ArtworxLA, formerly known as the HeART Project, recently held it’s annual Evening of Art gala at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood, CA to celebrate 25 years of service to Los Angeles youth through the arts.
The swanky charitable event, complete with ahi tuna hors d’oeuvres and an elegant three-course Armenian spread, featured a robust display of fine art auction items to raise money for the arts program, designed to eradicate the high school dropout crisis in Los Angeles through arts, education, and reform.
Distinguished guests for the evening included Academy of Motion Pictures and Science President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, who served as the night’s key honoree, and filmmakers Matt and Page Tolmach, who were also honored.
Students who’ve directly benefited from the program were also in attendance, showcasing mini-documentaries on their lives and journey, to finding art as their outlet. While many of the students cited arts, whether photography, film, or drama as their “saving grace”, they also noted that switching to an art-driven curriculum helped change the scope of their emotional and educational success.
One student stated that he became a straight-A student only after matriculating into an artworxLA program, where he builds upon his gifts and focuses on becoming a creative professional. Student Ambassador DJ Young, who practices modern art, says that being a part of artworxLA also gave him a new perspective on the art of his peers. “It gives me an appreciation for different cultures and a way to interpret that into my art,” he said.
Like many artists, their gifts are often overwhelming, time-consuming, and leave little room to concentrate on much else. For “Hidden Figures” actress Octavia Spencer, who also experiences dyslexia, it was the arts that kept her motivated and inspired. “It never dawned on me that I was escaping into the artistic world,” she said. “I have a very delicate constitution, I can’t take four years of crazy,” she added.
Spencer says that it feels great to be honored for her work in the film and entertainment industry, and encouraged the youth to take hold of each opportunity to explore and determine who they are before stepping out into the world. “I think it’s important that they continue their education, because that is the foundation to which all other doors are opened,” she said. “I think it’s important that the creative community do exactly what they’re doing with this program and provide a sense of community for the up-and-coming artists,” she continued.
Isaacs, who recently announced that she would be stepping down from her acclaimed position as the first Black Academy President, says that she’s a “firm believer in freedom of speech” and that it’s critical for budding artists to understand just how important their own stories are. “If you didn’t realize it, art is important. Art is your expressiveness, it shows your inner self, it shows your beauty and it’s important,” she added.
According to artworxLA, more than “20,000 students drop out of high school every year in Los Angeles County”, 83% of which are Black or Latino. As a result of the citywide epidemic, students will earn “$500,000 less over a lifetime than high school graduates” and are “6 times more likely to go to jail”.
While seeking to raise a modest $11,000 for the program, the organization exceeded their goal by more than double by the close of the evening, raising more than $21,985.00. As for artworxLA founder Cynthia Campoy Brophy, she continues her quest to reengage youth at high risk of dropping out of high school to cultivate better futures for them in the world of creative arts.