by Ratri Lertluksamipun, Associate Director of Events & Corporate Giving
As a member of Arts for LA, P.S. ARTS attended the LA Convergence conference, held at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Arts for LA is a voice for the arts in Greater Los Angeles that informs, engages, and mobilizes individuals and organizations to advocate for access to the arts across all communities—arts education for every student, robust investment in the arts, and the inclusion of diverse and underrepresented voices. What’s more, is they invest in leadership development, growing networks of civically engaged advocates, building deep relationships with elected officials, and working to make Los Angeles a vibrant, prosperous, creative, and healthy society.
Plenary speaker Melina Abdullah, Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, welcomed hundreds of artists, community leaders, provocateurs, policymakers, and art lovers to the event. Her provocative speech focused on the intersection of art and social justice and punctuated their collective power to effect change. She challenged all of us, through the power of our respective organizations, to work toward advancing justice. Charged by Melina’s words and the conference’s theme Expanding our R.E.A.C.H. attendees headed to their break out sessions to unveil thoughts and discuss ideas.
R.E.A.C.H: Revitalize. Educate. Activate. Connect. Heal.
A message that continued to echo between sessions was the importance of identity, respect, and mindfulness across individuals, families, and entire communities, particularly on the inclusion of underrepresented voices. This message particularly resonated with me since all P.S. ARTS programs are designed to be inclusive and promote global-mindedness and thoughtful consideration of identity and other social topics. A good example of this is P.S. ARTS’ Inside Out Community Arts program (IOCA), which lifts the voices of its students. Each semester, our IOCA middle schoolers create plays based on themes that are inspired by important issues in their lives and communities. Past themes include racism, gang violence, alcohol abuse, bullying, suicide, teen pregnancy, the environment, and immigration.
We heard from the incredibly eloquent Fabian Debora, Artist and Director at Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, and Eric Ibarra, Founder of Las Foto Project, among other panelists, highlighting the incredible effort and work that is being done to proactively invest in our most underserved youth. They described their philosophy and efforts on building career pathways and workforce development for the young people they serve. P.S. ARTS programs work to embrace this philosophy as well by placing success in school and life at the core of our model. In fact, an external evaluation led by renown arts education researcher Dr. James Catterall found that our programs foster attributes critical to personal, social, and professional success, including the ability to:
- Generate original ideas
- Solve problems creatively
- Collaborate with others
- Consider others’ feelings and ideas
- Take initiative to produce ideas, designs, and products that are novel and valuable
The well-orchestrated sessions delivered core takeaways: changing our mindset, our tools, strategies, and structures to progress towards a cultural democracy. Collectively, we are working towards getting better health indicators for communities, strategizing on ways to reduce homelessness, and building better systems to increase access to high-quality arts education for all students. This session offered tangible strategies for civic engagement and empowering leaders.
Panelists, presenters, moderators, and attendees were diverse in age–the youngest was 17–as well as in personal and professional experience. From arts education to organizations that help fight food insecurities, we are like-minded in that we value our hard-working and selfless organizations doing good for LA. This session encouraged participants to share their work, connect, be challenged, and inspire one another.
Here, participants tackled one of four health-related topics–food justice, mental health, environmental justice, and social justice–and had an open dialogue about how these topics connect and affect the overall health of our communities. At P.S. ARTS, we believe in the power of arts and culture to transform lives. As members of Arts for LA, our work and values intersect. And, the work and values of the people we serve intersect. By deepening our understanding of what makes a healthy community, collaborating and sharing ideas, we progress and transform not only P.S. ARTS’ mission but an entire population of intersected identities.
“May we all take a moment of great intention to recognize the opportunities and actions we can take to invest in the world we seek to build through the arts and each other.”
-Sofia Klatzker, Arts for LA Executive Director
P.S. ARTS employees pride ourselves on being lifelong learners. Arts for LA has built a network of remarkable people, leaders, and passionate advocates. Attending these conferences has and continues to expand our horizons. We were honored for the opportunity to attend this year and look forward to participating in thought-provoking lessons at next year’s LA Convergence. For more information about the sessions, click here. See more photos from the event on the Arts For LA Facebook.