P.S. ARTS Student Inspires LA Modernism Invitation Design!

Jacob Campbell, Operations Assistant


Event season is a busy time at P.S. ARTS! To be fair – it’s ALWAYS busy at P.S. ARTS – but as we wrap up the LA Marathon and dive into LA Modernism Opening Night Party planning, it’s easy to feel a little lost in the hustle and bustle.  I recently met a second grade student named Derick who helped remind me why I do what I do and what a privilege it is to be part of this organization.

As the Communications Associate, I spend a lot of time at my desk writing, editing, and designing materials about our programs and the 20,000 students we serve, but nothing is as powerful as the time I get to spend on-site with them. Long before I was worrying about meeting printing deadlines and proofing for typographic consistency, Derick sat in a P.S. ARTS classroom with Teaching Artist June Edmonds studying the elements of art that would inform his Paul Klee-inspired piece, which would later become the starting point for this year’s LA Modernism invitation.

IMG_3117 copyI first saw Derick’s project in an email from June Edmonds and was instantly drawn to the vibrant colors and geometric shapes.  The clean lines and architectural forms really lent themselves to an event featuring over 40 premier national and international exhibitors presenting furniture, decorative and fine arts representing all design movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It’s common for me to get caught up in the design process and tune out everything else around me, but as I got closer to finishing the invitation, I decided to set aside a few hours to get away from my computer screen and drive to FDR Elementary School in the Lawndale Elementary School District to meet Derick, thank him for his hard work, and see if he had any last minute suggestions; I’m so glad I did!

I walked into Ms. Rho’s second grade classroom at FDR as P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist June Edmonds was leading a lesson on warm and cool colors.  Once she sent the kids to work, June pointed out Derick to me and I watched as he led his table group in carefully separating a tub of oil pastels into cool blues and greens and warm pinks and oranges. June and I pulled Derick aside so I could introduce myself and show him the invitation; I watched his eyes light up when he realized what he was looking at! I asked if he remembered working on this project and he immediately began explaining his process of making it. He even pointed to his favorite section of the piece where he used the colors of the Mexican flag. I told him a little bit about the event and all the different kinds of artists that would be there; I told him that the invitations would be printed on a giant press bigger than his classroom and that we would send them out to 2,500 people! I asked him if he thought I should adjust anything and he told me that he liked how I changed the colors and added a “cool” teal to the background.


Once I wrapped up my conversation with Derick, I had a minute to chat with Ms. Rho who said, “Derick is a great student who loves to learn new things. Thanks to our amazing art teacher, Ms. Edmonds, he has developed into quite an artist. Ms. Edmonds is patient and has a great rapport with every student. She is knowledgeable, and we are so grateful to have her as our art teacher. Thank you P.S. ARTS for bringing the arts to our school!”

IMG_7138_2 copyAs I drove back to the office, all the little details and deadlines cleared away, and I felt honored to be a part of the powerful work P.S. ARTS is doing. In that moment, I got a taste of the “magic moments” our Teaching Artists experience every day in the classroom. I saw a sense of pride on a child’s face as he was recognized and celebrated for his creative ideas. That single piece of 11×17 paper layered with colored construction paper suddenly became a symbol of all the ways the arts classroom can provide opportunities for success.  We aren’t just teaching kids how to make art; we are teaching them that their ideas matter – that their work is important, valued and worthy of being displayed – so that they have the confidence to imagine the world they want to see and the tools to begin creating it.

Finishing up the invitation became much easier with Derick’s blessing, and I was especially excited to seal and send the finished version to him and his family – We’re looking forward to seeing them at 3LABS on April 24th!

Here is a short video of Derick explaining the process of creating his Paul Klee-inspired piece. (Please excuse the background noise – I started filming right as recess began!)

For more event information, visit psarts.org/modernism2015

How Do We Build A Healthy Community?

Our students at Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School are hard at work preparing for their performance this weekend! Join us Saturday, March 21st, 6pm at Dymally High School for two original student plays that explore the question, “How do we build a healthy community?” Artist Leader Jennifer Browne shares her experience working on this project:

In my many years as an Artist Leader with Inside Out Community Arts, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of different environments with youth facing all kinds of challenges – physical, emotional, and environmental. Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School presented a whole new set of opportunities and challenges.

