5 arts-focused non-profits in L.A. to volunteer with
Out of the goodness of your heart you’ve decided to dedicate that rare sliver of spare time for the greater good. Maybe, you’re in a rut, stuck in a tree and need to experience life from a different perspective. Whatever the reason, volunteering is guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself and your place in this ever-chaotic world, and, in my opinion always a guaranteed way to spread kindness and hope.
How do you know which organization to volunteer for? If you’re interested, as I am, in anything art-related keep reading for some suggestions.
Since The City of Angels is Good Spark’s featured city I am highlighting 5 of my suggested L.A. arts non-profits to check out. I came across these wonderful organization through research and/or personal experience. Some I have volunteered with, or at least attended orientation (hey, life gets crazy!) others I hope to one day. And remember, finding the right organization for you is like trying on a new pair of pants. Sometimes you have to try a few to find the one that fits you. There’s nothing wrong with that!
• YOUNG STORYTELLERS
I’m starting the list with Good Spark’s featured non-profit.
Focused on storytelling, Young Storytellers also offers a range of programs for elementary school age children. Their script to stage program is truly unique. Offered as a semester long program, volunteers/mentors are paired with a participating student to develop a short script which will then be acted out by real professional actors.
I was excited to volunteer for this organization, unfortunately, I applied for a volunteer opportunity earlier this year too close to the close of the semester and missed the window. However, my friend Jane had the opportunity to volunteer and she had nothing but great things to say!
Young Storytellers is the perfect volunteer opportunity for anyone that loves kid’s imaginations and storytelling. I was initially intimidated because I’ve never had any experience writing a script, or writing anything other than a book report in school, but trust me, you don’t need to! Below is Jane’s testimonial in her own words…
The program teaches everyone (students AND mentors!) about what makes a great story, creating pitches/loglines, and finally bringing that story to the stage. Mentors and students are paired up in the first meeting and throughout the program, we spent the first 10-15 minutes with instruction and then the rest of the hour working one on one on their stories as group leaders from the program walk around and help with any questions. I can’t recommend this program enough. It reminded me how special children’s imaginations are, taught me about storytelling, script writing format, and culminated in a very fun day where real actors came and acted out each of the short plays!
With an emphasis on writing, both creative and expository, 826LA provides a range of fun, programs/workshops, even field trips!
Though this non-profit has chapters all over the nation, Los Angeles, specifically, has two chapters of her very own; Mar Vista and Echo Park. Depending on the time slot, this program offers both tutoring for high school and elementary age students, as well as time to work on a creative writing piece.
I have personally dedicated some time to volunteer with their After-School Tutoring program. The environment is well organized. The kids, and many of the volunteers, appeared to be regulars which definitely creates a warm sense of community. The kids are bright and mostly eager to ask for help when needed (there are always a couple who slack off!).
To hear about 826 came to be, Dave Eggers, the genius founder, offers an entertaining and inspiring Ted Talk of how the first 826 branch – Valencia - came to be. Check it out!
• FREE ARTS
Have you ever considered how are children supposed to recover from abuse, trauma, neglect, poverty, homelessness? Especially when more than likely there parent’s either can’t afford counseling or simply don’t believe in it….
Free Arts was established to utilize art as a way to restore hope for children and teens in traumatic environments and circumstances. Through creativity and art, the hope is these children and teens will eventually finish school, not repeat the patterns of unhealthy behavior they have unwittingly been exposed to in their young lives, and grow up to be successful in life.
Unknown to me until I attended orientation to volunteer with Free Arts, there exists in Los Angeles, a children’s court dedicated exclusively for child abuse and neglect cases, designed especially for children. The courthouse itself is bright with childlike themes, colors and motifs throughout so as to appear less intimidating to children, and to reduce any additional stress and trauma.
On the 2ndfloor, round tables where volunteers can sit with children to draw, paint, etc, as they await trial. And unlike other stuffy, imposing courthouses in Los Angeles that feature
little-to-no windows and are lit with the depressing glow of florescent lighting, a wall of windows lets natural light flood in. Panoramic vistas of the nearby mountain range offer a serene, calming environment.
• INNER-CITY ARTS
Located in the heart of Downtown LA’s skid row, Inner-City Arts offers robust arts education programs for underserved youth, which include dance, drama, digital photography, film production, graphic design and animation. Taught by professional teaching artists in well-equipped studios, Inner-City Arts is lauded as one of the nation’s most effective arts education providers.
• CREATE NOW
Focused on empowering at-risk youth and high-risk youth and young adults up to the age of 24, Create Now offers a variety of arts programs and services such as community arts projects, culinary arts programs, digital media, fashion, music, literary and visual arts, performance and music, and cultural journeys; a program that offers at-risk and high-risk youth the opportunity visit museums, concerts at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and more.
What’s really cool is that volunteers who wish to mentor are offered the ability to create their own workshops based on relevant skills, experience and talent.