Inner-City Arts

by Liz Decarlo

Creating a Place for Creativity

MDRT Foundation supports local arts program during Top of the Table Annual Meeting.

When Jan Kirsch, director of professional development for Inner-City Arts (ICA) started working for the nonprofit, the entire program was housed in two bungalows in Los Angeles, California. Now the burgeoning children’s and teens’ arts program has a campus with nine large studios for many forms of artistic expression, and plans to build additional campuses.

During the recent Top of the Table Annual Meeting, the MDRT Foundation partnered with ICA, which offers arts education programs for youth and educators. Kirsh conducted an interactive workshop at the meeting to demonstrate one of the exercises they use to educate teachers on incorporating art into the classroom. The Foundation also raised $65,000 in donations at the meeting, with $30,000 designated specifically for ICA.

Located in L.A.’s Skid Row, one of the most socioeconomically challenged communities in the United States, ICA immerses its students in a supportive environment where they engage in visual and performing arts forms in studio and theater settings.

“We work to create a safe space where students can experience creative fun,” Kirsch said. “When your emotional core is in stress and experiencing trauma, the thinking brain can’t work. You’re not thinking to your fullest capacity.”

During the school day, after school and on weekends, elementary, middle and high school students come to ICA to work with professional teaching artists in well-equipped studios, receiving hands-on instruction in a range of subject areas within the visual, performing and media arts.

But ICA knew it wasn’t enough to work with the children in their program; they needed to educate teachers and school administrators on the importance of bringing the arts into their own schools.

“I had to justify why this was important and look at how we could provide a transformative impact on large public schools,” Kirsch said. She researched the burgeoning field of neuroeducation to be able to articulate why the arts are so critical in the schools.

What she found was being involved in the arts can boost critical thinking, encourage self-reflection and increase collaboration. “It’s good for the soul and the whole human being,” she said.

The Inner-City Arts Professional Development Institute provides experiential training for educators, university students, school administrators and others dedicated to bringing high-quality arts education to students of all ages and backgrounds.

“We work with teachers so they are able to apply creative practices in the classroom,” Kirsch said.