April 14, 2016 

LAWT News Service 

 

Since becoming the Executive Director of Arts Education for LAUSD, Rory Pullens has been on a mission to increase arts resources to underserved inner-city schools in Los Angeles.  It is working and the district wants the public to see, as it highlights student and teacher accomplishments in the upcoming Grand Arts Festival, on April 16, at Grand Park. 

 

Inner-city schools often associated with gang violence, now boast competitive arts programs in music, drama, dance, and visual arts. Pullens isn’t shy about placing the kids on stage, in front of thousands.  “The Grand Arts Festival is important because so many people in Los Angeles are unaware of the amazing talent and the incredible arts education occurring inside of LAUSD. We have amazing teaching artists,” Pullens said.

 

Pullens leads a team, focused on implementing arts education opportunities  for all LAUSD students. According to Pullens, since coming on board two years ago, the district increased the arts budget by $15,000,000, hiring 45 new arts education teachers and implementing key support programs, in 2015-2016.  The departments’ goal is to expand and provide more visibility and support for the arts in 2016-2017.  Student Artists are taking advantage of opportunities to expand their artistic perspectives and experiences, and are excited about the opportunity to perform on such a public platform. “Theater gives me a way to express myself to audiences. The festival will give us different life experiences and help us interact with people with the same interests,” said Dorsey High Senior, Armani.

 

Unlike schools in wealthy communities, Dorsey, Foshay, Crenshaw, and others are inner-city schools and exist only though the support of the district.  “If it were not for Mr. Pullen, our program would not exist at Dorsey,” said Tamica Miller-Washington, who teaches dance through LAUSD’s Arts Education program.  The financial support allows schools to pay teachers and purchase minimal supplies. 

 

Although LAUSD does not have a fulltime teacher, Washington Miller and teaching partner, Galyn Gorg, both professional artists, teach on a part-time basis.  The goal is to have full-time teachers in all the classrooms. 

 

“Because of the scale, having the necessary funding to provide resources and services is key in providing equity and accessing arts education for the all LAUSD kids, said Pullens.  The pursuit seems reasonable until he mentions the size of the district and the enormity of serving the second largest school district in the country.

 

Before LAUSD, Pullens served as the Executive Director of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.  “In the D.C. area, we provided Arts Education for over 50,000 students, compared to over 650,000 in LAUSD. There is a difference in providing for the needs of over 1000 schools vs. just over 100 schools,” he said.

 

Two local schools have chosen to present musical theater numbers for the festival. Dorsey High School is performing an excerpt from their upcoming production of “Once On This Island.”  Although there are challenges, teachers preach to students that the show must go on.  “Attendance is a big challenge in inner-city schools, but students are learning what it means to commit to a musical theater production. They are excited to share what they’ve learned,” said Washington-Miller.  Gorg agreed,  “this program has helped students realize their potential; we have budding actors, singers, dancers, and directors in this production.  This is a great opportunity,“ she said. 

 

Foshay Center for Learning High School is showcasing excerpts from their previous production of, “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” and a few smaller scenes, featuring the senior actors.  This is the first year of the theater program led by teacher, Jeremy Jones, who directs and manages the school’s newly renovated theater.  “For most of these students, this is their first year in theater and on stage. To see them giving a piece of themselves to the audience is what this event is about.”  

 

Pullens acknowledges the support of the district’s board, Superintendent, teachers, and parents.  “Having the Grand Arts festival allows for LAUSD to provide this arts experience for all our students and the LA community. The students are showing the community what they have learned in the classroom,” said Pullens.   He feels students are so prepared and able to realize their dreams because teachers are going the extra mile.

 

 “When you come to the festival and see our student performing, you’ll realize young people being trained up the future is in great hands.  

 

Pullen mentions that renowned Crenshaw High School Choir was a recently confirmed as part of the festival’s line up.  “That’s a cant miss group that will be on the Spring Stage. Right in front of City Hall to see these amazing young people, he said.   

 

Grand Park is located in downtown Los Angeles between The Music Center and City Hall. Pedestrian entrances to the park are located at 200 North Grand Avenue, 221 North Hill Street, 221 North Broadway and 227 North Spring Street. The event is free to the public. For show times and more information on the festival visit:

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/197017263996107/

 

http://grandparkla.org/event/lausd-grand-arts-festival/

 

https://www.facebook.com/LAUSD-Arts-Education-Branch-771219882978838/

Category: Community



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