Fine artists get their fix at 826LA

Venice kids in elementary, middle, and high school can try Lee Carroll's Writers' Arts and Crafts Club.

Art was happening everywhere at 826LA today.

Students in this Room 13 branch run their own creative space.

The imposing James A. Foshay Learning Center in Exposition Park is a school with an enormous age range: kindergartners through high school seniors attend classes on the campus from September to June. It’s such a center of life in South Los Angeles, and there’s so much fun to be had with its kids, that we’re always happy for a reason to enter Foshay’s gates.

Foshay students are a quick run from the University of Southern California, are a quick walk from the Exposition Line tracks, and (today, at least) got to be a quick footstep away from 826LA tutors! They got lucky in this respect because Foshay is the home of a Room 13, a Scottish import that creates “student-run, self-sustaining art studios surrounded by a community of artists, educators, business strategists, and many other professionals who share their work and their thinking.”

John Midby, the Foshay teacher who keeps Room 13 sparkling with energy, is a long-standing 826LA fan who saw that his middle school kids (who comprise the majority of the school) could benefit from some extra attention. So he directed his preteens and teens to start working on an artist statement for a piece they found a particularly dazzling testament to their abilities. Then he called our talented tutors to the campus.

John Midby's 7th grade is prompted to think about the challenge of artistic statements.

With the help of our tutors, who read their work and offered feedback, the middle school artists were able to offer more in their individual artist statements than simply a reflection of their influences. In our company, the Foshay artists were able to have an artist statement serve as a connection point to what they truly believed about things like the American Dream and the state of man’s global existence. We watched students who already know themselves to be full of creative potential light up at the thought of writing. Given the Room 13 commitment to creating an independent and self-sustaining art culture with a variety of voices, we think 826LA fit the needs at Foshay pretty perfectly, and we’re excited to do more next week.

We're looking for writing that will bring out the strengths of these South Los Angeles artists.

After-school artists like Sky merge words to images in creating a project.

Meanwhile, our after-school program was getting underway back at 826LA’s centers. In Venice, Wednesday meant that it was time for perhaps the highlight of the week for our littlest kids: Writers’ Arts and Crafts Club. One of our longest-serving volunteers, retired teacher Lee Carroll, creates an innovative new challenge for art-minded kids in the tutoring program every Wednesday and then hangs up some of their work in a special corner of the center. We’ve learned about the masters, learned about the forms we like (collage, creating costumes, et al), and tried our hands at plenty of cool tasks.

What we think is so masterful about the way Lee runs Writers’ Arts and Crafts Club is the way she combines her incredible patience with a natural sense of what makes kids scream with delight. She manages to channel the best in each of our local students, several of whom struggle in regular academic environments, and she ultimately lets their artwork get a proper showing by using the impromptu gallery space on the 826LA wall.

A craft activity, whether it's a collage or a watercolor painting, is Lee's refreshing new approach to our students' creativity.

If you’re the sort of person who thinks it’s cool to help kids explore their creative voice in a variety of ways, you definitely might be a strong candidate to become a tutor at 826LA. We have more information about how to volunteer on our website, but there are almost too many ways to describe. You can lead a creative club like Lee or illustrate students’ wildest ideas in a field trip; you can do editorial cartoons with kids as part of an evening newspaper workshop or create covers for our yearly anthology.

No matter how you get involved in the growing community of 826LA artists, rest assured that your talents become inspirational to all kinds of young people around the city when you’re part of what we do. As an artist, there’s really not a better way to hit it big than that.

Jose's pot of gold is a great example of art.

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