On our first day of recruitment, we set up a table in the quad to tell the students about our program. During that 30-minute lunch break, there were three fistfights. Each time, dozens of students raced to the fray, cheering the fighters on. It was clear to us that the culture at this school was in crisis. A small group of students hung out around our table. They wanted to know what we had to offer and clearly wanted to be part of something different. Given the amount of stress and chaos in their day-to-day environment, we knew that our programming could present an excellent chance for our students to express themselves and build community in a safe, structured, creative environment.

During our first two months at Bret Harte we dealt with a revolving door of students. They showed up one day, disappeared for a few days and then would return – or not. Every week our amazing team of Artist Leaders, Artist Leader Interns, and two LAPD officers came together to lead a two-hour structured workshop for a challenging group of students – many of whom had short attention spans and a mistrust of adults (and in some cases, each other).


At the midway point in our session, we began the process of play creation. Two groups of students brainstormed to identify what issue they wanted to create a play around. One group chose to explore themes of bullying and animal abuse. The other group chose to look at the positive and negative impacts of the entertainment industry. At this point in our process, ownership shifts to the students – it is on them to create their story and their characters. It was also at this point that a core group of students began to fully commit to the program.

A few weeks later, we took our students on a picnic to Kenneth Hahn Park and then to see a professional play – Culture Clash’s “Chavez Ravine.” While we were at the park, I saw a shift. Outside their usual environment, the kids respected the boundaries we laid out, participated fully in structured activities, and in their free time, explored nature, ate lunch and played together, as a community.


Camille Ameen, the co-founder of IOCA, taught me something that has helped carry me through difficult moments at Bret Harte. At many of our teaching sites, the majority of the students go through a clear and powerful transformation as a result of their participation in our process. At other sites, the transformation is not as obvious. In those cases, we must look for the small changes – a student who finally projects their voice on stage, a student who fully participates for one day, a child showing empathy towards another individual.

In the past few weeks I have observed wonderful changes in our community. All of the students make eye contact now – a sign of respect and safety. The students are exercising positive peer pressure with each other. Our attendance is consistent, and the students arrive ready to participate fully. The students have formed their IOCA community. They treat each other with care and respect; they are opening up to us – sharing their stories. Some of their family members are doing so as well during our weekly phone calls home.

Next weekend the students have their final performance. Three weeks ago all of us – Artist Leaders and students – had serious doubts. Last weekend we had a painting/rehearsal day where the students presented some of their work to each other. They did it with pride and supported each other through the process. We left confident that we will be ready to take the stage this Saturday!

bharteflatsP.S.ARTS’ Inside Out Community Arts program at Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School provides core support to middle school students while giving them the tools, confidence, and inspiration to make a positive difference in their south LA community through the arts.

This pilot program, in partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department Southeast Division and funded by The California Endowment, aims to increase awareness to key leaders in the police department and juvenile justice system about innovative diversion programs that instill community involvement through positive, productive, and creative alternatives for youth.

A Letter to Team P.S. ARTS

Dr. Kristen Paglia, Executive Director of Education & Programs

BY DR. Kristen Paglia, ChiEf Executive Officer

Dear Team P.S. ARTS,

Jacob Campbell, P.S. ARTS Communications Associate, asked me if I would write a letter to our LA Marathon and LA Big 5K runners, walkers and supporters. He said he’d like to have it by the end of the day (to be fair, he actually asked me to do it over a week ago, but whatever, here we are). I was not feeling well today. I have some kind of a viral thing and a fever, so that’s part of it, but I was also feeling generally discouraged and sorry for myself. I spent a good twenty minutes this morning listing all the reasons everyone should be nicer to me:  I’m sick. I work a lot. My husband works a lot. I don’t have enough time with my kids. My parents are getting older. You get it. I know you get it, because when I started listing it all out in my head, I realized pretty quickly I am describing… well, most of the people I know. Right after that humbling epiphany, it occurred to me that I was also describing the luckiest people I know, myself included. I said my list to myself again. I’m sick, which is annoying because I am usually healthy. I work a lot because I have a job I love and want to succeed at. My husband works a lot because he has a job he loves and wants to succeed at. I don’t have enough time to spend with my kids who are really great people to be around. My parents are getting older but they are still here for my kids to get to know and learn from.

