ArtsBridge is a University of California program created to put the arts to work within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Each year, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television prepares 10-12 undergraduate and graduate theater students to apply their university training in a K-12 classroom setting. The students are assigned to work, for up to 10 weeks, with teachers in underserved communities. During that time, they help interpret subjects as diverse as environmental science, history and math in creative ways.
UCLA ArtsBridge believes that creativity is pivotal to the development of inspired learners and active community members. A partner in ArtsBridge America, a broad network of 22 universities in the United States and Northern Ireland, it is committed to providing high quality arts education to students and teachers in schools with little or no access to arts education opportunities.
If the first image that comes to mind is an earnest young actor doing a mime routine about the evaporation cycle to a room full of puzzled 10-year-olds, think again: In an ArtsBridge class it's more likely to be the students who are performing.
"We are there to use theater as a tool to teach their curriculum," says program founder Pat Harter. "But students learn in different ways. We might have them transform the rituals of an average day into a musical performance piece. Or they will be encouraged to act out things that have negative effects on their communities, and in the process become aware of feelings they might not have been able to put into words. The subject comes alive for some of them for the first time when we involve them physically."
While ArtsBridge provides partner schools with instruction free of charge, substantive attention and participation is required from partner teachers and administrators at the school sites. Bridging community schools to the university requires a shared purpose, partnership and collaboration. These mutual goals are developed through in depth planning, creative risk taking and group reflection.
At schools such as Selma Avenue Elementary in Hollywood, Manual Arts High School near downtown Los Angeles, David Starr Jordon High School in South Central, and Toluca Lake High School in North Hollywood, students who have not been reached by conventional methods are awakening to the excitement of learning in UCLA ArtsBridge classes.