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Exploring Culture Through Art

Arts Pro Bono IISummer is back and so are many of the students from Dolores Mission School who participated last August in LMU’s inaugural Arts Pro Bono workshop. This time they will explore culture through art with the help of LMU students and recent graduates from the Department of Marital and Family Therapy (MFT).

Arts Pro Bono is an interdisciplinary weeklong program that was designed to raise the Dolores Mission students’ self-esteem and broaden their awareness of visual arts, dance and poetry. At the same time, LMU’s MFT students learn the process of administrating an art program from the beginning to end.

Jessica Bianchi ’08 and Oceana Blueskyes ’08, co-directors of Arts Pro Bono, worked with the inaugural program as undergraduates and used the experience to write an extensive case study for their master’s theses. They will apply what they learned in their extensive literature review on adolescent development, community arts programs and at-risk youth to the program this August.

“Since findings from our research suggested that at-risk adolescents who have the opportunity to explore their cultural identity develop a significant increase in self-esteem, we felt that this could be an important, powerful component to bring into this year’s workshop,” explained Blueskyes.

Seven of the Dolores Mission students are returning participants, and six are new to the program. Dolores Mission School is part of the Dolores Mission Church, a Jesuit ministry located in Boyle Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles. It’s a rough neighborhood, one that is greatly shaped by the effects of having four active gangs in the two-square-mile parish. Also, many families in the area live below the poverty level, which also hinders the children’s education.

Bianchi and Blueskyes feel that they play an important role in enriching the lives of the children by mentoring them. They agree that the program overall has evolved as a mentoring chain. Faculty support LMU students, who in turn mentor the Dolores Mission students. This year the returning Dolores Mission students will have the opportunity to take on a leadership role and serve as guides for the new participants.

The program culminated on Friday, August 8, with an exhibition of the young artist’s collaborative tribute to culture. “Young adolescents are in the process of discovering who they are and how they fit in the world,” said Blueskyes. “Encouraging young people to contemplate and appreciate cultural differences might well make this a better, more peaceful world,” said Blueskyes.