I thought back to the recent P.S. ARTS Board of Trustees retreat. Our founder, Dr. Paul Cummins, was there to kick the day off. Dr. Cummins is a tireless world-mover, and, as I said at the retreat, an inspiration to me personally. He told us the P.S. ARTS origin story. It was a night he wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t want to go to a reception for new students at the school where he was Headmaster. His wife told him he couldn’t let the kids down, so Dr. Cummins pulled himself together and went. That was the night he met musician and philanthropist Herb Alpert, told him about the sad state of arts education in public schools, and started a philanthropic partnership that would eventually become the P.S. ARTS of today providing arts education to 20,000 students every single week. The moral of the story, said Dr. Cummins, is “Show up!”

So, I channeled my inner world-mover and opened up my computer to re-read what I had written on my marathon fundraising page way back when the idea of walking a marathon didn’t seem as crazy:

I said no to doing the LA Marathon a dozen times before I said yes. I was (and am) terrified that I won’t be able to make it, that I’ll be embarrassed, or that I will let down the kids I am trying to do right by. When I actually admitted that to myself, I realized that taking on challenges and forging ahead in spite of doubt is exactly what we at P.S. ARTS ask our students to do every single day — so, it’s my turn to (literally) walk my talk. I plan on walking the entire 26 miles alongside my husband and dear friends as a way of showing P.S. ARTS’ 20,000 young people that if you set your sights high, work hard, believe, lean on your friends (and be there when they need to lean back), you will succeed.  

Sigh. Okay, okay! I get it, Universe. We ask these kids to show up, put themselves out there, and muster up confidence, positivity, and creativity every day. I encourage them to do these things, when they are hard for me, and I am, as we’ve established, one of the lucky ones! Sure, I have stress like we all have stress, but I have stress from my safe home in my safe neighborhood. I have stress with enough to eat everyday, reliable family and friends around me, and a body that does, at least, most of what I want it to do. A lot of the kids P.S. ARTS serves don’t have those things. A heartbreaking number don’t have them. So, no more feeling sorry for myself; I put on my shoes and I started walking. I walked ten miles, sweated the fever out (I hope), cleared my head, and, most important, I reminded myself of the whole reason I agreed to do this thing in the first place! That is, when I feel even a fraction of the grit and grace it takes for the students from the communities we serve to get to school every day, work hard, imagine, create, and do all the things we ask them to do in our arts classes — I know I can’t let anything stand in the way of doing my part to be sure they have those classes to go to. My part is the easier one by far. One foot in front of the other, I will finish this marathon alongside all of the other world-movers supporting P.S. ARTS and, together, we will make sure our kids are never without the opportunity and tools to make it to whatever finish line they can dream up.

To support Team P.S. ARTS, click HERE

Team P.S. ARTS Runner profile: Salli Richardson-Whitfield

The LA Marathon and LA Big 5K are this weekend, which means today is our last post in the #MarathonMonday series! This week, meet Team P.S. ARTS runner Salli Richardson:

image-57561e81a0a76308f9c5352108ed69e9P.S. ARTS:  How are you feeling about race day?

Salli: I am a little nervous! I’m not sure what to expect because this is my first marathon. I ran 5 miles yesterday, but with raising two kids and shooting a tv show – it’s hard to find the time to train!

P.S. ARTS: Why Team P.S. ARTS?

Salli: I became good friends with Kristen Paglia (CEO) and her husband Jaime while working on the TV show Eureka. My husband Dondre and I love attending P.S. ARTS events and supporting the work they are doing in our schools. Kristi promised to be my walking buddy, so Dondre and I joined!

P.S. ARTS: Tell us a little about your experience with arts education.

Salli: My mother was in the recording business, so I was around a lot of music growing up. Both of my parents were university educators and I was lucky to attend the University of Chicago Lab School. There were so many opportunities at that school – opera, woodworking, home economics, band, art and an amazing theater program.  Without access to those classes, I would not have the job I have today. I wasn’t involved in many extracurricular activities growing up; the only place I was really exposed to new things was in school.  For many kids this is the case, but in schools that no longer have arts programs, the students are missing chances to find hidden talents, and the industry is missing out on budding artists.

As a parent, I try to expose my kids to as many things as possible and see what sticks. My daughter has art, theater and music during the school days and plays the violin after school. She says she wants to be a photographer or a cartoonist when she grows up!

All children should be able to experiment in school. They deserve the opportunity to explore, create and define the things that they are successful at; this just isn’t possible without the arts.

P.S. ARTS: What is your strategy for making it to the finish line?

Salli: I plan to stick with the team and make sure my iPod is charged and ready to pump me up for 26.2 miles!

Support Salli & Team P.S. ARTS!

