Armory’s Art High Provides High-End Instruction and Life Skills

With a firm belief that “arts and arts education are essential components of a well-rounded human experience and a civil community,” the Armory Center for the Arts launched in 2006 an ambitious program called Art High. Its goal: Make out-of-school arts instruction more accessible to the young people of Pasadena, California by providing free year-round classes and mentorship opportunities at parks, schools, and community centers.

With 11 years of effective programming, the Art High initiative has paid off. The Armory, with its fortified network of community partnerships, has been able to provide visual and media arts education, arts experiences, and mentorships to more than 700 middle and high school-aged teens. By means of its six satellite sites, the center reaches young people from the lower-income neighborhoods of Northwest Pasadena and the Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and delivers vital programming to incarcerated youth at the city’s juvenile detention facilities. In recognition of its excellent after-school work, the program received the 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Art High Apprentices and Mentors at Work. Art High, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardee. Photos: Armory Center for the Arts.

The Armory’s outreach entails a breadth and depth of high-quality instruction. Trained teaching artists provide teens with more than 60 courses a year, totaling over 1,000 hours of drawing, digital photography, screen-printing, letterpress, stop-motion animation, and aerosol (graffiti) art—just to name a few. In addition, they receive wraparound services including academic support, mentoring, and career guidance. Participants also have ample opportunities to exhibit their own work publicly.

Because of Art High, youth from the greater Los Angeles area are not only receiving artistic instruction, but are gaining transferable life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and expression. They are positioned for summer employment and provided support services in the form of workforce development and financial literacy training.

“People around the Armory have taught me new values in what life offers and have helped better prepare me for the challenges ahead.” Arnolfo Reyes, former Arts High participant

“Before I started coming here, I didn’t know I was going to college or none of that, but now there’s a chance I could go…I want to be a photographer someday. The Armory’s given me the opportunities to make that happen.” Dalon Poole, former Armory Teen Apprentice

Art High Participant Making a Screen Print. Art High, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardee. Photos: Armory Center for the Arts.

By offering its participants unique opportunities for artist mentorship, technical instruction, and employment skills through paid and volunteer internships, the center keeps youth focused and deeply involved. So much so that Art High teens return time and time again, committed to furthering their education and giving back to their Armory community.

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