#GivingTuesday and P.S. ARTS

on December 3, 2013

Megan Strawther

By Megan Strawther, Development & Communications Associate

For many of us, this past Thanksgiving weekend was not just about turkey, apple pie, and family get-togethers, but it was also the official beginning to the holiday season.  Many of us participated in Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get a jump-start on holiday shopping for our loved ones.  Yet isn’t it a bit ironic we spend the Thursday of Thanksgiving being grateful for all that we have, only to follow it up with a Friday and Monday full of shopping for more things?  Well, now there’s a new trend that encourages all of us to really consider what it means to spend and give over the holidays.

#GivingTuesday is a social media movement that began last year as a coalition of nonprofit organizations that encouraged people to use the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a day for gift-giving to charities.  According to their website, “#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.”  The concept was devised as a tradition not centered on shopping, but in finding the deeper, soul-satisfying spirit of the holidays.[1]

At P.S. ARTS, we are so grateful for the many ways individuals choose to give to our organization.  Whether it’s your time, talent, or treasure, your gift ALWAYS makes a difference – especially to the 15,000 students we teach every week.  In honor of #GivingTuesday, we wanted to share the different ways you can give to our organization to ensure that we continue providing high-quality arts education:

  • By giving a gift.  You can make a 100% tax-deductible donation, join our Friends of P.S. ARTS membership program for special benefits (including our P.S. ARTS Perks card and access to exclusive events), or shop online at our P.S. ARTS store.  Your contributions go directly towards supporting our programs.  For just $250, P.S. ARTS is able to provide arts education to one child for an entire school year.  With the Internet and social media at our disposal, it’s easier to give now than ever before.  With just the click of a mouse, you could help improve a child’s life.  Whether you’re able to give $25 or $250 or $2,500, every little bit counts!
  • By giving your time.  P.S. ARTS holds different community outreach events throughout the year, including Family Art Nights and the annual TakePART in Art Festival, that encourage families and community members to participate in art making together.  Our volunteers make sure these events run smoothly and are a success.  It’s also a great opportunity to experience our work first-hand in the communities we serve.  By volunteering for P.S. ARTS, you help bring our community outreach programs to life.
  • By sharing your passion.  At P.S. ARTS, we believe that every child deserves a high-quality and well-rounded education.  By encouraging others to learn about the work we are doing in our communities, you are helping raise awareness for arts education and the field of education as a whole.  It’s as easy as sharing a P.S. ARTS Facebook post or a tweet.  The more of us that are in this together, the closer we will come to guaranteeing a great education for all the children in our community.

We love that #GivingTuesday is an opportunity for people to share what they have to help others and build stronger communities.  From the bottom of our hearts, we thank each and every one of you for your continued generosity and support of our organization.

Happy Holidays!

[1] Eileen Heisman. “Making #GivingTuesday A Movement.” Harvard Business Review. Web. 29 November 2013.

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P.S. ARTS#GivingTuesday and P.S. ARTS

What We’re Grateful For

on November 26, 2013

By Jennifer Leitch, Development Officer

This time of year inspires us to count our blessings, and at P.S. ARTS, we are fortunate to have many. With the support of hundreds of people dedicated to providing all students with access to a high-quality education, we have made great strides in promoting educational equity in Los Angeles County and Central California. We want to thank all of you for supporting this important work and for everything you do for the underserved students in our community.

To our Teaching Artists: Thank you for the imagination and artfulness you bring to P.S. ARTS classrooms. The passion you have for your craft brings our programs to life, and we are grateful for your tireless efforts to provide the highest quality arts education for your students.

To our partner schools: We are grateful that you share our belief that the arts are essential to a robust education. We thank you for your commitment to your students, and we are proud to work with you to provide a rigorous educational experience.

To our supporters: Through your generosity, P.S. ARTS is able to accomplish great things! We deeply appreciate your thoughtfulness, support, and dedication to our work – we could not do it without you.

