Inner-City Arts was founded in 1989 by Bob Bates, an artist and teacher, and Irwin Jaeger, an entrepreneur. During the ‘70s, when budget cuts eliminated funding for art classes in public schools, the gap in arts education increased – especially for the schools and students located in the Skid Row area. Bates and Jaeger teamed up to bring arts instruction to children in the downtown communities and Inner-City Arts (ICA) was born. Twenty-seven years later, ICA has grown from serving 60 students in its inaugural year to several thousand students a year. As a native Angelino of 28 years, I only learned of ICA and the magic they share with inner-city children a little over a year ago. In the words of Bob Smiland, Inner-City Arts President and CEO, “it is the best hidden gem in Los Angeles.”

This summer, I had the privilege to volunteer once a week for their “Artists in the Middle, 6, 7, 8 Create!” (AIM) program. In its inaugural year, the AIM held summer art workshops for middle school students. It consisted of 2 3-week sessions, Monday thru Friday, 9 A.M. to 12:15 P.M. During the session, kids chose 4 types of art studies, grouped by gem names: Sapphire, Ruby, Onyx that they wanted to learn over their 3-week session. Art studies included ceramics, dance, music, theater, creative lab, and film. It was powerful to see the kids transform from being quiet and timid into vibrant, loving artists.

– Lauren Yonai, Tierra West Office Manager

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