Over the past 20 years The HeArt Project has worked with countless at-risk youth and dedicated teachers to bring the arts into the classroom. Working in 23 alternative high schools in three school districts, The HeArt Project works to inspire students to stay in school while providing them with tools for personal and professional development.
Departures Youth Voices is proud to partner with The HeArt Project and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes on this year's theme, "Mapping the Metropolis: Finding the Heart of our City."
With this project, eight teaching artists, working with students at eight schools throughout Los Angeles County, have an opportunity to utilize the Youth Voices Curriculum, as well as amazing historical content available at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. The teachers can take and implement any aspect of the Youth Voices eleven workshops, all of which offer students essential multimedia authoring skills and core media-based literacies in the process of investigating the social, cultural, and political history of their neighborhoods and cities.
Recent statistics have shown that dropout rates in Los Angeles County as well as the State are improving, but they still hover around 20% for all LAUSD students, and higher for Latino and African American students. Much work still needs to be done to close the graduation gap and provide all students with the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century marketplace. When these young people are not reached, they are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, and earn significantly less then college graduates throughout their lives.
Departures Youth Voices will be documenting the work of the teaching artists and students through the academic year, showcasing the development of their projects and the presentation of their final pieces every ten weeks. Stay tuned to learn how each teaching artist employs the Youth Voices curriculum and the resources from La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and watch how the students transform the material into their own stories of self-identity, and community.
This project is developed through a collaboration between:
A young woman sits in front of a green screen projecting street scenes from the San Fernando Valley. She tells us who she is, where she's from, and how old she is. She smoothes her hair across her forehead and shares her profound love for her baby girl, a smile beams from ear to ear. Just a teenager herself, she describes how her devotion to her daughter and a desire for more in life are motivating her to stay in school and get her high school diploma.
She along with her classmates from the Arleta Cal-S.A.F.E. continuation school created this video and neighborhood maps that take a deep and personal look at their community, as part of The HeArt Project's "Mapping the Metropolis: Finding the Heart of our City."
The goal of The HeArt Project is to help young people gain skills and confidence to negotiate the challenges of school and life and ultimately earn their high school diploma. With art, creativity and support, students are able to harness new opportunities and see a new future for themselves. Several workshops were held throughout the county with over 180 students participating.
The HeArt Project, in collaboration with Departures Youth Voices and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, recently held the second of three presentations showcasing the work developed by alternative and continuation high school students participating in the project's ten-week art workshops.
Every year The HeArt Project collaborates with cultural institutions in Southern California to bring an engaging and creative experience to hundreds of students at alternative and continuation high schools in Los Angeles County. The non-profit has been recognized for its innovative work with students at risk of dropping out, and its use of art to engage and inspire young people.
This year Departures Youth Voices and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes were invited to come on board as cultural partners and work closely with The HeArt Project's teaching artists as they developed their class curriculum. The Youth Voices media literacy curriculum and the exhibits at LA Plaza provided a rich foundation for the teaching artist to build on as they embarked on this year's theme, "Mapping the Metropolis: Finding the Heart of Our City."
There are three ten week sessions throughout the year, each with a different group of students and schools. At the end of each session the students exhibit their work to the community. This fall, during the first of the three final presentations, Departures Youth Voices produced a video showcasing the student's work, and the unique collaboration that has been formed. Enjoy!
Look for more articles and updates on The HeArt Project Collaboration HERE.
There is a lot of activity when I step into Neela Banerjee's class at Del Rey Continuation High School. It's the last few days of school before the holiday break and students are a bit restless. They slowly return to their tables as class is called back into session after a short break. They are handed a poem to read out loud;
If you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon,
It could be for a wedding, or it could be for you.
Always enter a home with your right foot;
The left is for cemeteries and unclean places.
O-guf! Tera armeek is rarely useful.
It means Stop! Or I'll shoot.
Sabah el Khair is effective.
It means Good morning.
