5-6-7-8! Dance at P.S. ARTS

Stephanie Kistner, Senior Program Coordinator


This past year was full of new opportunities to move and groove for our P.S. ARTS dancers! Take a look at some of the highlights of our 2014-2015 school year dance programs:

Dance with Ms. Williams at Baldwin Hills Elementary (LAUSD)

Last school year, P.S. ARTS had the opportunity to expand the after school dance program at Baldwin Hills Elementary thanks to the generosity of the Crail-Johnson Foundation and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Students in the P.S. ARTS after school dance program at Baldwin Hills Elementary became familiar with the vocabulary of dance, learned about choreography and improvisation, and experienced the joy of movement. Throughout the school year, students explored various movement styles including American social dance, traditional African dance, contemporary ballet, hip-hop, modern dance, and jazz, participated in the choreographic critique and review process, and performed at the school’s Winter Program, Black History Month Celebration, and the end of year Talent Gumbo-Multicultural Day Performance.


Students learned about dance legend Alvin Ailey and his most famous work, Revelations; they studied African-American Spirituals and how they were used to express deep suffering, endurance, hope, and a yearning for freedom. Inspired by this piece, students choreographed and performed their own tribute to Alvin Ailey at the school’s Black History Month celebration in February. Students also paid tribute to Janet Jackson by performing their own rendition of Jackson’s Rhythm Nation to celebrate the song’s theme of racial harmony. During rehearsals, students discussed the historical importance of both Ailey’s and Jackson’s pieces and compared the similarities and differences between the two works, placing an emphasis on how intention can be portrayed through movement.


“One of my male dancers who was extremely shy in the 2nd grade (when I began working with him) eventually became student body president. During his culmination speech, he publicly thanked me for encouraging him to dance. He expressed that it was through dancing that he overcame his shyness and built the confidence to run for student body president. He was a model student, and I was happy to have had a part in the building of his self confidence and personal growth.” – Ms. Williams

After School Dance/Music with Ms. Seabreeze at Baldwin Hills Elementary (LAUSD)

Launched in the spring of 2015, this residency was an extension of the already established after school dance program at Baldwin Hills. This extended dance program exposed students to the history of hip-hop and its pioneers and their contributions to the art form. Students explored various movement styles including popping, locking, and breakdance; they mastered basic hip-hop techniques and used tempo, level, rhythm, sequencing, and leading while learning about and creating their own choreography.


The residency culminated in a performance at the end of year Talent Gumbo-Multicultural Day Performance where students were challenged to utilize and share all the dance skills they learned over the course of the semester.

Arts Rotation: Dance with Ms. Wade at Billy Mitchell Elementary (LESD)

As part of our Arts Rotation model in Lawndale Elementary School District, P.S. ARTS Faculty rotate through the elementary schools in trimesters, so that each child gets yearlong arts classes in three disciplines (Music, Theater, and Visual Arts). This past school year was our first chance to add in a fourth discipline, dance, to the mix! Ms. Wade discussed culture and dance styles from around the globe and introduced her K-5 students to jazz, African, hip hop and more in preparation for their final performance that included pieces to Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, Waka Waka by Shakira, and Happy by Pharrell Williams.


P.S. ARTS student Nico explained it best in this heart-warming message to the audience, “I learned a lot in dance class about culture and different dance moves like a jazz square. I like dance class because it makes me feel inspired.”

Classroom Studio: Dance with Ms. Picard at Lost Hills Elementary and A.M. Thomas Middle School

This past spring, in partnership with Wonderful Education, P.S. ARTS launched its first ever in-school dance program in the Central Valley at Lost Hills Elementary and A.M. Thomas Middle School in Lost Hills, CA. Thanks to the support of Wonderful Education, a vital supporter of P.S. ARTS’ mission for over a decade, students from pre-school through 8th grade learned about the fundamental elements of dance and were exposed to such styles as jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and musical theater. After a semester of hard work, students proudly performed at a school wide assembly for an audience that included parents, peers, school administration, and members of the community.

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“One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching dance is to encourage confidence. You can actually SEE it in the student. It is visible in their visage, their posture, their eyes. Their smile and belief in themselves is turned up. That confidence can fuel everything in their daily life. They walk in ready for class and rehearsal with a higher sense of themselves and that is a beautiful thing to watch, nurture, and instill in every student.” – Ms. Picard

One Year Later . . .