Building Musical Bridges across the Pacific!

Joleen, Emma ID

BY EMMA Joleen, Music Teaching Artist

Aloha to the HMEA Conference

LEiHMEALast week, I had the pleasure of attending the Hawaii Music Educators Association conference that was held at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. I received an invitation to attend as a result of my previous experience with indigenous Australian music. My prior work with indigenous Australian children inspired me to create what I called the “Aussie Songbook,” which is an array of songs that I arranged for the Orff instrumentarium encompassing xylophones, clapping sticks, recorders, body percussion, movement and singing!

As an Australian native, the South Pacific islands have always held a special place in my heart and, considering their shared history with James Cook and the European invasion (not to mention the musical “South Pacific” and the film based on the life and times of Queen Emma Kalanikaumaka’amano Kaleleonalani Na’ea Rooke of Hawai’i), it was a dream come true to finally visit the island of Oahu.

New Ideas!

The presenters were all spectacular, and I learned something from each of them. Here is a small sampling of the conference’s topics:


I highly recommend the songs of John Farrell who presented his own original songs that include sign language, which is imperative for engaging kinesthetic learners.

I was super excited to learn about the xylophone music stands that were recommended to alleviate any discomfort students feel after sitting on the floor to play the instruments.


A wonderful idea I learned from the presenters Janet Montgomery and Paul Waskiewicz from Columbia was to focus attention on a specific area of the floor by creating a grid using blue painters tape. This presentation was geared towards children with special needs; however, it offered excellent strategies for creating focus in any K – 5 classroom setting. The floor grid was used as a beat box for walking, hopping, jumping and finding the beat and/or rhythm.

I was happy to take a walk down memory lane when I attended the Dalcroze Eurhythmique presentation by Michael Lippert because it overlaps with the movement pedagogy in Orff Schulwerk. As a teacher of both methodologies, it is always interesting to compare the two. During this session, the emphasis was on conducting with scarves and feeling the preparation – ictus – rebound whilst singing the traditional song “Down By the Sally Gardens.”

Building (Musical) Bridges!

At the conference, I was very fortunate to meet DeeAnn Gray who is the music teacher from the Wahiawa Middle School. After seeing my presentation, she invited me to present to her classes. I had no idea where Wahiawa was located but soon found out that it was a 2-hour bus ride into the middle of the most luscious landscape I had ever seen. The trip was definitely worthwhile because I was able to hear some of the most beautiful singers to ever grace the planet! We were singing and playing for hours (even after the school day had ended!). It was exhilarating!


A huge mahalo to Gail Yoshioka, the music teacher at Waimanolo Elementary and Intermediate School, because she gave me a personal tour of the surrounding tropical beaches, mountains and various landscapes. She also had the projector set up and ready for my powerpoint presentation.


​The President of the HMEA, Amanda Lippert, teaches at Punahou and gave me the full tour of the most stunning music room I have ever seen. In fact, everyone calls it “The Penthouse” due to its overwhelming size and spectacular view. The students to who I presented learned how to sing “Wash Your Face with Orange Juice​” and “Shoo Goanna” in a variety of ways with voice and instruments.

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There were clinicians who traveled all the way from Korea and Taiwan: YongHee Kim & Jeongjoo Choi (Korea) of Interdisciplinary Arts and Music Programs for Children and Yi-Ju Shih (Taiwan) of Children’s Singing Games. These two presentations were especially helpful in learning to pronounce Korean and Taiwanese lyrics accurately, as well as hearing how teaching artists in those neighboring countries interact and collaborate with each other via technology such as Skype and Facebook. Building musical bridges across the Pacific has become a lot easier with technology these days! Yi-Ju Shih based her entire presentation on Orff Schulwerk music pedagogy and provided excellent resources for all the teachers involved; I am very excited to share the Taiwanese singing games with my students in the SMMUSD!

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I was honored to be a clinician at the #HMEA2015 conference, and I was thrilled to be invited as a presenter at the Wahiawa Middle School, Waimanolo Elementary and Intermediate School as well as the Punahou School on the island of Oahu, Hawai’i.

This convening of music educators, choir directors, clinicians and musicians from all across the globe reflected the motto I value dearly, “Life is a song, Love is the music.” I’m so happy I was able to attend, and I’d like to send out an online “Bravissimi” to everyone at the legendary HMEA 2015 conference.

Mahalo, Emma Joleen


For more information and teaching resources, please visit: