The Center: South L.A. is a proposed center for the arts in Los Angeles that will offer a variety of creative classes in traditional and non-traditional dance, theater, drawing, painting, music, and arts and crafts, and will strive to make art accessible to everyone while simultaneously inspiring and educating young people in the community.

“Currently South L.A. is lacking in access to the arts… Compared to other areas in the city there is a lack of community-focused businesses and destination areas, especially along Western Avenue.

Many of the buildings in the area are empty and vacant. The remaining businesses that are open have permanent security gates over shop windows making the neighborhood look ugly and dangerous,” said center founder Jessica Talmadge on the organization’s website.

“We are going to take one of these neighborhood eyesores and turn it into an asset. The Center: South L.A. will be beautiful and tastefully designed, improving the overall look of the community.
We will remove the permanent security bars and replace them with a roll up option. We will have professional signage, and artistically inspired decoration, as well as additional landscaping and professional maintenance on the property.”

Talmadge also said the center will be a catalyst for revitalization, development and community connection in South Los Angeles by serving as a central place for classes, performances, various group meetings and exhibitions.

“I love living here (South L.A.). I love the community, (but) there just aren’t enough classes in the arts. My great-grandmother was an artist, and we used to paint together every Sunday. Art became my passion but my parents always told me, ‘You can’t eat off art; you can’t live off art.’

“Later, I took an art class and my teacher asked me if I had ever considered a career in art and I said yes, but that you can’t live off of art, just like my parents had always told me. The next class the teacher brought me a packet about an inch thick with all of the careers that you can have in the arts. Art has impacted my life and has given me really good, really fun options,” said the award-winning graphic artist, who wants to give the youth in the South L.A. community the same opportunities.

The center pulled from numerous studies to show why arts center are a valuable asset to every community. Among the findings in the studies: Art affects people positively, especially the ways in which we learn. Through expression, behavioral problems are dramatically reduced and a persons’ ability to be a productive, happy, and contributing member of society improves.

Talmadge also cited a recent study that showed when youth who had been previously held in a juvenile detention facility were enrolled in an arts program, their behavioral problems were reduced by 75 percent, and they were 50 percent less likely to commit another crime.

The biggest problem that The Center: South L.A. is experiencing is getting the funding that it needs to secure a facility large enough for a dance studio, silk-screening studio, visual arts station, and a permanent 60-seat theater.

“We will raise awareness with the ‘I Art L.A.’ campaign, spreading the word about L.A.’s lack of arts education access with a grassroots/guerilla-style mentality. It will take people to our website, where they will be directed to a short informational video that educates people on the problem,” said Talmadge.

Talmadge is doing all that she can to get funding. The L.A. resident is developing a number of other fundraising efforts including offering membership as a means to generate the $695,000 needed to develop, construct and operate the center.

People who want to be part of the foundation group can donate anywhere from $500 to $100,000, and individuals can show support by donating $50 to $100.

The organization is also working on a fundraising/awareness campaign called “I Art L.A.” where numerous L.A. artists such as Mel Kadel, James Jean, SLICK, and Marco Zamora, designed T-shirts, which are on sale for $25.

The arts center will use an e-mail newsletter, telemarketing, on-site marketing, flyers, brochures and press contacts to generate a buzz about the organization and to recruit more supporting members.

The proceeds from the shirt sales, and donations are tax deductible and will go towards the building of The Center: South L.A.

For more information, visit www.thecentersouthla.com. In addition to the center’s website the informational video is also available at www.ourweekly.com.