By Lea Michelle Cash
In downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row area, amidst cardboard boxes, camping tents, and boarded up buildings, that were once factories in better days, shining brightly is an art community—a diamond in the ruff. It is absolutely brilliant, beautiful, and priceless. As I toured the facilities, I could feel the tears beginning to swell in my eyes and Joseph Collins, the President & CEO of Inner-City Arts said, “Its okay. We quite often have people on their first visits—react with tears.”
Inner-City Arts is 30,000 square feet (featuring eight buildings) of everything imaginable associated with creativity and art, FREE to inner-city children. The campus is stationed as a fixture, in the poorest section of Los Angeles called home for hundreds of homeless people. Behind Inner-City Arts secure locked gate, there is color, design, and cultural brilliance bursting like spring and summer everywhere. In addition, since public school teachers face inadequate resources to use the arts as educational tools, losing opportunities to connect with students with diverse needs, there is a professional development program to provide arts training educators to develop teaching strategies that integrate the arts into classroom learning—free.
It is an amazing magical place where all art forms including performing arts matter. Inner-City Arts currently serve 10,000 students and their families per year, with the capacity to open its studios to 20,000 students per year. Last year in July 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the campus and made art with 120 elementary school students, painting mandalas, and ceramic figures, then watching a dance performance by the Inner-City Arts Repertory Dance Company. Recently on Saturday, November 3, 2012, Peter Ramsey, visited Inner-City Arts. He visited to encourage and inspire a group of teen artists from animation to puppeteers to graphic designers. Ramsey is the director of DreamWorks soon to be released on Nov 21, Animation 3D film Rise of the Guardians. DreamWorks is a major funding donor to the animation program on the art campus. As an African American, Ramsey spoke of his challenges and dreams to one day become a director. “Whatever it is that you want to do and you would do it for free, that is the road you should take,” said Ramsey. “I love to draw and have been drawing since the age of three. Growing up in the inner city, Crenshaw area, I did not have a role model. So in my career path, I took the up and down path because I knew nothing about making movies—but I loved movies.”
After years of working hard as a self-taught story board artist on films like Boyz in the Hood, Rosewood, Trek 3, Puss in Boots, Being John Malkovich, Men in Black, Independence Day, Godzilla and as an illustrator for Batman Forever, he continues, “I practiced and self-educated myself to story boarding, and discovered I was suited for it. I regret that I left UCLA without proper grounding because its been a string of trials and errors for me—being self taught.”
Ramsey has worked for DreamWorks in the art department for eight years. Finally, three years ago, his dream came true when he was selected to become the director of Rise of the Guardians.
Although there are many individuals of color involved in animation, Ramsey’s promotion made him the first African American to direct a large budget animated film. The film budget was 145 million. Ramsey stated, “This is my dream. I was ready for this. I have learned so much about the process and myself emotionally. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe I accomplished this. This is truly a high point of my life.”
Rise of the Guardians is an epic adventure that tell the story of a group of heroes—each with extraordinary abilities. When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal Guardians must join forces to save and protect the hopes, beliefs, and imagination of the children in the world.
The award winning Inner-City Arts nonprofit was founded in 1989. The multi –disciplinary arts campus is dedicated to bringing the best creative experience to thousands of inner-city children to improve their chances to lead protective and successful lives by developing creativity improved learning skills and building self-confidence. Although Inner-City Arts works in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District to bring elementary and middle school students to the campus during the school day for instruction, and high school students participate in after school programs, all inner-city youth in Southern California are welcome to attend their programs.
If you are interested in learning more about Inner-City Arts free programs, please call (213) 627-9621.