Lora Cawelti, Program Coordinator

BY Lui Sanchez, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, Inside Out Community Arts

July 1st, 2015, marked one year since P.S. ARTS’ merger with Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA).  As the Program Director for IOCA, it’s been exciting and inspiring to join a group of hard working, talented, and fun people this past year to build a larger creative community – IOCA is all about building community through the arts.

As we prepare ourselves for another jam-packed year of programming, I took some time to reflect on the many IOCA highlights since officially joining the P.S. ARTS team!

Last September at our Programs Team retreat, CEO Dr. Kristen Paglia (Kristi) and CPO Elda Pineda brought in IOCA co-founder Camille Ameen to lead a story-telling council (a fundamental component of the IOCA program) with the P.S. ARTS Discipline Specialists and IOCA Master Trainers.  We reminisced on the creative or educational mentors that impacted our lives with words and actions that inspired us to do the work we do today.


This was followed by P.S. ARTS’ Faculty Training Series, the first opportunity for the P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists and IOCA Artist Leaders to mix, mingle, and see the growth and talent of the new forming faculty. Led by Kristi’s motivating and quality-asserting leadership, we participated in arts education games, mini-councils, and art-based team-building exercises before examining arts education models and best practices to better serve our students.  It was a powerful experience to be in a room of committed and talented individuals coming together to reinforce the organization’s mission and, with the addition of approximately 20 IOCA Artist Leaders to P.S. ARTS’ faculty (a 40% increase!), the merger helped position the organization to significantly and strategically serve more students through arts education in the coming years.


It has been particularly exciting to combine P.S. ARTS’ and IOCA’s annual fundraising events!  Events Manager Chelsea Martell and the Advancement Team took on Taste of Venice, a staple IOCA event for the last six years. It was nice to see the team introduce the event to established P.S. ARTS patrons while continuing to engage local “foodies” who marked this event yearly on their social calendars. The highlight for me was being a staff host partnering with a food expert to lead a small group of patrons on the tour of Abbot Kinney restaurants.  We quickly became a party group enjoying each other’s company and all the great tastes along the way. I’m looking forward to sampling the delicious treats at this year’s Taste of Venice on August 30th at Lincoln Place Apartment Homes!

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The IOCA crew participated in P.S. ARTS’ signature event Express Yourself.  Several of the IOCA Artist Leaders played integral roles in the event as art booth instructors and enjoyed the active and joyous participation of all the families that attended. It was great to see (and be a part of) such an engaging and creative event that brought so many people together for day of art-making in support of our in- and after-school arts education programs.

As programs continued, it was lovely to have the P.S. ARTS staff watch and participate in IOCA’s culminating performances. With the presence and support of the Programs Team, we welcomed our audience members and shared the work that IOCA is known for and will continue to thrive and build upon as part of P.S. ARTS.

Several opportunities arose for IOCA Artist Leaders to be placed in P.S. ARTS partner schools as either Teaching Artists or Substitutes to further incorporate and develop the talent and experience of our combined faculty. There were even a few P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists that joined in the IOCA Training Academy to develop theater skills and potentially become an IOCA Artist Leader. I particularly enjoyed attending some of the end-of-session class performances developed by the stellar P.S. ARTS faculty. Having worked with middle school students for the last seven years, it was a true delight to watch theater pieces performed by third, fourth, and fifth graders. They sure pulled on my heart strings and demonstrated the strength of P.S. ARTS’ vision in the classroom!

P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist Johanna McKay and class_Mark Twain Elem. Lawndale _Photo by Elaine Lee

Prior to the merger, IOCA and P.S. ARTS had a partnership through the TakePART Initiative. Through P.S. ARTS recommendation, IOCA was brought in to provide its after-school theater program at three middle schools in the Hawthorne, Lawndale, and Wiseburn school districts.  IOCA welcomed the opportunity to develop an adjusted program that promoted social and emotional learning for students. Four years later, IOCA programs are still in the South Bay and – as a result of the P.S. ARTS merger – I am happy to announce that this fall the IOCA/TakePART programs at Prairie Vista, Dana, and Will Rogers Middle Schools will be able to participate in the Theater Camping Retreat that had previously been missing from these schools. This programmatic expansion was made possible by the support and vision of our Board of Trustees and staff to not only incorporate IOCA’s programs but to also build capacity.  This action holds steadfast P.S. ARTS’ organizational commitment to the merger, the IOCA program, and overall high-quality arts-learning experiences for students throughout California.

