gives educators, administrators, graduate students and artists the tools to build bridges between the arts and academic subjects, improve literacy and overall academic achievement, and raise teacher retention rates. Through this training, educators learn new ways to connect with students and how to get them to see the relevance between their education and real-life experiences.

According to education expert James S. Catterall, being involved with this type of interactive arts program causes dramatic increases in statewide standardized test scores, dropout rates are reduced, students are more focused and engaged in the classroom, and are more motivated to achieve. In addition, students recognize and take advantage of opportunity, and they develop skills highly valued in the 21st century workforce, such as creative and conceptual thinking and collaborating with others. "Students become productive citizens, benefiting themselves, their community, and the city of Los Angeles," he said.

The arts organization recently held one of its major fundraisers for supporters--Summer on 7th--a night of food, drink, dancing, and art. The sold-out event catered to more than 500 guests who celebrated on the Skid Row campus, while simultaneously helping to maintain the program's free services to students.

The artwork the students created all year was also showcased throughout the campus giving the public a bird's eye view of what their contributions and support make possible year-round.
The biggest event of Inner-City Arts will be the Imagine Gala and Auction on Oct. 27, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. In addition to the auction, the fundraiser will have a dinner, reception, and entertainment. Individual tickets are $500 a person, and there are a number of sponsorship and volunteer opportunities available. For more information, visit www.inner-cityarts.org