The upcoming visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Los Angeles gave me an excuse to take my recorder to the extraordinary Inner-City Arts school in the heart of Skid Row. Creativity, encouragement, friendship and love flow through every room of the white building that sits among warehouses, liquor stores, pawn shops and cheap hotels.
Children’s laughter pours through open windows, onto the streets where homeless push their shopping carts and drug users sleep their buzz off on the sidewalk. More than half of the kids who come here to paint, dance, sing, write, play the drums or create animated cartoons are homeless. This weekend the Royal Couple will paint and do ceramics with them.
Ten year old Sergio told me that the Royal Couple will come to the most beautiful place, “It has many trees and figures, paintings and lots of rooms and in every room you can learn something!” His classmate Angelica thinks everybody should come to Inner-City Arts. “They could make figures and learn other talents. I can teach them. They will have so much fun!”
Students who attend this learning oasis in the shadow of downtown’s sky scrapers get significantly better scores in standardized school tests than those who don’t. For Bob Bates, the artist and teacher who founded Inner-City Arts in 1989, attending the school is about much more than school grades. It is about self esteem, self expression, daring to dream, collaboration and creating much needed problem-solvers. “The human being of the future is going to be a team-player, highly creative and inventive, thinking outside the box. These kids, like all children worldwide, have unbelievable potential.” The Royal Couple will meet students who get closer to reaching their dreams with every hour they spend in one of the colorful class rooms.