The children visiting Loyola Marymount University excitedly crowded around art tables to craft hundreds of “feathers” out of white sheets of paper. Nearby, their college-aged mentors were hard at work hanging the whimsical creations inside LMU’s Thomas P. Kelly, Jr. Student Art Gallery.
The finished piece – a mural of wings designed by guest artist and LMU alumna Amber Cromwell – is a symbol of a successful partnership 10 years in the making. Called ARTsmart, the program has given LMU students the opportunity to develop an art curriculum and teach at the K-8 Westside Global Awareness Magnet School.
“One of the benefits that LMU students bring to the school is not only their expertise, but their energy,” said ARTsmart Director Terry Lenihan, professor of studio arts in the LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts. “There’s a real benefit to LMU, to have our students giving back to the community in a way that’s really positive.”
Westside Global Awareness is a Los Angeles Unified magnet school in Marina del Rey with a focus on science, particularly environment and ecosystems. With roughly 400 students, the school draws children from across Los Angeles, and about 80 percent of families enrolled are economically disadvantaged, state data shows.
“I know the student body as a whole looks forward to coming here, and the teachers do as well,” said Principal Cyril Baird, as his students and teachers visited ARTsmart instructors and Lenihan for an annual celebration on the LMU campus. “Art is something that is sorely lacking. She’s been our connection to that.”
Lenihan said ARTsmart brings art education to students at Westside Global Awareness, and allows LMU student instructors to develop leadership and mentorship skills. College students design weekly lessons for the children around their topics of expertise, such as animation, engineering and printmaking. Their majors run the gamut from studio arts to business, psychology and communication studies.
“I get the opportunity to work with kids before I start student teaching,” said junior studio arts major Oceanna Hain, who plans to earn her teaching credential, and visits Westside Global Awareness for two hours once a week. “I grew up loving my art classes. Knowing how important it is to me, I want to be able to give that opportunity to kids.”
And that love of art may be rubbing off.
“I’ve always wanted to do something artistic with my life,” said Westside Global Awareness seventh-grader Natalia Murillo, 12, as she and friends explored the LMU student art gallery. “I think ARTsmart definitely opens up my mind to the idea.”
Image Credit: Jose Aguila/Loyola Marymount University. Drawings by John Alving and Amber Cromwell.