Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

Transforming Lives One Show at a Time

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by CRE Outreach

CRE Outreach is a non-profit performing arts organization that helps at-risk youth, the visually impaired, and military veterans in greater Los Angeles overcome their challenges through the creation of original works. Our programs actively engage the most under-served individuals, empowering them to live better lives and successfully navigate through today’s society. Programming Our Changing Perceptions program provides visually impaired youth, teens and adults with essential life-skills through the performing arts. Through this program non-verbal students become vocal, participants confidently navigate a stage and move through space, and casts learn to work as a team towards a common goal. Theatre by the Blind, the country’s only theater troupe composed entirely of blind adult actors, provides participants with a constructive and creative forum to confront their challenges while informing the public and changing misconceptions about the capabilities of the blind. Creative Youth Theatre provides at-risk youth with performing arts programs at under-funded schools and community centers. Students’ explore their own hopes and struggles to create original stories focused on themes such as bullying, racism, peer pressure, and self-esteem. Heroes’ Stories is a performing arts program with New Directions at the V.A. that gives military veterans a safe environment to voice their own heroic stories and experiences through theatre. Through these innovative performing arts programs, CRE Outreach is “Transforming Lives, One Show at a Time.”


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

In the past two years, CRE Outreach has become a fixture within the Inglewood Unified School District serving over 100 at-risk youth with after-school programs, doubled our audiences for local productions, expanded our donor database by over 15%, and been able offer stipends to our Theatre by the Blind actors for the first time. Our seventh Theatre by the Blind production, Private Eyes, completed a successful six-week run in April 2012. An audience favorite, the show was prominently featured in the Los Angeles Times and other local publications (see attached press). In addition, we have forged a strong relationship with the Braille Institute and the Junior Blind of America to develop and execute arts-based programming in the Los Angeles area serving approximately 200 visually impaired participants. CRE Outreach has also become the parent company for Outreach Through the Arts, at the Santa Monica Music Center, which provides over 80 under-served youth with scholarships for instrument lessons and music instruction. Most recently, we have developed a partnership with the Veterans Affair’s New Directions program to implement “Heroes’ Stories” – a performing arts residency that gives a voice to our nations brave service members helping to honor and empower them through theatre.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We have forged a strong relationship with the Braille Institute and the Junior Blind of America to develop and execute arts-based programming in the Los Angeles area. Most recently, CRE Outreach has become the parent company for Outreach Through the Arts, at the Santa Monica Music Center, which provides under-served youth with scholarships for instrument lessons and music instruction. Additionally, this fall we have started theatre programs at the VA, titled Heroes’ Stories to help returning war veterans cope with PTSD and other related issues through theatre.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Participants will self-select an item from process-folios to include in an on-camera interview highlighting the important aspects of their journey and a personal evaluation of the program as a whole. CRE Outreach staff will combine these interviews (with the permission of all parties involved) with video of rehearsals as well as the final performance to create a mini-documentary about the program that will include items from the students’ process-folios, photographs, and footage from the program. A copy of the DVD as well as a written final report will be made available to participants, their families, and the schools.

The effectiveness of our program is documented in the final report and measured through participation data including creativity journals, dialogue note cards between participants and instructors and process folios, teacher evaluation forms, and informal observations. CRE Outreach staff will collect these materials from class instructors and use it to track student’s individual achievements as well as document the impact that exposure to the arts has in a child’s development and or/an individuals life. These assessment tools and results will then be used in future public and private grant proposals.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

By working in the greater Los Angeles community, on stage and in schools, using the medium of theatre, CRE Outreach confronts many challenges that at-risk youth and the disabled community face. Our work provides a constructive and creative forum for participants to bring issues to the forefront and let their voice be heard. Our programs actively engage the most under-served individuals to live better lives and empower them to successfully navigate through today’s society.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Success would include Los Angeles embracing the theater community not only in terms of its inherent entertainment value, but also recognizing that the performing arts have transformative capabilities; the power to change at-risk youth into service oriented caretakers for the elderly and responsible stewards of their physical surroundings. In 2050 Los Angeles will be the epicenter of empowerment for disabled individuals to receive resources, opportunities for self-expression, and meaningful employment. And in partnership with the VA, the Los Angeles performing arts community will help veterans successfully transition from combat into society.