Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let's Put on a Show!

When I started the nonprofit, Arts in Education Aid Council (AEAC), ten years ago, I only had one thing in mind: to get the arts back into public schools of the San Fernando Valley. While brainstorming with my mom/artist friends (who all agreed to serve on the original board of directors), we thought it would be fun if we gave the kids their own art show. We didn't know what we were doing, so every idea that one of us had seemed like a good idea. So, like the Little Rascals, we set about puttin' on a show.

Since we didn't know what kind of turn out we could expect, we sent out invitations to the schools within the vicinity of Borders Books and Music in Canoga Park and the Canoga Park Youth Arts Center, who both agreed to host the show. To our surprise, we got a pretty big turn out. We had over 200 kids! So we decided to have two different shows and receptions, so as many kids as possible could participate. Albertson's, Noah's Bagels, Village Coffee Roasters, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Woodland Printing and Fast Frame in Woodland Hills were our first sponsors. Our budget was a couple of hundred dollars.

Fast forward nine years. The show is open to all 200 public schools in the San Fernando Valley. It has grown so much that we have turned it into an outdoor family arts festival, featuring 300 children from elementary schools for the visual art exhibition and another 300 children for the performing arts showcase (school bands, choirs, dance and theatrical groups, and individual performers). Arts education providers get a chance to promote their programs and attendants get to make art for free all day. Middle and high schools get their own, separate show, on a Friday night with a local, teen band that plays their own music (and since our mission is to support the arts and kids in the Valley, this is a paying gig for the musicians!). The budget now is over $25,000. Many, many local businesses, restaurants, city council members, neighborhood councils, school PTAs and PTOs sponsor this event. This event has evolved from a Little Rascals "Let's Put on a Show" into a highly anticipated, well attended event (over 3,000 people came out last year).......in the Valley! (The San Fernando Valley is not known for its support of arts and culture so we get a big kick out of the fact that our organization, and this event, is so successful in promoting not only arts education, but the arts in general). People are now coming out to this show who don't know any of the kids in it, and some of them come from "over the hill" (meaning Los Angeles, where people do support the arts). And just like the Little Rascals, a group of moms and artists were able to put this all together around a dining room table, with kids and dogs running about their feet. It's a good thing we didn't know what we were doing back then, or we may have over thought the whole thing and dared not do it. Every year, it's more work, but it's also that more rewarding. It's quite a show and we're really proud of it. The Tenth Annual Valley Wide Student Art Show and Performing Arts Festival will be on March 21 at the Chatsworth Train Depot so mark your calendar!

The show takes place every year in March, in honor of Youth Art Month. I'd like to see more art shows celebrating kids and arts education created around the country during the month of March. All you need are some rascals, a meeting place, a venue, and some locals who would like to help. So come on now and "Put on a show!"