And finally, to our students: Thank you for your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn – it is what makes our jobs worthwhile. We know that with innovators and creators like you at the helm, the future is bright! We feel privileged to be a part of your education.

On behalf of the P.S. ARTS team, it is with heartfelt thanks that we acknowledge everyone who has contributed to our success, and we wish you all a happy holiday season!

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P.S. ARTSWhat We’re Grateful For

Express Yourself 2013: Behind The Scenes

on November 20, 2013

By Allison Schaub, Advancement & Operations Assistant

It’s the week after Express Yourself and while the staff here at P.S. ARTS have tired feet and are in need of perhaps an extra cup of coffee, we can’t stop talking about what a success the event was.

What is Express Yourself?

Express Yourself is P.S. ARTS’ biggest fundraising event of the year. Each November, families all across Southern California come together for a day of creating, playing, and eating together in support of arts education.  The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica is filled with rows of booths that have unique art activities and special treats from some of the tastiest restaurants and caterers in Los Angeles.  I’ve been told by some attendees that Express Yourself is anticipated as much as a birthday or favorite holiday, and often becomes a family tradition.  Here is a behind-the-scenes look at Express Yourself 2013.

As an Express Yourself first timer, I was amazed by the level of detail that goes into this event.  Keeping track of art and edible booths, committee meetings, guest lists, art supplies, and decorations are only a few components of putting something like this together (though there isn’t really anything quite like Express Yourself). While it seems like an effortless and flawless event on the day of, it takes a lot of preparation to make things run so smoothly.

How does the event stay so organized? Events Coordinator, Chelsea Martell with her lists, lists, and more lists!

ADBD and Peek… Aren’t You Curious? always design the BEST merchandise for Express Yourself, and this year was no exception.

And, Junk Food Clothing made awesome volunteer T’s to coincide with this year’s theme – Peace, Love & Art.

We were so excited when 2013 merchandise arrived!!

This year, instead of a traditional donor book, the team decided to thank our supporters P.S. ARTS style by making a Creativity Book. Each page in the book had a a customized children’s art activity (some even based on our students’ artwork!) that highlighted all of our generous event sponsors.  Here is Development & Communications Associate, Megan Strawther creating one of over 50 activities in the Creativity Book. We have such a talented team!

The day before Express Yourself is the definition of organized chaos. An empty airport hangar is transformed into a dreamer’s paradise in less than two days thanks to the team at Bounce AEG, along with our amazing crew of staff, booth leaders, and volunteers.

We loved this mural created at the art booth, “Exploring Our Dreams, Expanding Our Universe: Collaborative Diptych Mural.” One of the many masterpieces created that day!

Whether it was your first year or your tenth, we want to say a huge thank you to all who participated and supported Express Yourself.  It would not have been such a success without the help and dedication of the Board of Trustees, Express Yourself Committee, booth leaders and restaurants, P.S. ARTS staff and Teaching Artists, and volunteers. Because of you, close to half a million dollars was raised to continue providing nationally recognized arts education in underserved public schools and communities.

To see pictures and/or read what guests and volunteers were posting at our event, be sure to check out the #psarts and #expressyourself2013 hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.  Our event was also featured in the Los Angeles Times, Just Jared, Herald Online, and Daily Mail UK.

If you loved attending this event and are interested in attending more, be sure to check out our Friends of P.S. ARTS membership program to receive special benefits and exclusive access to our signature fundraising events throughout the year.  You will also receive a P.S. ARTS Perks card that gets you special deals at restaurants throughout LA, including some that were at Express Yourself (a special thank you to Simple Things, Baby Blues BBQ, and Rita’s Italian Ice!).

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P.S. ARTSExpress Yourself 2013: Behind The Scenes

Legislative Issues That Impact Arts Education

on November 5, 2013

By Jennifer Leitch, Development Officer

Every other year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, Americans cast their ballots and help shape the direction of our country. In honor of the hard-won privilege to vote, we have highlighted some current legislative issues that impact the arts in this country.

