Leimert Park: A Couple's Mission to Make Arts Education Available to Everyone

Youth Voices student producers took part in a four-day intensive media literacy program, exploring and documenting the many stories of Leimert Park using digital media. For their final workshop they interviewed community members and experts who shared the history, stories, and personal experiences that make up Leimert Park.

Damaris Bernard and Dennis Smith are the founders of Kidz @ 43rd Place, a nonprofit performing arts organization serving the children and families of Leimert Park. The couple is aware of the important role the arts can play in a child's education, and they make sure to offer their own children a variety of options. But this is easier said than done for many families living in and around Leimert Park. Arts education is low on the priority list for many local public schools, and private programs can be expensive and out of reach.

This is where Damaris and Dennis found they could help make a difference in the community. By pooling together the skills and creativity of parents, reaching out to industry professionals, and with the support of Ben Caldwell from KAOS Network, Kidz @43rd Place has been offering a performing and visual arts program, free of charge, for over 10 years.

A Kidz @ 43rd Place Performance

We feel like the parents have something to offer to all the children in the community, and we can't wait for the government to fund us to raise our children... this is part of our community workshop where each parent can come, they can bring their children and also have something to offer.
--Damaris Bernard
A lot of the children were sort of in a shell, but once they were able to stand on a stage and speak in front of other children and feel confident and not ashamed of it, they felt like that was kind of the doorway for other things happening with them.
--Dennis Smith

Dennis and Demaris


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