Connecting Through Arts and Culture

dance class

As a public university, UCLA is committed to education, research and service. We also work to enrich lives and expand understanding by providing access to global arts and culture programs. UCLA offers a multitude of opportunities that enable people to explore the infinite expressions that move our world forward, from simple guitar lessons and master-class performances by the likes of Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert Kalish, to hundreds of exhibitions. Below are a few programs that we have created to bring culture and perspective out into the community.

Imaginative play leads to creative thought

Over the last 40 years, Design for Sharing has provided free, K-12 performance programs to more than 500,000 Southern California students, both at their schools and on our campus. This has given children a chance to experience and fall in love with art forms they may never have known.

dance practice

“Design for Sharing is so important because it opens up the door,” says Meryl Friedman, Director of Education and Special Initiatives at the UCLA Center for the Art of Performance. “It allows students and their teachers to see the world through another person’s eyes - that’s what the arts are about.”

The program also provides educational materials and resources to artists, as well as information to help teachers expand upon and extend the impact of performance experiences and art-making activities. By giving young minds the opportunity to explore and see the world through a creative lens, we’re supporting the next generation of artists, critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Dance on porch
Dance with lights

That’s just the beginning. Our commitment to fostering creative-thinking in underserved communities goes beyond exposing these students to art and performance. Each summer, the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television puts on a Creative Workshop for 20 students from Horace Mann Junior High School, a UCLA Community School. The two-week immersion focuses on screenwriting for film, TV and streaming video platforms. The program, aptly named “Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Story.”, is designed to give the participating students a purpose, technical skills and, most importantly, a forum to tell their stories.

A local gateway to global culture

Founded in 1958, the UCLA International Institute is a central hub for global studies on campus - with more than 25 centers and programs that focus on specific world regions and pressing global issues. It’s also a first‐class resource for the city and its residents, providing public programs that enhance our understanding of global affairs. It offers more than 500 free public events each year, from lectures and foreign films to musical performances - all addressing the major international issues of our day and serving as a gateway to other countries and cultures.

“We are facing huge societal issues that cross boundaries: water shortages, epidemics and migration are global challenges that require global solutions,” says UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “To address them effectively, you have to understand many cultures and issues from an international perspective.” Our Institute facilitated these global discussions. From speaking on multinational issues like trade disputes to taking in international art, all of these diverse experiences paint a greater global picture for those seeking exposure to the world.

Going global speech

Helping communities find their rhythm

Research suggests that music instruction improves cognitive ability, and even makes a significant difference in the academic trajectory of adolescents. But unfortunately, children in California’s most underserved communities often have limited access to musical training and mentorship. The Music Partnership Program, founded by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, is changing that. Student musicians from UCLA travel to local schools, teaching children the power of performance and perseverance. This instruction gives these children a chance to explore their creative potential through sound - which can greatly boost self-confidence and offers a powerful medium to express emotions.

Jazz saxaphone

Famed jazz musician Herbie Hancock - chairman of UCLA’s Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz — is also ensuring kids have access to the benefits of music and that the art form is passed from generation to generation. “It brings me a special joy - the youth are really the builders of the future,” says Hancock.

Through its Jazz Outreach Program, the Institute brings music into local, K-12 classrooms. This program partners graduate-level musicians with jazz legends and architects of the genre, including Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, to hone their skills. Throughout the year, these gifted fellows take their music into the community and offer clinics, master classes and private lessons to students throughout greater Los Angeles and around the world. They also put on inspiring performances at community events and on international stages - bringing jazz to a new generation of students and musicians.

In addition to providing children the opportunity to be immersed in music, UCLA’s Music Outreach program sends countless talented musicians, students and professors to perform at senior homes and other facilities all around Southern California. Audience members are treated to modern and classical compositions - giving everyone in the community a chance to recapture their love for the musical arts and an opportunity to interact with the performers behind the music.

Jazz band on stage
Jazz band outside

Creative expression draws us together

As a public university, UCLA is committed to promoting culture and art in our community and throughout Los Angeles. Access and exposure to the arts can help kids understand the world in new ways, become higher achievers and creative problem solvers. Musical training and outreach programs not only inspire the next generation; but can also have a profound effect on their educational trajectory. Public programs on arts and culture foster crucial dialogue between Angelinos and people everywhere. With these innovative initiatives, even the most isolated places in our world come just a bit closer - no matter who or where we are.

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