artworxLA is a nonprofit arts education organization that places professional artists in classrooms to inspire students’ curiosity for learning and amplify their voices on issues of local, national and global importance. Thanks to funding provided by Sony Pictures Entertainment, artworxLA has partnered with Culver City Unified School District for 15 years.
Through project-based learning, artworxLA shows students how to transfer the skills they learn in the arts to the rest of their school day and lives.
“We expose them to multiple careers in creative industries and, for those that are interested, we help them navigate how to find their own path to a creative career,” said artworxLA Artistic Director Raúl Flores. “We traditionally work with alternative education sites and served Culver Park High School for 14 years,” added Flores. “When the students moved their coursework to Culver City High School this year, we wondered how our healing-centered arts approach to social justice issues could best support the school.”
That led to artworxLA being introduced to CCHS teacher Jose Montero’s Conflict Resolution course. “Mr. Montero has such an impressive history of connecting students to important issues,” continued Flores. “We learned that their work included producing benefit concerts and events promoting peace and caring for the environment. It is an honor to partner with Mr. Montero and his class.”
One student, Gibson Bankey, produced a hand-drawn and painted poster about Mother Earth entitled, “We Are Killing Ourselves. Love Our Home Before It’s Too Late!”
“There are so many problems in the world it was hard to choose an issue,” he said. “I ended up with the environment because it’s something that affects everyone. My message is to prioritize people and the protection of the planet rather than greed and currency.”
Using a 2-D pencil and a fine point Sharpie, Gibson first drew his poster by hand. He’ll add paint and then finish his piece via Canva.
“I learned so much,” he said. “What the artist sees as a mistake is what gives the piece character. It’s been a great distraction from all the catastrophes. Anyone can use arts as an escape and a creative outlet.”
One of the hallmarks of artworxLA programming is its partnership with cultural institutions. This school year, partners include the California African American Museum, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The artworks that students produce are in dialogue with the cultural partners’ current exhibitions and initiatives. This fall, the theme was Our Liberty is Bound Together: Art, Antiracism, and Gender Equality, and students created digital posters based on an issue that is important to them. Their projects combined hand-drawn imagery with digital compositions using the free app, Canva.
This spring, students will explore the theme Grounding in Soil: Building Sustainable Communities. Through the lens of gardening and food access, students will consider how artists and communities identify and address immediate and long-term needs. They will learn about local organizations like Summaeverythang Community Center, the Ron Finley Project, LA Community Fridges, and more. CCHS students are working with the award-winning comic book artist Javier Hernandez to produce a comic that metaphorically connects soil preparation, garden ecology, and the growth of plants to students’ own stories of resilience.
artworxLA’s partner for this theme is the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
“At the end of each season, we create a larger sense of community by bringing together nine schools that explored the same theme to share their projects,” said Flores. To build students’ confidence and celebrate their work, cultural partners traditionally host an exhibition of student art. This year, the exhibitions and programs have gone virtual, which has resulted in a beautiful and interactive online document and the hope that students will always return to it in the future.