Students paint in the HOLA art building at their five week intensive art program. (Sarah Wang / L.A. Times HS Insider)
Arcadia High School

Heart of Los Angeles’ residency program explores displacement through art

On Wilshire Boulevard, an unassuming white building with large windows and a lofty interior houses the gift of art. The Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) provides free art programs for students who live in areas without access to creative outlets. The nonprofit program prioritizes making art accessible for inner-city youth who would otherwise not have the access to such classes. Their summer classes encourage kids to explore a variety of mediums and self-expression through art.

Each summer, the residency students explore different themes relating to social justice. This year, they are focusing on the idea of of displacement. The idea came from the changes residency students have seen in their community through gentrification. During the intensive five week program, the students have created a duck, a lemon tree, and a suitcase out of wire, then covered in newspaper.

A duck constructed of wire and newspaper, soon-to-be painted, symbolizes migration for HOLA students dealing with gentrification through art. (Sarah Wang / L.A. Times HS Insider)

The creation of the duck came from a conversation between the students and artists. They decided to make a huge duck as a symbol of the migration.

The lemon tree roots from the personal story of a student. While she was still living at her house, she was fond of a lemon tree in her backyard. As the rent increased, she had to move from her home, along with the lemon tree.

The suitcase relates to the idea of moving around and not having a stable home. After the floats are completed, students will wheel them to the nearby MacArthur Park.

Aside from only one percent of government funding, the majority of HOLA’s four million dollar annual budget comes from foundations, special events, individuals, and corporations. The array of services they offer is ambitious but is made possible by the wide variety of partnerships they have.

HOLA works with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to provide students a broad and comprehensive understanding of music. Students of all ages are exposed to the fundamentals of music through orchestra, symphonic wind ensemble, chamber group, big band, and rock band instruction.

Student art decorates the walls of the HOLA art building. (Sarah Wang / L.A. Times HS Insider)

The effect that HOLA has on its students is apparent when talking to them about the art program.

Third year HOLA student Ileen Saborio said she “loves” the program because it has provided her with the opportunity to learn something new.

When she first joined HOLA in the sixth grade, she felt lost. HOLA soon proved to be a therapeutic outlet for her to find supportive people, herself and her passion in art. She describes the people she has met as “family.”

Fourteen-year-old student Andrea Perez has been with the program since the beginning of eighth grade and although new to HOLA, her excitement for the program is visible through her body language. Her favorite part of HOLA is the community aspect of everything they do. She said that art has allowed her to step outside her comfort zone, as well as provided her with an outlet that’s enjoyable.

HOLA’s programs not only celebrate creativity and passion for the arts, but they also foster each student’s sense of self and community.