Our Story

P.S. ARTS was created in response to significant education budget cuts in the 1970s and 1980s, which cut local tax revenues for public schools and resulted in the systematic reduction and elimination of arts programs in California public schools.

In 1991, Dr. Paul Cummins, renowned educator, author, and founder of Crossroads School in Santa Monica, was on his way to the kitchen during a potluck dinner and literally bumped into a man that he had never met but looked quite familiar – famed musician Herb Alpert.  They began a conversation, which has become P.S. ARTS folklore: Paul decried the lack of arts education at a local school he had recently visited.  Herb’s response was, “You mean the arts are just gone from these public schools?  What if I gave you a grant?”  And thus, P.S. ARTS was founded as an outreach project of the Crossroads Community Foundation.  In 2003, P.S. ARTS received its own non-profit 501(c)(3) designation.

P.S. ARTS has grown from serving 285 students in one school to over 25,000 students in 57 underserved schools across Los Angeles County and California’s Central Valley; P.S. ARTS also serves nearly 10,000 students and families through our Community Engagement programs. In 2014, P.S. ARTS acquired the award-winning after-school arts organization Inside Out Community Arts to further expand our scope of service. Today, P.S. ARTS is widely regarded as an exemplary arts education provider, reaching beyond providing arts instruction and increasing quality, equity, and access in education by disseminating program resources, providing professional development, and contributing to national arts education policy discussions.

Why We Need the Arts

With close to 700,000 people in Los Angeles County working in the creative industry in 2013 alone[1], the arts should be a clear priority in California public education. However, despite the research that indicates numerous benefits associated with arts education, California public schools continue to cut back on arts programming due to continually shrinking budgets, competing priorities, and limited discretionary funding. As a result, the quality and frequency of arts education in our state’s public schools is highly variable. Further, research sponsored by the Department of Education indicates that students in underserved communities particularly benefit from arts education due to the emphasis placed on self-esteem, improving school climate and parent engagement, and developing problem-solving skills[2], but they are far less likely to receive arts education in California public schools. Studies also suggest that participation in the arts is associated with increased high school retention[3], a finding that cannot be ignored when the dropout rate in Los Angeles County has climbed as high as 50 percent in recent years. Over the last decade, California public schools have witnessed between a 50 and 100 percent decline in arts education. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has suggested that educational equity is “the civil rights issue of our time.” He states, “The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.” P.S. ARTS programming directly compensates for the arts that have been eliminated from these communities.

[1] Prepared for the OTIS College of Art and Design by the L.A.Economic Development Corporation. (2014). OTIS Report on the Creative Economy.

[2] Arts Education Partnership [AEP]. (2002). Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development.

[3] Arts Education Partnership [AEP]. (2002). Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development.

P.S. ARTSHistory