The poem, entitled "What Every Soldier Should Know," is part of a collection of poetry written by Brian Turner that details his experiences as a soldier in Iraq. Neela is sharing the poem with the students to have them consider what tips would be useful for someone traveling in their Los Angeles neighborhood. What would they recommend? What warnings would they issue? Students were quick to offer suggestions, such as "If you hear a helicopter...run," or various recommendations on where to eat, crash, or hang out.
The assignment is part of the ongoing collaboration between The HeArt Project, Departures Youth Voices and La Plaza de Cultura y Arte. The project, with its theme "Mapping the Metropolis: Finding the Heart of the City," encourages students to share their insights and perspectives on the city through various expressions of art.
The students in Neela's class are creating life maps that detail key moments in their lives, along with writing poetry to bring these experiences and feelings together. The memories of these events and feelings come to life on the page. Neela explains, "by using drawings to have the students make symbolic representations of their lives, it was a short step to having them write about those same incidences through creative wordplay." (read Neela's article on her work with the HeArt Project students)
The mood is light as the students share their thoughts about a neighborhood survival guide. The students are enthusiastic to discuss their experiences and comment on what they know. Neela and Cole James, the HeArt Project coordinator, facilitate and steer the discussion to further encourage all the student's participation. Their support allows the students to reflect on what it's like to walk through their neighborhood; the sounds and words they hear, and what they see and feel. The students then take what they have discussed and proceed to write. The poems they come up with are open, thoughtful, and offer a complex view of the city and their lives.
When the students return from their holiday break they will continue their exploration of the city, examining their connection to the history, culture and geography of Los Angeles. They will have more opportunities to expand on their personal maps and writings to create a final project that will be exhibited in February at La Plaza de Cultura y Arte.
On a cool autumn morning The HeArt Project welcomed over 100 students and educators from eight alternative and continuation high schools throughout L.A. County to La Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Students stepped off their school buses and entered the courtyard of the museum with excitement and anticipation to what the morning would hold. They were there to exhibit and celebrate the work they had created as participants in a ten week course entitled, "Mapping the Metropolis: Finding the Heart of the City."
The HeArt Project has partnered with KCET Departures Youth Voices and La Plaza de Cultura y Artes to engage students in a multimedia exploration of the origins of Los Angeles and plot a path to their own communities, defining their place in the ongoing story of our Metropolis. The students had an opportunity to critically examine what they see around them, comment through their art, and share their creative assessment with the public at a final exhibit of their work.
Every ten weeks a new group of young people will offer their own interpretation of their community; approximately 300 students will ultimately have their point of view on Los Angeles on display.
The Departures Youth Voices media literacy curriculum is an ideal resource offering 11 workshop modules and hundreds of interviews, photographs and videos that are part of the Departures interactive neighborhood murals. The HeArt Project teaching artists were invited to pull ideas from all the Departures content (mapping, digital media production and interactive design) that complemented the project they were developing with their students. They also had an opportunity to blog about their classroom experiences and feature the student's work on the Departures website.
Teachers and students were also given an opportunity to visit La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, who generously provided transportation and a guided tour of the exhibit "LA Starts Here." The students examined Mexican and Mexican American history and identity in Los Angeles by exploring iconic artifacts, photographs, videos and listening to first person accounts of living and working in L.A. through the decades.
The teaching artists challenged the students to take a critical look at their lives and express what they learned in a creative and novel way. The students' work expressed their unique vision of themselves and their city, and provided new insights into their own lives. One student stated, "Doing this pushed me to think more about me and my family and to talk to my mom. She told me about how she came to L.A. I had never talked to her about that."
The HeArt Project has been successfully offering arts programs at alternative and continuation high schools for the past 20 years, partnering with Los Angeles arts organizations to provide young people with important life and professional skills, ultimately encouraging many to stay in school. The arts are used as a key to unlock the potential of young people who have been marginalized and are in danger of falling through the cracks of the educational system. The belief that the arts offer a way to connect with students, and a truly integrated academic approach, was recently addressed by the LAUSD Board of Education, when in early October the board established the arts as a part of the district's core curriculum. They noted that an arts rich education is essential for a complete and successful educational experience for all students. This is an important step with national implications, and one that highlights the innovative and leading edge work of the HeArt Project.
