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!
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!
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.