Jose Medrano Velazquez Found Courage Through IOCA

on November 22, 2019

Jose Medrano Velazquez is an Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) alum who is now on their way to becoming an artist leader. IOCA is our after school theatre program that teaches students how to write their own plays, design sets, and perform their original works. We asked Jose to share more about how they found confidence and courage through IOCA and how they continue to use those lessons in their personal work.

Courage is powerful not only for you, but for inspiring others to be just as strong.

Who are you? Tell us about yourself! What do you do at Inside Out?

Hey there! My name is Jose Medrano Velazquez, and I’ve been with Inside Out Community Arts for nine amazing years. I was a student in the program at John Adams Middle School, a volunteer mentor throughout high school, a camp (and sometimes on-site) volunteer throughout college, and will be starting my artist leader training very soon. In middle school I was bullied on a daily basis and Inside Out was my escape—it provided a safe space for me to feel comfortable expressing myself and my creativity. It’s through my many years in Inside Out that I’ve gained confidence in myself and passion for the arts. I currently make/perform synthpop music and artwork under the stage name Lost Angeles and will be graduating with a B.A. in theatre arts from Cal State Northridge this fall. I’m also a member of the queer-Latinx community and believe that I have an obligation to create visibility and empowerment throughout both my art and daily life. In my opinion, the arts and creative self-expression are the keys to both personal liberation and meaningful human connection.

Share a little bit about your experience as an Inside Out student.

As a student of Inside Out in middle school, I was given an opportunity that people from my socioeconomic background typically don’t get to have. It was a massive privilege. I’ve always been an extremely creative and artistic person but never really had a proper avenue or resources to nurture that side of me. Inside Out’s curriculum is so great because it’s rooted in theatre and gives you the chance to explore many forms of art — from creative writing and poetry to painting flats and making props. For many of us who’ve been through the program, Inside Out was our first chance at being on a real stage and part of a production. I’ve since learned that, regardless of what the art form is, I truly thrive and belong on a stage and in the spotlight…as narcissistic as that may sound. Inside Out helped me realize I have something to say and my opinions and stories matter.

What is it like to be a part of the program now as an adult? How do you feel about working with students from your middle school?

Going from being a mentor to an adult volunteer has been an interesting and rewarding shift. When you’re in high school, the middle school students might not always take you as seriously because you’re closer to their age and you might have even been in the program together at one point. Luckily, I feel like I’ve always been pretty great at connecting with the students and having them see me as someone they can have fun with and laugh with but also be respectful to and listen to. The older I get the more I start being called “teacher” or “mister,” which definitely feels weird, especially since most of us in art like going by our first names. Although the cool thing about that is because I’m genderqueer I’ve taught some of the kids who feel uncomfortable calling me by my first name to call me “Mx. Jose” (pronounced mix Jose, Mx. being a gender-neutral prefix). Students from John Adams Middle School are the ones I get along with best, of course, because there’s always that school pride and comfort in working with someone who comes from where you come from and went through what you went through.

Tell us about your personal work and how it affects your work with Inside Out.

So it’s no surprise that I’m openly queer and proud of it. I strongly believe in the value of being your authentic self and that if you have the privilege to safely be out and open — it will inspire others. Although of course I can’t and don’t try to force my beliefs on others, Inside Out students consistently empower me and remind me how important it is for me to be as visible as I am. I’ve had so many students tell me every single year that they feel very comfortable being themselves around me and that I’ve inspired them to be more bold and courageous as individuals. To inspire bravery is something I take very seriously and am very honored to be able to do. My music isn’t too political but all my work is meant to create visibility and center the queer-Latinx community specifically. My whole lifestyle is centered around the idea of empowerment through visibility and kindness, so of course it reflects in everything I do. Unfortunately, it’s not always safe for every individual to express themselves as they’d like to, but if they see one person in the room who’s just like them — one person who they can look up to, someone who makes them think “one day I can be as free as they are,” — THAT. That’s powerful. That changes lives.

It makes me really proud to see the students grow and know that I played a role in helping them feel more confident and courageous.

What are some consistent sources of inspiration for you/your artwork?

