The Armory Center for the Arts program Art High has been acknowledged by the White House as an after-school art program that's changing lives - one of a dozen nationwide to receive this year’s National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
Since 2006, Art High has provided hundreds of teens classes and mentorship in visual and media arts. The free classes are held in parks, schools and community centers.
“The basic assumption is the arts are transformational,” said Lilia Hernandez, director of community programs at the Armory. “They’re a quality of life element and we try to remove as many obstacles to the engagement with the arts as possible.”
Dalon Poole, a senior at Rose City High School, started taking the program's free photography and graphic design classes two years ago at the La Pintoresca Teen Education Center.
“Before I started coming here, I didn’t know I was going to college or none of that, but now there’s a chance I could go,” Poole said.
Poole will travel to Washington, D.C. with the Armory's executive director Scott Ward to accept the award from First Lady Michelle Obama Tuesday.
Poole says the program has changed his outlook and his options. He's started to think about photography as a career path. Earlier this year, he won the Pasadena Art Council’s Young Artist Award. He used the $1,000 prize to buy his first real camera. Armory mentors are helping him assemble a portfolio.
He’s also part of the Art High apprentice program, assisting Armory teaching artists during weekly classes. On a recent evening, he worked in a class for young children at La Pintoresca Library.
Poole worked the room – handing out supplies and helping confused little ones design stamps for a printmaking exercise.
“I trace it?,” one child asked.
“Yeah, you trace it,” Poole responded while demonstrating, “but don’t draw too hard.”
Armory teacher David Earle said Poole is a valuable part of the class each week.
“He’s a member of the community, so everyone’s happy to see him and that’s great,” Earle said. “That’s what this is all about, this program, is communities and connections between people."
The White House recognition comes with a $10,000 award for the Armory.
First lady Michelle Obama will present the awards in a White House ceremony Nov. 17 at 11:15am PT. You can stream the event here.