by Arts for All | Mar 19, 2013

    Inglewood resident MonaLisa Whitaker was fortunate to have been exposed to the arts as a child. Her mother painted, and she had art instruction in the lower grades. But it was in high school that she discovered her true passion: photography. 

    Whitaker took a class with esteemed artist and photo-educator, Larry Shapiro, who encouraged his students to see as much art as possible while they were learning. Whitaker would check out art books from the library and go to museums. Shapiro also encouraged her to apply to California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). ** She was accepted and says that that the experience changed her life.

    “I was surrounded by other artists my age, other disciplines,” Whitaker says.  “I was completely immersed. It was heaven!”

    Fast forward to present day and that student is now the Executive Director of Inglewood Cultural Arts (ICA) and a fine art photographer. ICA works to infuse the arts into all facets of Inglewood society and, for more than a decade, Whitaker has been one of the superheroes of the local arts community.

    “The knowledge I gathered as a student opened my mind to the possibilities of how photography and other mediums can be powerful tools to make things better,” she says. 

    Whitaker sees arts education as a necessity for both students and adults. She looks at the multiple benefits that the arts can have within the community and notes that there seems to be a hunger for the arts in Inglewood. She believes the arts can teach us how similar we are, help us understand each other and enable us to realize our full potential both individually and collectively.

    She is passionate about the arts in schools and knows they are a necessary component for a balanced education. “We want our youth to grow up, be productive and do their part in improving the world. Exposing them to the arts is one way to ensure this,” says the mother of two. “The arts are not frill!”

    Inglewood Unified School District recently renewed their participation in Arts for All. Concurrently, Arts for LA, advocacy partner for Arts for All, is actively building relationships through the Inglewood community.
    “I want the arts in all aspects of Inglewood life -- in school as a fundamental part of the daily curriculum and out of school in the public realm,” says Whitaker. “I want to see art everywhere a person goes, whether it’s to school, the grocery store, the post office or the park…we should see it all the time!”

    **To find out more about CSSSA go to http://www.csssa.org.


    by Arts for All | Jan 17, 2013

    Otis College of Art and Design recently announced findings from the 2012 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region. This is the sixth year that Otis, working with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, has published research mapping the creative economy of the area. However, this is the first time the report includes statistics about arts education.

    And the news is heartening.

    The report indicates that the global workplace is changing with communication and collaboration replacing tightly controlled hierarchical environments. Arts education plays a huge role in developing a workforce to fulfill the needs of 21st Century employers in this region and beyond. Arts for All has been at the forefront of this effort for the last decade.

    “These measurements indicate the impact of Arts for All,” says Los Angeles County Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker. “Los Angeles County schools were not only able to maintain arts education during the recession, but there has been moderate growth during a very challenging economic period in our history.

    The Otis report includes statistical data on arts education demographics compiled by The California Department of Education.  Despite declining arts education funding, the number of K-12 students enrolled in arts education classes (taught by specialists) has increased.

    • The share of students taking arts classes relative to the entire student population increased. During the 2010-11 academic year, 7.5% of the K-12 population was enrolled in an arts education class compared with 7.1% during 2008-09. Here are the numbers:
    Los Angeles County K-12 Arts Education
    Academic Year 2005-05 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2010-11
    Arts Enrollment  316,962  319,782  322,270  309,456  324,351
    Total Enrollment  4,542,704  4,524,151  4,419,494  4,377,083  4,343,329

    In Sosource: http://www.otis.edu/creative_economy/

    *2012 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region
    ** The California Department of Education did not post results for academic year 2009-10


    by Arts for All | Jan 17, 2013

    Did you ever swing dance with your fifth grade teacher? For the students in Hayde Cervantes fifth grade class, it’s an occurrence as familiar as their daily math lessons.

    As part of the Arts for All Residency Grant Program, arts provider Ballroom Madness conducts classes at McKinley Elementary School and four other Title 1 schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. The ten-week residency program serves 830 students from 28 different fifth grade classes.

    As Ms. Cervantes will attest, the transformative power of the Ballroom Madness program is extraordinary. While learning the tango, salsa, swing and other ballroom dances, students learn to develop meaningful partnerships and build essential social skills. Dressed in suits and ties, Ballroom Madness teachers Daniel Ponickly and “Mr. James” are masterful at easing the kids into unfamiliar poses and movements. Throughout the lesson, the students are treated with the utmost respect by the teachers while learning to be respectful of each other on and off the dance floor.

    Ms. Cervantes says that lessons learned in ballroom dance translate into the classroom by improving students’ focus as well as building self-confidence. “They view themselves smarter, but in a totally different way,” she says.

    Both Cervantes and the students look forward to dance days, with Cervantes highly engaged in every class. She often jumps in to dance with the students…particularly during the Swing!

    And what about bullying? How does ballroom impact bullying? Ponickly said that it’s harder to bully someone that you just did the Cha-Cha with!

    Photo: Gary Leonard


    by Arts for All | Jan 17, 2013

    The Arts for All coaches are the backbone of our work. They are on the front lines, guiding a school district who is committed to arts education. There is currently a team of seven dedicated education pros working with new Arts for All districts and those engaged in ongoing efforts towards a district-wide arts education plan.

    Senior Coach Celena Turney has been coaching since 2005, consulting with school districts to facilitate their arts education strategic planning. She is also designing leadership and mentoring programs to move this work forward.

    For the 2012-13 academic year, Turney is paired with Duarte Unified School District and Sulphur Springs Union School District. She is also working with the LAUSD charter school network ICEF Public Schools on implementing the arts education plan they created last year with her guidance.

    Part of the coaching role includes regular interaction with a Community Arts Team (CAT) comprised of committed and engaged district and community members. Turney’s goal is to create and nurture a vibrant professional learning community, and to design forums that provide coaches and administrators with relevant planning tools that are responsive to today’s ever-changing political, fiscal, and educational climates.

    In her years with Arts for All, Turney has coached a diverse group of school districts including Alhambra Unified School District, Beverly Hills Unified School District, Las Virgenes Unified School District, Lynwood Unified School District, Pomona Unified School District, San Marino Unified School District, and Saugus Union School District. With some districts, she spent two to three years coaching and guiding school leaders to adopt the right plan for their community.

    Turney discovered that each district has their own history around the arts and community involvement. In the early years, she recalls, many teams had no explicit definition of arts education and so it was difficult to build a plan until the team was able to fully understand the basic components of high-quality arts education. Now, most districts need help in identifying and raising funds for arts programming, establishing curriculum goals, and creating suitable arts learning spaces.

    “It is important to honor the starting place of each district and to begin the work from there,” she says. “Ultimately, this work is about change - transforming the way people think about arts in a public school setting – its promise and its challenges,” Turney concludes.

    Coaching is full of challenges, and Arts for All applauds the efforts of Turney and our entire coaching team.