My music and artwork draw inspiration from so many places. I grew up listening to oldies in my mom’s car and singing along to “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” with her. My dad and my Aunt Lety are also huge 80s heads, and I grew up surrounded by new wave pop and the sounds of The Cure, Soft Cell, Michael Jackson, and also freestyle music like Debbie Deb. I’m also really obsessed with dark industrial heavily synth-based music like Gesaffelstein. Also throw into the mix my huge pop obsession — I’m a major fan of Lady Gaga and spent my childhood loudly blaring the words to every single Hilary Duff song. I’ve often explained my music as “Bacchanalian synth death.” It has that crazy, dark primal energy with a danceable, colorful neo-80s synth flair and catchy but often complex pop songwriting. I also operate from the point of view of a “demon angel” sort of world that’s a reflection of my life experiences. I love Halloween and am into spooky occult and gothic vibes, but I am also influenced by my Catholic upbringing and both renaissance and baroque artwork and architecture. I also love science fiction and retros 80s aesthetics — I think two of my biggest inspirations in terms of film are Fifth Element and Constantine. I often use religious and sci-fi motifs in my work.

If Inside Out students can have one takeaway from the Inside Out Program, what would you like it to be?

If Inside Out students can have one take away from the program…as corny as it sounds — THE LOW DOWN IS FACTS. Courage, respect, and accountability are major keys to helping you in all aspects of life, regardless of whether you continue to pursue the arts or not. I think courage is the biggest one. Inside Out is going to challenge you a lot and you’re not going to fully reap the benefits without courage, and when you finally let go and give it your absolute best — it’s SO rewarding. Courage is powerful not only for you, but for inspiring others to be just as strong. It’s contagious. The ultimate takeaway is to not underestimate yourself; if you’re courageous, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Tell us about a memorable moment with an Inside Out student or at an Inside Out event.

My favorite moments with Inside Out students are always at camp. Every year the students catch onto my slang or queer vernacular and take it on as their own. I will never forget the camp where everyone couldn’t stop saying “yasss queen!” Also as I’ve stated so much earlier, it’s really important to be yourself and when the kids tell me personally that I make it easier for them to express themselves, that makes me really proud of myself. It makes me really proud to see the students grow and know that I played a role in helping them feel more confident and courageous.

What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?

Maybe super cliché of me but I think I’d wanna take out Lady Gaga for coffee. She fully terrifies me because she’s so well versed and well-traveled and educated and such a genius artist, but also I feel like she’d be really inspiring and I’d love to have her as a mentor one day. I know that she’d get my quirks and understand my art.

Inside Out helped me realize I have something to say and my opinions and stories matter.

Thank you, Jose, for sharing this inspiring journey with us; we are excited to hear what the next chapter will bring! Read more about our IOCA program here.

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Gaby PalmadessaJose Medrano Velazquez Found Courage Through IOCA

Crissie Sanchez wants her students to know that IOCA is about heart and soul

on August 1, 2019

Crissie Sanchez was first introduced to the Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) program as a middle school student. She went on to be an IOCA alumni mentor, artist leader intern, production artist, and now an Artist Leader Trainee, helping to teach students at her former middle school. We asked Crissie to share more about her experience moving from student to teacher and about what she now hopes her students can learn from her.

I want my students to know that Inside Out is more than just a program about theater. This program is about heart and soul.

Tell us about your experience as an Inside Out student.

IOCA was my miracle waiting to happen. I truly believe that without a program like IOCA, I wouldn’t be as confident and strong as I am now.  As a middle schooler, I had a lot of anxiety and insecurities on a number of things like my ADHD and my inability to create connections with my peers, which resulted in my being bullied. As I learned throughout the program, there was so much more to me than my anxiety and my insecurities. I learned that I had a voice and a knack for being…me.

In a few months after joining the program, I started to express myself more through my fashion choices and my personality traits. I never thought that I was a good enough person before the program, but strong, supportive women like Lora Cawelti and Andrea Shreeman (who were my first artist leaders) taught me the beauty in creating super sweet, silly art.

IOCA was my miracle waiting to happen. I truly believe that without a program like IOCA, I wouldn’t be as confident and strong as I grew to be now.

What is it like to teach for a program you participated in as a student?

It is SUCH AN HONOR to be working with IOCA as an Artist Leader Trainee. My experiences as a student, alumni mentor, artist leader intern, and production artist have molded every part of my being outside of the program as well as inside. When I see a child grow from the timid, worried person to this beautiful, excited, fearless actor⁠, I can’t help but well up with tears of joy. It is a blessing to be given the opportunity to help someone see themselves in a new positive light. I am helping a child access a part of them that they never thought was there… just as my artist leaders and mentors did for me.

My experiences as a student, alumni mentor, artist leader intern, and production artist have molded every part of my being outside of the program as well as inside. When I see a child grow from the timid, worried person to this beautiful, excited, fearless actor⁠, I can’t help but well up with tears of joy.