The California Arts Council (CAC), a state agency whose mission is to advance California through the arts and creativity, and who provides hundreds of grants to California-based arts organizations each year (including P.S. ARTS), faced a big hurdle at the start of the 2013-2014 fiscal year: an almost 7 percent budget reduction. This was especially dismal considering that nationally, California has consistently ranked at or near the bottom in per-capita funding for arts grants. However, thanks to the collective effort of Californians for the Arts and other arts advocates, in mid-July, Assembly Speaker John Perez made a discretionary allocation of an additional $2 million to the California Arts Council, doubling what the CAC was slated to receive. This additional funding, which comes from savings in the 2013 State Assembly operating budget and is the first increase in tax-payer supported funding for the CAC in ten years, is restricted for grants and services that directly support the arts in California communities. We are thrilled to be the recipient of a California Arts Council grant, and thank the Speaker for his dedication and commitment to the arts in California!

On a federal level, the situation isn’t as bright. In the wake of ongoing debates surrounding tax reform, there is concern that charitable giving incentives will be reduced or eliminated; a 100-year old tradition that has benefited millions of Americans and that has helped establish a history of charitable giving in the U.S. that is unrivaled. The provision in question, which allows taxpayers to deduct donations made to nonprofits, not only threatens the nonprofit sector, but also the communities they serve. Charitable giving is a significant, if not primary, source of revenue for nonprofit organizations (P.S. ARTS receives approximately 80% of its revenue from charitable donations), and while most giving is motivated by the cause it supports, history has shown that donors do respond to tax law changes by altering when and how much they give. Without this support, the level of programming and services offered to those in need would be dramatically reduced. Capping the charitable deductions would also result in the loss of nonprofit jobs – a consequence that could potentially have a lasting and harmful impact on the sector. Here are a few more facts about the charitable tax deduction and nonprofits:

  • For every $1 dollar in deductions claimed, charities receive $3 dollars in revenue.
  • There are approximately 1.4 million nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations in the U.S., including arts organizations, hospitals, private schools, institutions of higher education, religious congregations, public television and radio stations, soup kitchens, and foundations.
  • U.S. nonprofit organizations contribute $1.1 trillion in human services every year and support 13.5 million jobs.[1]

Charitable giving incentives are an investment in the public good and are essential to the health of the nonprofit sector. The budget committee is expected to report on issues surrounding tax reform and long-term spending decisions on December 13, 2013. You can help us preserve the charitable giving incentives by emailing your legislators (find your legislator here).

For more information about other legislation affecting the arts (including a proposed 49% cut to the NEA to be considered when the current Continuing Resolution expires in January), please visit the Americans for the Arts website.

[1] “Advocacy and Policy.” Americans for the Arts. Web. November 4, 2013.

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P.S. ARTSLegislative Issues That Impact Arts Education

P.S. ARTS and Grand View Boulevard Elementary Participate in the Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival

on October 22, 2013

By Stephanie Kistner, Senior Education & Programs Associate

For the first time, P.S. ARTS students from Grand View Boulevard Elementary performed at the Music Center’s 35th Annual Very Special Arts Festival on October 18th! We were excited to be able to participate in the festival and showcase our inclusive arts program that was developed in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, The Very Special Arts Festival is an annual, free event located on the Music Center Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. Mark Slavkin, Vice President of Education at the Music Center, explains, “From its early days, the Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival has had one main mission: to recognize the talents of all students and to create a welcoming and engaging environment in which students, including those with disabilities, have access to the transformative power of arts.”

This year’s festival theme, “We Are One,” inspired P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists Richard Scher and Amber Carroll to develop a musical performance that combined the P.S. ARTS’ motto, “We have the freedom to imagine. We have the power to create,” with the festival’s all-encompassing focus. Students from Grand View Boulevard Elementary proudly sang, played percussion instruments, and proclaimed, “We have the freedom to imagine, we have the power to create, we are one!”