There are countless other P.S. ARTS + IOCA highlights and “Magic Moments” that have happened in our first year together (like learning the IOCA song and choreography during staff meeting!) that will continue to lead us in and through our next year of programming. I eagerly look forward to the work, talent, support, and growth of all that we will do here at P.S. ARTS.

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Moving forward,


25th Anniversary Endowment Challenge Brings P.S. ARTS Funding from Herb Alpert Foundation to $5 Million

For Immediate Release

25th Anniversary Endowment Challenge Brings P.S. ARTS Funding from Herb Alpert Foundation to $5 Million

Santa Monica, CA (July 1, 2015) – The Herb Alpert Foundation announces a $1 million dollar matching challenge to establish an endowment for the Los Angeles-based arts education nonprofit, P.S. ARTS.

P.S. ARTS, the 2014 recipient of the Americans for the Arts National Arts Education award, has been providing arts education to children attending underserved public schools in California for 25 years.

Rona Sebastian, President of The Herb Alpert Foundation, remarks, “It is gratifying to see this unique program thriving in Los Angeles, becoming a model for other schools and bringing well-deserved attention to P.S. ARTS. We are delighted that this significant program helps students celebrate their differences and encourages them to become good citizens of the world.”

The Herb Alpert Foundation has issued P.S. ARTS a $1 million dollar challenge grant to establish the organization’s first endowment. This gift brings The Foundation’s investment in P.S. ARTS to $5 million, and will ensure that the organization can thrive for future generations.

Renowned educator Dr. Paul Cummins founded P.S. ARTS in 1990 with initial funding from The Herb Alpert Foundation in response to state education budget cuts. P.S. ARTS started with 250 children in one elementary school, and now, after 25 years, provides arts education to over 25,000 students. The organization’s dramatic growth is a reflection of The Herb Alpert Foundation’s vision and strategic investment in what Foundation President Rona Sebastian describes as, “one of the nation’s premiere, ground-breaking arts instruction programs.”

“Over the past 25 years,” says Herb Alpert, “through our support of P.S. ARTS, Lani and I have watched a generation of students thrive on in-school arts exploration and training. We have witnessed how the arts have helped students be creative, experience their own uniqueness, and appreciate the uniqueness in others, stay focused and reach for their potential so that they can lead productive and fulfilling lives. We are proud of our support of P.S. ARTS, and wish them continued success.”

The Herb Alpert Foundation has supported P.S. ARTS’ growth over time, with the goal of long-term sustainability. In 2004, The Foundation made a $1.5 million grant to P.S. ARTS, funding an innovative five-year arts education initiative in the Lawndale Elementary School District for 5,000 students. The grant was designed to provide comprehensive support at the outset and decrease over time as P.S. ARTS education programs developed in the schools.

The Foundation has continued to award up to $200K annually, supporting the region-wide arts education effort led by P.S. ARTS, whose TakePART Initiative in five school districts currently provides 10,000 children with weekly arts education. At the annual TakePART Art Festival 2013 the Initiative received commendations from U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

For more information on P.S. ARTS and The Herb Alpert Foundation’s $1 million endowment matching opportunity, please visit www.psarts.org/endowment

About P.S. ARTS 
P.S. ARTS’ mission is to improve the lives of children by providing arts education to underserved public schools and communities. It is the only organization in Southern and Central California that provides yearlong art education in dance, visual arts, music, and theater to every child in a school during the regular school day.

About The Herb Alpert Foundation 
The Herb Alpert Foundation, a non-profit, private foundation established in the early 1980′s, makes significant annual contributions to a range of programs in the fields of Arts, Arts Education and Compassion and Well Being. Its funding is directed toward projects in which Herb and Lani Alpert and Foundation President Rona Sebastian play an active role. [The Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals.]

For additional information and press inquiries, please email Jacob Campbell: jacob.campbell@psarts.org

The Alumni Mentor Film Project: Untitled

Lora Cawelti, Program Coordinator


For the past eight years, the brightest spot of my career has been my work co-leading the Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) Alumni Mentor Program. As Mentor Program Coordinators, Patty Duran and I work each year to bring exciting and challenging opportunities to this group of young leaders. Mentors meet monthly to develop skills including interviewing and goal setting. They participate in service learning as they mentor middle school participants in P.S. ARTS’ IOCA program. Mentors attend local cultural events, plays, and museums and continue developing their artistic skills as they create original performances.