This was clear in the work exhibited by the students. The work shown was complex and featured a multi-layered understanding of place and community. One class created a wall size map of their neighborhoods and personal experiences that incorporated a soundscape of voices, street sounds, helicopters, and music. Other classes photographed and interviewed family and community members, created original videos, drawings and paintings that inserted their point of view into the conversation looking to define the metropolis, and ultimately locating the heart of the city in themselves.
The following photos are a sampling of some of the art work created by students from The HeArt Project:
Student work from Pueblo De Los Angeles High School
Teaching artist: Jonas Becker
Student work from Frida Kahlo High School
Teaching artist: Gustavo Baca
Student work from Culver Park High School
Teaching artist: Daniel Flores
Student work from Rose City High School
Teaching artist: Heriberto Luna
Student work from Destiny Girls School
Teaching artist: Erin Grayson
Photos by Yosuke Kitazawa and Justin Cram
Departures Youth Voices is proud to partner with La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in joining The HeArt Project on their mission to combat the high school drop out crises with arts programming that offers students a pursuable life path; inspiring them to stay in school and flourish as creative adults. Departures Youth Voices will feature stories on the work of the teaching artists and students through the academic year, showcasing the development of their projects and the presentation of their final pieces every ten weeks.
As students enter the campus of Frida Kahlo High School, they're immediately greeted by a burst of colors: a painted set of stairs, a mural depicting John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, and a large banner with a portrait of the school's namesake hanging off the rails of the second floor -- looking over the students like a funky earth mother. These no doubt serve as sources of inspiration for the students participating in the HeArt Project, offered as an after-school program on this campus near downtown L.A.
When I visited the classroom, the students were nearing the end of the 10-week session. They were busy preparing for their final presentation to be held at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes on November 2. Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca, the teaching artist for this session, has been exploring the theme of the project -- "Mapping the Metropolis" -- by introducing a new art technique at each of the previous class meetings. Vaca said, "[The theme] was very inspiring for them. Each week, I would introduce a different way to approach looking at their city and their neighborhoods -- right away, they would explore their own stories and visions of the city we all call home."
Over the past month, I spent a lot of time thinking about the intersections of history, maps, neighborhoods, and creative expression in order to put together a creative writing curriculum for continuation high school students in Los Angeles County for The HeArt Project, in partnership with LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and KCET Departures.
Putting together a curriculum is one of my favorite parts of being a teaching artist, because it is a process of pure inspiration. I spent two afternoons marinating in the amazing multimedia exhibit LA Starts Here at the LA Plaza museum, learning about the origins of Los Angeles. I was especially fascinated by Los Angeles' early history, the 44 Pobladores -- a group of mixed-race settlers who arrived from Mexico at the behest of the Spanish government. Then I virtually explored L.A., through Departures' multimedia website, and begin to think about how people -- especially young people -- think about where they are from.
The initial step in the Departures Youth Voices partnership with The HeArt Project and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes has been taken with the first of a two-part training session with the teaching artist who will be working directly with students at selected schools. The artist, selected by the HeArt Project, will be placed in one of the 25 alternative high schools served by the project, in three local school districts: L.A. Unified School District, Los Angeles County Office of Education, and the Culver City Unified School District.
The training for the collaboration, entitled "Mapping the Metropolis: Finding the Heart of our City," took place at the historic Vickrey -Brunswig Building, which now houses LA Plaza de Cultura y Arte. Participants were welcomed by Margit Edwards, Artistic Director of the HeArt Project, and introduced to the education partners. Both Departures Youth Voices and La Plaza de Cultura y Arte provided the participants with an overview of the multimedia content and curriculum available to them, and emphasized how the personal stories included within both provide a critical perspective on the history of Los Angeles and encourage a dialogue on the fundamental nature of the city.