Students from Grand View, including students with disabilities, made music together and showcased what an inclusive elementary music program looks like! We couldn’t have been more proud of our Teaching Artists and students when they took the stage, and we were thrilled to be able to participate in such an important event.

Students in P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist’s Tamie Smith’s inclusive visual arts classes at Grand View also had work on display at the event! Modeled after P.S. ARTS’ 2013-14 masterwork, Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” a public artwork located in Chicago, commonly known as, “The Bean,” students studied architecture and created model cities that explored concepts of space and perception, and included small-scale versions of “Cloud Gate”!

A very generous thank you to the Music Center for organizing this event that allows ALL students the opportunity to display their unique talents and create art together! We couldn’t think a better way to celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month.

For more information on the Very Special Arts Festival, you can visit: http://www.musiccenter.org

If you’d like to see more pictures from the event, you can check out our Facebook album.

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P.S. ARTSP.S. ARTS and Grand View Boulevard Elementary Participate in the Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival

Tommy Hilfiger Visits Walgrove Elementary School

on October 18, 2013

By Megan Strawther, Development & Communications Associate

This past Tuesday, the P.S. ARTS program at Walgrove Elementary School had the opportunity to host Tommy Hilfiger and celebrate the recent launch of a unique inclusive arts education curriculum that The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation is helping fund.

The Tommy Hilfiger–P.S. ARTS partnership was cemented last school year when our organization launched two unique programs at Walgrove Elementary and Grand View Elementary to help students with special needs achieve their full potential alongside their typically developing peers.  Our inclusive arts education program was especially meaningful to The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation, who focuses on providing better education for children globally, especially those with special needs and autism.

“Autism awareness and education is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and an issue that affects my family.” said Tommy Hilfiger. “I am very proud to launch this partnership with P.S. ARTS, and I hope that with its unique focus on bringing all children together for arts education, the program will pave the way for similar programs in the Los Angeles area and across the country.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Hilfiger and the president of The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation, Guy Vickers, had the chance to meet with P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists, the executive board, our administrative staff, the Walgrove school principal, and to observe our art programs in action!  It was a very exciting morning for all involved, and our team is excited for the potential of this partnership and what it means for the students we serve, especially those with special needs who now have the opportunity to experience arts education alongside their peers.

Check out the press release featured in the Wall Street Journal on Mr. Hilfiger’s visit to the P.S. ARTS program at Walgrove Elementary.

On behalf of the students we serve, our warmest thanks to Mr. Hilfiger and the Foundation for their generous support!

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P.S. ARTSTommy Hilfiger Visits Walgrove Elementary School

Meet Our Newest Team Member!

on October 8, 2013

P.S. ARTS is excited to introduce the newest member of our team, Advancement & Operations Assistant Allison Schaub.  Allison joins our staff after working for a nonprofit organization in San Francisco.  We are thrilled to have Allison jump on board as we get ready for all of the exciting things happening this fall.

To get to know Allison a little bit better, we had her answer a few questions below:

Q. What book is currently on your nightstand?

A. I’m currently reading a book called Born to Run. It’s about the Tarahumara people who are known for their incredible ability to run extremely long distances. I am trying to build up the courage to sign up for the Los Angeles Marathon and this book is providing some great inspiration!

Q. What is your favorite place to view art in Los Angeles?

A. I love walking around Los Angeles and seeing all the different styles of street art. Art is everywhere here and in unexpected places too, like the Metro!

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

A. Right now, Shel Silverstein! I recently came across my childhood copy of Where
the Sidewalk Ends
, and I couldn’t put it down. I’m sure he would make for some silly conversation.

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P.S. ARTSMeet Our Newest Team Member!

P.S. ARTS Motto for 2013-14

on October 1, 2013

By Dr. Kristen Paglia, Executive Director of Education & Programs

We have the freedom to imagine. We have the power to create

This is our motto at P.S. ARTS.

