In an era of budget cuts to arts funding, nonprofit Inner-City Arts offers arts education—free of charge—to kids from the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Located on Skid Row in downtown L.A., Inner-City Arts provides elementary, middle and high school students living in L.A.’s most underserved communities with access to the arts, plus the tools they need to succeed academically.
Co-founded in 1989, Inner-City Arts (ICA) brought kids from 9th Street Elementary School to the program’s first studio space for hands-on instruction in the visual and performing arts. At the time, the Los Angeles Unified School District had cut arts programs and the ICA founders felt that a community-based organization could fill that gap by bringing children from crowded schools to an inspiring alternative learning environment. More than two decades after ICA’s founding, the programs have made a difference in the lives of more than 150,000 at-risk children.
Today, Inner-City Arts is housed in a striking urban campus that offers studios, a theater and open spaces for classes and workshops. Students from downtown Los Angeles schools come during the day, after school and on weekends. The programs give students, mostly disadvantaged and sometimes homeless, a break from their bleak surroundings. But research found that they also chalk up gains in literacy and overall achievement. For the group at large, ICA students showed an 18% increase in reading scores and a 25% increase in math scores, and an 8% improvement in English proficiency. And the teens who got involved in ICA’s after-school workshops graduated from high school at significantly higher rates than the norm.
Bank of America has been a supporter of Inner-City Arts for five years. In 2008, it awarded the organization a Neighborhood Builder® award, which provided funding for ICA to strengthen its impact by extending its hours, and providing the staffing and resources to enroll more students in the after-school program.
According to Garrett Gin, a Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs executive with the bank, “L.A. is a creative epicenter—and the bank’s investment in our region’s creative culture drives our economy and connects us as a community. But creativity shouldn’t be limited to certain ZIP Codes or communities. Through our support of Inner-City Arts, we are helping to ensure that arts education can impact youth from all parts of Los Angeles. The impact of Inner-City Arts may range from inspiring a student to get excited about learning to opening a door into a future in arts, entertainment or design.”
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