(I attended the launch of the Adopt the Arts Foundation and sat down for exclusive Interviews with, and others)
Los Angeles, March 18th- “This is our first event and it's packed and I'm thrilled!” exclaimed Jane Lynch in an interview Sunday night at a fundraiser for Adopt the Arts. The Glee star serves on the board of directors of the nonprofit that funds public arts education for Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) underfunded schools. Around two hundred patrons and celebrities turned up at the jam-packed Simon L.A. restaurant at the Hotel Sofitel.
Adopt the Arts is co-founded by(Guns and Roses) and activist Abigail Berman with board members such as Noami Depres, , Richard Grant and an advisory committee that includes John Stamos, Slash and Juliette Lewis. Adopt the Arts aims to fund public arts education in Los Angeles—one school at a time.
“The arts mean a lot to me,” Lynch mused hovering over an eclectic tray of cotton candy, popcorn and cookies— part of the dessert course prepared by celebrity chef Kerry Simon, “in high school the best part of my day was the hour I had choir without which I would not have a career in the performing arts.” Her Glee co-star John Stamos reminisced, “I was a drummer in my public school; not only was it the best part of my day-- it gave me an identity.”
Inaugurating the star studded event that raised $100,000 Sorum said, “kids learn four times better with music and arts so without creative programs, they suffer and we lose a creative force of the future." He explained how public school education helped him become a renowned musician and thanked LASUD’s Superintendent John Deasy for attending the event and supporting the cause. The night culminated with ear-candy performances by headliners The Magnificent Seven aided by rock legends, Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray),, (No Doubt), (Guns N' Roses), (The Cult), Christina Perri, , Franky Perez, Billy Morrison, Donovan Leitch and many more.
The performers reinforced that national finance reductions have forced Los Angeles schools to make unkind cuts to arts educations programs. This is devastating for LASUD’s quarter of a million students, explained Abigail Berman, founder and Executive Director of Adopt the Arts foundation."This is unacceptable, especially, in a city where all of the arts are a major part of the economy,”
It is incongruous that a city with a global economy built on the performing arts industries would face eradication of its public arts for future citizens. According to the 2011 Otis Report on the Creative Economy, commissioned by the Otis College of Art and Design, Southern California is supported by creative industries that employ over 640,000 —one out of eight of every job here—generating an estimated $129 billion in sale revenues and $3.1billion in local state taxes.
Outraged that LASUD may face complete elimination of elementary school arts programs, Sorum was motivated to start the nascent foundation, “It’s the most horrific thing that I have heard—it’s a travesty.” Superintendent John Deasy agreed with Sorum and expressed his concern about the LAUSD’s massive budget challenges that have limited arts education for elementary, middle, and high school students. “Adopt the Arts and other groups are providing opportunities for our kids to participate in theater, music, dance, and the visual arts on our campuses. It is amazing to see the tremendous commitment of celebrities in supporting the youth of Los Angeles.”
“Arts help kids think critically and perform better in school making them adults who contribute more to society,” remarked Jane Lynch about her cause célèbre. She explained that her daughter attends a Los Angeles public school where parents helped raise funds to support its arts program, regretting that most schools “do not have a strong fundraising arm,” adding, “our organization helps children get afterschool programs, music and arts teachers, basic resources and equipment for arts.”
Full House star Jodie Sweeny reflected that her life “revolved around the arts” and as a mother of two children the thought of them being “deprived of arts was heartbreaking.” Lynch deliberated that “California legislature on education was indecisive and divided” and that in “any recession, the first thing to go is art— the great equalizing force.” As though reading a Glee episode script she added, “It doesn't matter how much money your parents have; how popular you are; if you are the captain of the football team; or think you are a nerd; the arts transcend prejudice.”
Underfunded schools are “adopted” by individual donors or through fundraisers by the Adopt the Arts Foundation. “It is sad to see arts on the chopping block because music was the discipline that guided my life,” said John Stamos, “but this is a tangible charity where I can make a difference I see immediately.” Stamos, Sorum and Dungeons and Dragon artist Rob Prior have all sponsored Los Angeles schools and attendees Mark McGrath and Jonathan Schaech pledged to do so as well.
The foundation also invites celebrities as role models to mentor children in LA USD schools lacking resources and opportunities such as their pilot project, Rosewood Avenue School, where they helped build a well supplied music room. Jane Lynch commented that “for kids to spend time in a completely creative arena: whether it’s painting a picture, doing a play, dancing or singing songs— is a wonderfully civilizing force.”
Berman expressed her fear that if “creative outlets” were “taken out of children's lives” there would be a lost generation of children. “Art is a common language— the thread that binds us and makes us more alike than we are different.”
A weird and wonderful energy was made tangible that night with celebrities uniting in the "high" of philanthropy. With an ambitious mission to save the arts in America’s public schools Berman and Sorum concluded they were “planting roots in Los Angeles” to assist children locally and wish to “grow organically across the nation.”
To learn more about the cause please visit http://adoptthearts.org/.