Our programs staff and faculty spent a day last spring developing this motto. We asked, “What matters about arts education?” We considered our mission – to improve the lives of children by providing arts education to underserved public schools and communities. We reflected on our collective belief that arts education is essential to building a creative, humane, prosperous society. It sounds like a lofty, and maybe even heated, conversation, but we quickly realized that there is abundant room at P.S. ARTS for a broad range of opinions about what matters – and that is what matters. It is this inclusive atmosphere and the celebration of a diversity of experiences and ideas that has shaped our program for over two decades. Through a theme-based curriculum model, P.S. ARTS invites professional artists to build their lessons around their varied artistic interests. They are empowered to develop curricula that are personally inspiring. By connecting unique artistic gifts to a unifying theme framed in the California arts education standards, the P.S. ARTS program honors both the individual and the collective. It is this core ideal that gave shape to our motto.

We have the freedom to imagine…  P.S. ARTS students are encouraged to look carefully at the world around them and reflect on their place in it. Through creating and experiencing dance, music, theater, and visual arts, P.S. ARTS students are given a window to the universe. For example, in the 2012-2013 school year, we trained our Teaching Artists to integrate technology into their lessons and purchased a classroom set of iPads to broaden students’ universe even further. We live in a global society, and P.S. ARTS is dedicated to educating global citizens with the freedom to imagine beyond their daily lives. A recent program evaluation led by Dr. James Catterall with the Centers for Research on Creativity indicates that over the course of the year, P.S. ARTS students show significant gains in their creative capacity to “produce ideas, designs, and products that are novel and valuable.”

We have the power to create… The ability to realize dreams is as critical to improving one’s life and contributing to a thriving society as the ability to imagine it can be done. P.S. ARTS places enormous value on program rigor and sequential skills development. Our rubric-based student performance measure shows that the vast majority of P.S. ARTS students achieve grade-level proficiency or above in their art disciplines, as well as demonstrate increased ability to make connections between learning in the arts and other academic subjects, as well as their real lives.

We are thrilled we now have a P.S. ARTS motto that succinctly and artfully captures the significance of the work we do every day to improve the lives of over 15,000 children in Southern and Central California.

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P.S. ARTSP.S. ARTS Motto for 2013-14

P.S. ARTS Masterworks for 2013-14

on September 16, 2013

By Amy Knutson, Education & Programs Assistant

It’s crazy to think that the new school year and P.S. ARTS programs are officially underway! I am thrilled about what the upcoming school year has in store for P.S. ARTS (and personally, I’m still a little confused as to where the summer went).

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll remember that a couple of weeks ago our awesome Getty intern, May, announced the 2013-14 theme for P.S. ARTS, Exploring Our Dreams – Expanding Our Universe, and now I’m proud to introduce you to the masterworks!

What are masterworks? These are pieces of art, music, poetry, dance, or drama that we (P.S. ARTS faculty and staff) recognize as masterpieces that we believe are important for students to be familiar with.

First, a little history on why we choose to have a unifying program wide-theme and masterworks:

The P.S. ARTS staff and faculty recognized that while it was important to provide program-wide consistency for the curriculum, we also didn’t want to keep our 30+ Teaching Artists from teaching what they are passionate about.  One of the reasons P.S. ARTS is unique is that our teachers develop and teach their own curriculum.  This means there is a huge variety of lessons and projects happening in our classrooms every year.

When we first began working with the Lawndale Elementary School District in the South Bay in 2005, P.S. ARTS developed the IAM (Integrated Arts Model) program: for the 6 schools in the district, P.S. ARTS provides 3 teachers who would work in 3 schools in an 11 week rotation, serving every student with music, theater, and visual arts. Our former Curriculum & Instruction Specialist Richard Scher (who is now teaching for us at Grand View Boulevard Elementary School in our inclusion classes) came up with the idea of unifying the IAM program with a theme and masterworks. This gave our Teaching Artists inspiration for lessons and allowed students to easily reference across the disciplines. It was a huge success and last year we expanded this idea to ALL P.S. ARTS schools (with our first program-wide theme being Tree of Life – Roots and Branches).