How do you feel being back at your middle school?

I always think about my days in that school. The good and the not so good. Every classroom I walk into reminds me of a different memory. I know that middle school is such a hard transition for 9-14 year-olds. The fact that I went to that exact school makes me even more conscious of that⁠—it centers me and helps me stay connected even with my gradual transition from student/trainee to teacher/adult. I leave the campus every session feeling grateful to be able to come back.

Tell us about your personal work and how it affects your teaching.

Besides teaching, I am going to school and working on my general education classes as I plan to transfer into a four-year program. My goal is to graduate with a degree in theater arts and social justice. On the weekends, I also lead a choir at a church. IOCA also gave me the confidence to sing! As soon as I realized that I can sing, I volunteered at my church. Throughout my years there, I have earned the role in leading their English choir. Because of all these extracurriculars, I can help students with writing songs and rehearsals in singing.

What are some consistent sources of inspiration for you/your artwork?

Some consistent sources of inspiration for me would have to be children’s education TV shows. Shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood were staples in my childhood. I always loved the strong and seamless morals they had to offer. Songs like “It’s You I Like” by Fred Rogers and “Just One Person” by Jim Henson still give me the inspiration to move forward. As I dive deeper into my own art projects, I hope to create music or poetry in the likes of those songs.

Other inspirations would be The Carol Burnett Show, oddly enough. I know that I am not exactly the age bracket that the humor was written for, but I find Carol Burnett to be so powerful in her comedy. I had one VHS I would watch over and over again where Carol Burnett parodied Gone With The Wind. The strength and talent she had along with her castmates always made me so hopeful that one day I would be like her.

If your students have one main takeaway from your class, what would you like it to be?

I want my students to know that IOCA is more than just a program about theater. This program is about heart and soul. At the end of a session, I hope that each and every single student found out something about themselves that they never knew before. Whether it be a newfound talent or cool new favorite genre. My biggest wish is for them to learn how to mold and nurture their hearts, minds, and souls. You can’t spell heart without ART.

Tell us about a memorable class/student/lesson.

There are so many now! As I progress with the program I meet new students that just blow me away! I will always remember one student who was so bright and funny, with so much charisma. They were fantastic at acting and amazing in comedy. This student was so fiercely true to themselves that it was always so incredible to see them process the storyline then actualize it with such ease. I will always be blown away.

What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?

This is definitely a difficult question. I think that the person I would like to choose is Jim Henson. He was such a creative genius and was always creating such a beautiful form of entertainment every chance he got. He created a universe that is still recognized to this day even after his passing. I want to know where he drew inspiration from. What kept him going even when he was tired? How did he organize his ideas? How can I start creating?

Overall, I have and always will be 100% dedicated to a program that not only brightened my life but also changed my life forever. The concepts and skills that I have learned throughout the years with this program have made me extremely excited to see what I can create next. Art equals life, forever.

Thank you, Crissie Sanchez! We love hearing your stories about your time as a student and now as an Artist Leader Trainee! Read more stories from the IOCA program here.

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Stephanie McGrathCrissie Sanchez wants her students to know that IOCA is about heart and soul

The Alumni Mentor Film Project: Untitled

on June 26, 2015

By Lora Cawelti, Program Manager

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.

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P.S. ARTSThe Alumni Mentor Film Project: Untitled

Magic Moments from the Annual Youth Camping & Rehearsal Retreat!

on May 13, 2015

By Lauren Deck, Senior Program Manager

Middle school students from P.S. ARTS’ after-school theater program, Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA), recently returned from a three-day overnight camping and rehearsal retreat in the Santa Monica Mountains.

IOCA’s camping retreat was designed with two key goals in mind: to provide focused time outside of the 18-week after-school program for students to continue creating and rehearsing their original plays and to get students out of their usual city environments and its challenges. Year after year, I have witnessed how this immersion in a neutral and natural setting often provides students with the structure and safety needed to be more creative, successful team members in their play-creation process and to make new friends more easily.

When 70 middle school students from three Los Angeles area schools arrived at camp, they were greeted by cheering camp staff, youth leaders, cabins nestled under a Sycamore tree canopy and Camp Agreements that began,

“We’re here to work and play together, as a community of artists and friends!”

This was the 10th camping event that I have co-planned with the programs team since 2008. Over the years I have noticed many visible transformations in both middle school participants and the high school and college age program alumni who return to help run camp.  This year’s retreat was no exception, and I am pleased to share several highlights with you!