This was a fantastic year for the IOCA Mentors as they got to work with a guest artist Writer/Director Susanna Fogel to create an original student film. Mentor Jose Medrano explains:

Every year in the mentor program we always get to take part in new experiences and learn new things about ourselves. This year we got to test our creativity with a really intense art form. We always build stories, but this one was such a complex concept. It’s nice knowing mentors can really just take any challenge and make it work out.

The process began in January, when Astrid Bartolo, a college-aged Mentor, came to help the teens choose the topic for their performance piece. I was excited that Astrid was ready to step into an adult leadership role; I love seeing the Mentors grow! Of the process and her new role, Astrid noted:

It was great having an Artist Leader Role because I was able to use the skills I have learned over the course of being a Mentor/Youth Artist Leader since 2009. I don’t think I would have felt as confident as I did if it weren’t for the supportive and empowering environment that my IOCA family has provided me over the years.


With Astrid’s guidance, the Mentors chose the topic of identity, specifically in the areas of race, culture, religion, gender, and sexuality. It was an intense process where the teens shared their own personal experiences with one another. They decided it was important to show their audience how difficult it is to figure out who you are while others challenge your beliefs and values. From hearing others tell their stories, Mentor Mario Bartolo pointed out:

It made me realize that most kids don’t really know [how to define their identity] and going through that process itself can be a complex thing, especially when you don’t have people who support you through it.

When Susanna Fogel began the writing process in February, she worked with the Mentors to translate their feelings and experiences into a story for the film. Three Mentors, Paulina Vidanez, Sally Hy, and Yuliza Parra, applied to be Head Writers on the project and devoted extra time to fleshing out the group’s ideas.  Sally explains:

It fascinates me how a simple idea can become so much more. It all started in a room where each of us would share a story that we felt needed to be heard. Being able to share our stories, the ones we shared the first day of brainstorming, and have characters who were relatable was something I had in mind throughout the film process.


Susanna took the head writers under her wing and empowered them to put their own story structure together. She shared her experiences and expertise so the Mentors would understand how the writing process works in the TV and film industry. Yuliza shared:

The whole experience was very rewarding and allowed me to gain experience in a field that is seen everywhere. It gave me a much larger appreciation for TV and film, and it was great to have worked with such talented people.

David Trujillo and Mario Bartolo also took on leadership roles in the film process. They spent extra time planning the shots and artistic vision for the film, and then they assisted the film crew on the day of shooting. The film was shot in one day at Camp Bloomfield, and Susanna brought director Brandon Mastrippolito and his amazing crew including Todd Helsley, Greg Matthews, and Will Sterner, to professionalize the experience.  Mario noted:

I found being on the film crew very informative and very entertaining in the sense of watching all these ideas finally flourish on and off screen.


Finally, the film was edited by Armin Chamanara who added original music by Mentors Kevin Mitchell and Jose Medrano. Kevin noted:

It was an cool experience for me because I got to see my music on a short film. It was a huge accomplishment. The amazing part is that [the entire song started as] free-styling of what it was like to be in the IOCA program. We edited the lyrics and created the final version.

David explained of his experience:

The creation process and working with professionals in the field gave us an inside look of how the film industry works. One assumes that the film industry is a pretty serious field, filled with negotiations and cranky/moody directors.  However, those and many other film industry stereotypes where proven wrong while working alongside Susanna, Brandon and the crew. They showed us that the film industry can be a fun, goofy environment and that, that [approach] is essential to work in such a creative career field.


In the end, not only did the film turn out great, but the Mentors worked together, created something as an ensemble, and connected to industry professionals, which helped them explore career possibilities for their futures. Mentor Paulina stated:

Working with Susanna on this project helped me realize what I wanted to do in the future. It’s not so often we as teenagers get to work with professionals, (especially) with such a cooperative and helpful mentor who let us ‘take charge’ in the project.

I’d like to offer a huge thank you to the professionals who facilitated such an amazing experience and to the Mentors who worked in front of and behind the camera to create the Mentor film, Untitled.

Meet Our Summer Interns!