With this year’s theme we want to encourage our students to not only explore and discover the world and universe around us, but delve into their imaginations, dreams, and aspirations. With that in mind, the faculty and programs staff collaborated on choosing these pieces as masterworks for this year. We look forward to see how these will spark students’ imaginations in our dance, music, theater, and visual arts classes!

Visual Arts:

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor

Why: Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor (affectionately known as “The Bean”) is a public art sculpture in Chicago. It is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park and when the light is right, you can’t see where the sculpture ends and the sky begins (acting as a gate between the sky and the viewer)! In his artwork, Kapoor strives to blur the boundary between the limit and the limitless, which is something we’re excited to see our students explore.


Sunrise from Thus Spoke Zarathustra Op 30., Strauss

Above is a really great video from Gustavo Dudamel (Music Director for Los Angeles Philharmonic) discussing his take on Zarathustra.

Why: Admit it, you knew as soon as the song began what this song was! This piece is culturally and historically relevant given its connection with the Apollo Space Mission and as the opening to Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. Dudamel, one of my favorite conductors to watch, said, “It’s about internal control, and the power of emotion, the power of thought… and the infinite possibilities that that power can give you as you lead your life… something you might think was an impossible dream but which then comes true… That’s the power we all have inside ourselves, to dream and make our dreams come true.”


“First Men on the Moon” by J. Patrick Lewis

That afternoon in mid-July,
Two pilgrims watched from distant space
The moon ballooning in the sky.
They rose to meet it face-to-face.

Their spidery spaceship, Eagle, dropped
Down gently on the lunar sand.
And when the module’s engines stopped,
Rapt silence fell across the land.

The first man down the ladder, Neil,
Spoke words that we remember now—
“One small step…” It made us feel
As if we were there too, somehow.

When Neil planted the flag and Buzz
Collected lunar rocks and dust,
They hopped like kangaroos because
Of gravity. Or wanderlust?

A quarter million miles away,
One small blue planet watched in awe.
And no one who was there that day
Will soon forget the sight they saw.

Why: Even with all the technological innovations that have occurred since 1969, it is pretty amazing to look at the night sky and imagine two men walking around on that shining, white orb. The sense of exploration, adventure, and aspiration is what we hope to inspire in our students this year with these masterworks.

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P.S. ARTSP.S. ARTS Masterworks for 2013-14

Good Beer, Good Food, Great Cause

on September 4, 2013

By Jen Leitch, Development Officer

Good beer, good food, great cause.

Next week, P.S. ARTS is hosting Paints & Pints – a collaboration with TOMS aimed at inspiring creativity and a spirit of community. As your local arts organization, we want to help create a space for gathering, creating, and contributing, and Paints & Pints is just that.

Graciously hosted by TOMS Community in the backyard of their flagship store on Abbot Kinney in Venice, Paints & Pints will feature art-making and refreshments, and will provide a glimpse into P.S. ARTS’ important work in the Los Angeles community.  As the 2013-2014 school year begins, P.S. ARTS is launching programs in 35 underserved elementary and middle schools throughout Southern and Central California. Over the next ten months, 15,000 students will sing, act, dance, and create – and most importantly, gain the skills to think outside the box and communicate with confidence. The skills that the arts impart help students develop a competitive edge that will serve them throughout their careers (and lives!). So we hope you’ll join us on September 10th for a beer and some art, and join us in our cause to improve our communities through arts education.

We would like to give an especially spirited thank you to our event sponsors: Golden Road Brewing, Obika Mozzarella Bar, La Pinata, and of course, TOMS Community. We are incredibly grateful for your generosity, and we appreciate your enthusiasm about this event!

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P.S. ARTSGood Beer, Good Food, Great Cause