Middle School Student Magic Moments! 

Jannya is a middle school student who returned after participating in the program last year.  During a star hike at camp last year, she exhibited behavior issues.  Since then, a big change has occurred.  The four Artist Leaders at Jannya’s school reported that she has really stepped up this year; she is involved in leadership groups and has demonstrated new skills among her peers during the IOCA workshops. Her new motivation became apparent to me at this year’s camp when she requested to lead the very star hike that she disrupted last year. On the first night of camp, I joined a group of students and Artist Leaders, and we trekked up a winding dirt path with Jannya at the lead. We came to a point where countless stars and constellations could be viewed. For many of the campers, this was their first experience away from city light pollution where they could gaze at the starlit sky.

Jannya took her role seriously and led her peers in a thoughtful star naming activity, where they dedicated stars up above to someone in their life. We listened quietly as young voices spoke out in the darkness to dedicate a star to a recently passed loved one, a special family member, a pet, a friend, someone who actively supports their goals and dreams, among many other heartfelt mentions of what is important in their lives.

Another highlight of the star hike was walking up the hill with a visually impaired student David. He felt his way on the unsteady gravel pathway, using his cane and a teacher’s arm for support.  During the walk up I overhead David comment excitedly to his teacher, “My mother will be so happy to hear that I climbed up a steep mountain!”

Katrina is an 8th grade student in her third year in the IOCA program.  She plans to join the Alumni Mentor program next year when she goes to high school to continue her leadership and artistic development. This year at camp she showcased her musical talent by singing and playing her acoustic guitar at the talent show. Katrina and her cast mates co-wrote wrote an original song for their play about gender equality. The song, called Breaking Through, speaks to the need for equality among all people regardless of gender. Katrina has a line in the song where the chorus continues while she steps up to the microphone and states something personal: 

My passion is coding for websites and it’s sad to know that my passion might be blocked just because I’m a woman while males get the opportunity to express their passion in the world of technology.

One of Katrina’s cast mates adds this line:

I was told that crying was not for men, just for girls. If you show emotion then you’re weaker than others. I personally think that’s wrong and that we’re all human; we all show emotion and we all cry.

Another student summarizes the play’s message: 

At the end of the day, we’re trying to break through to be equal, whatever gender you are. That’s just how you were born or how you choose to live your life. Nobody can judge you (us). That’s just how you (we) are.

Justin is a 7th grade student who discovered a new talent at camp as a student photographer.  One of the Artist Leaders at his school commented,

Justin was very nervous about camp. He was new to IOCA this year and had missed several workshops, so he didn’t have the time to really bond with his cast like the other students did. I saw ENORMOUS progress from Justin during camp. He was open, friendly, and had the chance to shine behind the scenes as a student photographer. I believe he found a home with Inside Out and will follow suit to join the Alumni Mentor program along with a new friend he made who already turned her Mentor application in the week after camp!

Justin shined as a student photographer during a group set painting activity when students were coached and allowed to use professional cameras to help staff document the event. He was repeatedly swarmed with students who wanted to pose for his pictures and he made a concentrated effort to experiment with multiple angles. After each photo, students would crowd around Justin to review the pictures and he was grinning largely each time he showed off his artistic work!

Alumni Magic Moments!

IOCA camping events feature young adult leaders, now in their late teens through mid-twenties, who participated in IOCA back when they were middle school students. Special recognition goes out to these former program participants who now play key roles at camp: Patty Duran, Alumni Mentor Coordinator and Camp Leadership Staff Member, Brandon Tillis, Camp Team Leader, and Louis Viera, Camp Team Member.

Leadership positions are also provided to high school students who have exhibited exceptional leadership qualities. Congratulations to this year’s Camp Youth Leadership team that featured three high school seniors who will be off to college in the fall: Jessica R. (CSU Northridge), Jose M. (CSU Northridge), and Sally H. (California Lutheran University)!

This year, two Alumni Mentors, Jose and Kevin, co-wrote lyrics and music to the very first original IOCA camp song!  They’ve kindly allowed me to share their first improvised version with you before it’s finished. Click HERE to listen to the inspiring, heartfelt, and fun song. P.S. ARTS staff members have been playing it in the office over the last few weeks when we need a momentary distraction from our to-do lists, to remind us how fortunate we are to provide programs for young artists!

What’s up next?

All of the IOCA campers are now back in the city at their respective middle schools – Whaley in Compton, Adams in South LA, and Irving in Glassell Park – adding the final touches to their short plays.