MaddiMadeleine Kruener, Program Intern (through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s (LACAC) Arts Internship Program)

Briefly introduce yourself and explain your new position at P.S. ARTS.
This fall, I will be a sophomore at Clemson University in South Carolina where I am studying marketing with a minor in nonprofit leadership. I’m so excited to be working closely with both the special events and programs departments as the LACAC Program Intern.

What book is currently on your nightstand?
The Great Gatsby is, hands down, my favorite book. It’s my go to summer read when I just want to relax.

What is currently the most played song on your iPod?
Right now, it is probably a tie between every song on the 1989 Taylor Swift album because it’s Taylor Swift (and who doesn’t love her?). However, summer time exists for country music so there is definitely some Luke Bryan thrown in there!

Where is your favorite place to view or take part in art in Los Angeles?
I love the Downtown LA Arts District. It has some of my favorite street art pieces, and I just love the vibe there. I’m a fan of musicals and have grown up attending plays at the Ahmanson. I love sitting outside before a play and people-watching!

What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?
Audrey Hepburn. No doubt about it.

“Arts education is important to me because the arts molded me into who I am today. I’m so passionate about P.S. ARTS because we are providing kids with exposure to the arts, which were so life-changing in my education.”

MarissaMarissa Manabat, Education & Media Intern (through the Getty Foundation’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program)

Briefly introduce yourself and explain your new position at P.S. ARTS.
This fall, I will be a sophomore at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts where I am double majoring in Studio Arts and Education. Some of my big projects this summer include updating the P.S. ARTS To Go! projects and planning for next school year’s Family Art Nights.

What book is currently on your nightstand?
Odd and Eccentric People by the Library of Curious and Unusual Facts. It’s a compilation of stories and biographies on some of the world’s “strangest” people.

What is currently the most played song on your iPod?
See you Again by Wiz Khalifa

Where is your favorite place to view or take part in art in Los Angeles?
The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens in San Marino is my absolute favorite place. I go there almost every single weekend! It has an amazing collection of art, but is also 207 acres of breathtaking gardens. If you haven’t been I definitely recommend going; you could easily spend a day there!

What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?
I love photography so I would probably choose to take Sally Mann out for coffee. Her work is amazing, and I love the way she pushes boundaries with her art.

“Arts education is important to me because students learn more than how to create and appreciate the aesthetics of art; they learn to think creatively. I was lucky enough to be in schools that offered arts education to encourage innovative thinking. I don’t know who I would be today without all those art classes and projects!”

TakePART Art Festival 2015



On Saturday, May 30th, 2015, P.S. ARTS hosted the fourth annual TakePART Art Festival: Building Bridges – Connecting Communities at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, CA. Over 2,100 people came together to celebrate arts education on this fun and exciting day!

Now in its fifth year, the TakePART Initiative is a collaborative effort between arts and community organizations, philanthropic partners, and five Centinela Valley school districts (Centinela Valley Union High, Hawthorne, Lawndale Elementary, Lennox, and Wiseburn) to implement sustainable, comprehensive, arts education programs for 20,000 students in the region from kindergarten to 12th grade. We are incredibly proud of the TakePART Art Festival’s continued growth year after year.

Festival-goers enjoyed various activities throughout the day including student performances in dance, music, and theater, a gallery featuring student artwork, and nine hands-on art booths, such as a drum circle, costume photo booth, visual art projects, and a decked out interactive bus by Yoobi, an art supply company that has generously donated supplies to P.S. ARTS in the past.

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As a new member of the P.S. ARTS team, I was particularly excited to experience the ins and outs of my first TakePART Art Festival. I had the pleasure of creating two art projects for P.S. ARTS’ booths: Picasso Face Masks and String Art! After testing many different art projects in the weeks leading up to the big day, we decided these two projects were a perfect fit for the festival because they represent the P.S. ARTS motto: we have the freedom to imagine and the power to create. Picasso Face Masks allowed children to use their imagination to create Picasso-inspired artwork with vibrant colors and shapes they might not normally use when drawing faces. String Art! offered an opportunity to abandon conventions by splattering paint every which way using a string instead of a paintbrush. It was definitely messy, good fun!

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The day was filled with many smiling faces, and I was thrilled to be a part of an event in which the power of arts education to improve people’s lives was felt in a tangible way.

Thank you to all our partners, volunteers, and supporters who helped make this day a success! We are so grateful for your continued dedication to strengthening communities through the arts.

For more event photos, please visit our Flickr album!