The Virginia Avenue Project is a free, after-school program using the performing arts in conjunction with one-on-one mentoring to help children, ages 6-18, think creatively, critically and confidently about their lives. Through an on-going sequence of arts and academic programs, Project kids work in collaboration with adult mentors to develop life skills and give voice to their creativity.
The Project was founded in 1992 by Leigh Curran after working with the 52nd Street Project in New York City. Funding support came from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Threshold Foundation, the Ann M. Martin Foundation, and the Educational Foundation of America. From the beginning, our community partner has been the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL). We teach classes and workshops at their site, offer year-round academic tutoring and mentoring, and rehearse plays for production. The Project's long relationship with PAL is a unique one as both organizations collaborate to offer the surrounding community valuable programs they would not otherwise have access to. PAL provides a safe haven for hundreds of young people in the vulnerable "after school" hours and the Project provides PAL with an active, on-going arts component allowing community children and their families access to the arts and arts programming not available at home or at school.
In addition to classes and workshops, the Project presents four to five shows a year at professional theatres throughout Los Angeles, showcasing poetry, plays, photography and video created by Project kids and their adult artist/mentors. We also publish an annual literary magazine, The Buzz, compiled by students and their mentors in our creative tutoring program, Smart Partners. Through our Outreach Program we are involved in public schools, Title One schools and schools for children who are learning disabled. Over 100 committed volunteers work with the Project each year as mentors, tutors, teachers, designers, and committee members. Approximately three thousand people attend our performances and events each year. What sets us apart from other arts education organizations is our commitment to long-term, one-on-one arts mentoring. Our children start with us as young as six and stay with us through high school so the impact we have on each others' lives is profound and long lasting.