Art High

Art High, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardee. Photos: Armory Center for the Arts.

Art High

Armory Center for the Arts
145 North Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103
Phone: 626.792.5101 x112
Fax: 626.449.0139

Focus: Media Arts, Visual Arts

Annual Number Participating: 700

Ages: Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $430,900

Partners: Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network; City of Pasadena, Human Services and Recreation Department; Homeboy Industries; Learning Works Charter School; Los Angeles County Probation Department

Funders: Eisner Foundation; Ralph M. Parsons Foundation; Rose Hills Foundation; Sony Pictures Entertainment; The James Irvine Foundation; W. M. Keck Foundation

Los Angeles is recognized as one of the nation’s most vibrant creative centers. Yet, many of the area’s young people—particularly those in lower-income neighborhoods—lack opportunities to develop their artistic abilities. In 2006, the Armory Center for the Arts, located in Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles, launched an ambitious program called Art High to address this concern.

The program provides year-round classes in media arts and visual arts to students in middle and high school at the center’s main facility, a renovated National Guard Armory. And, in collaboration with community partners, Art High also offers six satellite programs in Northwest Pasadena’s lower-income neighborhoods and in the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights that frequently struggle with such issues as gang activity, crime, and drugs. In addition, the Armory Center for the Arts holds programs in Los Angeles juvenile detention facilities.

Teaching artists with active studio practices instruct the classes, which last from 8 to 12 weeks. The curriculum ranges from drawing and digital photography to screen-printing, letterpress, stop-motion animation, and aerosol (graffiti) art. Art High also includes exhibition and portfolio-review opportunities, as well as Career Day presentations. Altogether, Art High serves 700 young people a year, across its varied sites. With strong support from a network of funders and partners, the Armory is able to offer the program free of charge, “to make it as easy as possible for kids who are interested in the arts to participate,” explains Elisa Laris, the Armory’s development director.

Many students take a series of classes and stay with the program over a period of years. In this safe, supportive environment, students have a chance to develop artistic and interpersonal skills, build confidence, and find a community of like-minded individuals. “The teachers are cool, and the students get to meet all of the other ‘strange’ kids who like to do the same things,” remarks Jon Lapointe, the Armory’s communications director. And, for incarcerated and in-crisis youth, the program offers “critical opportunities for self-expression and to connect with the community in positive ways,” adds Laris.

People around the Armory have taught me new values in what life offers and have helped better prepare me for the challenges ahead.

Arnolfo Reyes former participant, Art High and BFA graduate, California Institute for the Arts