You are invited to join our audience this Saturday, May 16th at 7pm in downtown Los Angeles to witness their creative and courageous work on a professional stage.  Seats are free of charge and do not require a ticket. We look forward to seeing you there!

From the bottom of our artist heARTS, a big thanks to everyone who supported IOCA’s 2015 camping retreat, with special high fives going out to:

  • Every IOCA student who came to camp this year and their family members who helped make it possible
  • Spring 2015 Artist Leaders and Production Artists for their dedication, leadership, wisdom, creativity and talent
  • School staff members who provided program workshop space, school buses, and many hours of teacher support
  • Co-founder Camille Ameen for providing artistic direction to playgroups and annual leadership of the Mentor Council
  • Mentor program coordinators Lora Cawelti and Patty Duran, and the whole team of Alumni Mentors
  • DJ TNT James Davis for rockin’ yet another IOCA dance party
  • Musician David Cowan who led his first IOCA campfire drumming activity this year
  • Student Photographers: Juan P. Galvin O., Nathan P., Jesse P., Justin A., Justin P., Jair Q., Sharrod E., Merari H., Emmanuel A.
  • Student Photographer leader Jennifer Browne
  • Volunteer Camp Nurse Pamela Parker
  • A multitude of generous funders, partners, businesses, and individuals, too lengthy of a list to include here, who provide monetary contributions and free or discounted goods and services that make this all possible for the IOCA students
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P.S. ARTSMagic Moments from the Annual Youth Camping & Rehearsal Retreat!

Inside Out Community Arts Mentor Natalie Resendiz on the “Encourage Creativity” series

on February 20, 2015

An Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) Mentor, Natalie Resendiz, was recently featured in the Americans for the Arts’ “Encourage Creativity” video series. We asked Natalie to share her experiences on this project, and we loved hearing about the process and her time as a student (and now mentor) in one of our programs!

P.S. ARTS: Describe your role as an IOCA Mentor; what motivated you to become a mentor?

Natalie: As an IOCA Mentor, I have had the chance to participate in play creation, workshops, and learning experiences that not many people my age get to have. When you’re a mentor you are the bridge between Artist Leaders and students. You are the center of what makes this a powerful program. When I was in my final year of The School Project (TSP), I was absolutely sure that I was not ready to leave; being a mentor allowed me to continue to gain valuable experiences from such a wonderful program.

P.S. ARTS: What is the “Encourage Creativity” series?

Natalie: The “Encourage Creativity” series is a set of four videos that aim to advocate for arts education. They strive to “inform your community, inspire your friends, and impact the world.” Take a look at the complete series HERE.

P.S. ARTS: How did you get involved?

Natalie: Kristen Engebretsen, who used to work with IOCA and now works for Americans for the Arts is my friend on social media. She said she really liked my energy in my Instagram videos and asked if I’d be interested in narrating a short video on the importance of arts education. It turned out that I was not only narrating – I would be starring in the video as well! We filmed at an elementary school in Santa Monica for 13 hours over two days. The process was entirely professional and as someone who doesn’t spend much time in front of a camera, this was beyond my wildest dreams. I could not believe that I was given an opportunity like this one simply because of my experiences with IOCA!

P.S. ARTS: What is the main thing you hope people will take away from this video?

Natalie: I hope that people understand that arts education really does help all those who participate. It’s not a myth; it’s real and it’s helpful. Art is meaningful and wonderful. I hope that those who want to be involved get involved! I hope others can use these videos as a resource to advocate for arts in their communities.

P.S. ARTS: How has being involved in IOCA impacted your life?

Natalie: When I was in the program, I wasn’t what many would consider a “troubled” student. I enjoyed school, I was outgoing and I did well in what I chose to participate in, but I didn’t exactly have what is considered an “easy” life. IOCA introduced me to a world that I didn’t know existed, which has helped me through some of the best and worst experiences of my life thus far; it has made me live an enriched life because I appreciate so much more as a result of what IOCA has taught me.

IOCA has always given me opportunities that I would have never imagined. The relationships I have created with my Artist Leaders, fellow Mentors, and our students are truly meaningful. I have been featured in blogs, in arts education videos, been in two musicals, received scholarships — I have even had a short play written about my life, all because of my time with IOCA. IOCA has given me a love that I will never lose: a family, I will always have and a life I have always deserved. 

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P.S. ARTSInside Out Community Arts Mentor Natalie Resendiz on the “Encourage Creativity” series