CalArts Is Going Back To High School This Summer

(Photo by Amancay Maahs/Flickr CC)

School's out for summer. But one of Southern California's most prestigious arts schools is still in session — and in a bit of an unexpected place: Crenshaw's Dorsey High.

There, the California Institute of the Arts Community Arts Partnership Summer Arts Program brings together 60 CalArts students and alumni and 190 middle and high school kids.

For four weeks the CalArts students and alums will be teaching arts - from dance to animation to acting.

This is the program's second year at the high school. It began when Dorsey's Robyn Charles was looking for support for the growing filmmaking program there, and CalArts' Community Arts Partnership, which has been around for over 25 years, was looking to expand.

"We [CalArts' Community Arts Partnership] have been in a lot of different neighborhoods and communities for many years," Bailey Cool, Interim Director of Programs and Operations at CalArts' Community Arts Partnership explained. "But we haven't had a huge presence in the Crenshaw area."

One of the goals is to bring arts instruction to students and schools that may be underserved.

Charles is now Dorsey's Program Director/Career Technical Arts. She said the partnership is a unique - and vital - opportunity for her students.

"It's summertime. What do you do with your kids? Can you pay for a $3,000 to $5,000 summer program?" she said. "Nine times out of 10, the answer to that question is going to be no, and that's why it's so invaluable that these programs come to areas like this."

It's also an opportunity for the CalArts students and alumni who teach the students.

CalArts student Ruben Rubio leads his Acting for Camera class through a theater game. (Photo by Carla Javier/KPCC)

"Many of our teachers, this is kind of their first teaching experience, and getting to teach collaboratively in groups is something that we really care about for them for that first step forward in learning how to manage a classroom, how to plan a syllabus," Cool said.

One of those teachers is Ruben Rubio, a master's student at CalArts', studying acting. This summer, he's teaching a class in acting for camera. When I visited, he walked students through breathing and warm-up techniques, and they played a theater game.

"I'm teaching because I was a student as well, as the kids that I'm teaching now," he said. "I went to a Title I school out in the valley, and at the time, I remember that we didn't have programs like this. So this is my way of introducing kids to the arts."

Rubio is entering his last year at CalArts. Afterwards, he said, that while he'll continue to pursue acting on camera and in theater, he also plans to pursue teaching opportunities.

Dorsey's Robyn Charles said offering the program during the summer adds another level to students' artistic practice.

"It's a very unique dynamic that's not here during the academic year," Charles said. "Because it's like a concentration of artists who are open to new experiences, who are open to challenging themselves and stretching themselves."

It also makes a future education or career in the arts seem more tangible.

According to Cool, participants in programs like the California Institute of the Arts Community Arts Partnership Summer Arts Program get perks, like their application fee waived, and the chance to be considered for a full-tuition scholarship at CalArts. And the work they create can be used for portfolios or applications.

The students will present their work at a festival/carnival/extravaganza (their words, not mine) on July 21 at Dorsey.


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