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Virtual reality, graffiti and other ideas to expand arts instruction

California law requires schools to offer arts instruction from first to 12th grade. But, in practice, not all students are getting equitable access to arts education.

So the Los Angeles County Arts Education Collective is trying a new approach: forming an Arts Ed Innovation Lab, and working with stakeholders to create prototypes – small but scalable projects that creatively increase access to arts education for more, and ideally all, students. 

​"We launched the Arts Education Innovation Lab with this idea of really rethinking, 'What is it going to take to really get us to scale in arts education so that arts education doesn't continue to just be for some kids in some classrooms in some schools in some parts of the county," Los Angeles County Arts Commission director of arts education Denise Grande told the group of over 40 gathered for the Innovation Lab's Boot Camp. 

The over 15 prototypes supported by the Arts Ed Innovation Lab center on five main "pillars":

  1. The Arts are Essential
  2. The Arts are Core in Public Education
  3. Providing a Conduit for Advancing Teaching & Learning
  4. Expanding Education Boundaries to Increase Self-Initiated Arts Learning
  5. Creative, Collaborative Communities

One prototype aims to create a mobile graffiti yard for budding street artists. 
Another, called "El VAPA Access," would focus on middle school students by "redefining the designated EL class" – or English learners – "to be VAPA-driven" – meaning, motivated by the visual and performing arts.

"We take the VAPA teacher at the middle school and have them provide the designated EL class," Orange County Department of Education VAPA coordinator Steve Venz explained to the group. 

Some of the prototypes even include ideas from outside of the arts and education worlds. For example, "Virtual Reality Arts Ed to Experience Self as Artist" aims to use VR technology to bring students places where they couldn't go physically, like "performing onstage with the ancient Greeks" or "painting in Picasso’s studio."

"Arts Playground" would provide creative spaces and supplies in places like public parks, borrowing from the model of public swimming pools. 

Kaz Matamura came to prototype boot camp with her program, called "Speak Up Now!" She wants to teach students public speaking skills, and sometimes she uses theater games to do it. She says she went to boot camp because she wanted to find people who could help her bring her program to more students, and to learn from their expertise. 

"To me, it's like being in a creative candy store," she explained. "So, I'm just taking a lot of recipes."