A Look at The LA25 Foundation’s Impact on Arts Education in the South Bay

All good things.

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    Amber Klinck

It started with a group of five friends: Amy Gimlen, Eric Pritz, Eric Formiller, KC Campbell and John Capellaro. Sitting at Metlox, the discussion focused on how they could do more. All driven professionals and business owners, these South Bay residents were looking for a way to cultivate new relationships while making a constructive impact.

“The inception was for local small business owners to get together and network but more importantly to do good for our community,” explains Amy.

The networking group TheLA25 was the result of those early conversations. The group soon attracted some of the Beach Cities’ most admired entrepreneurs. Altruism was synonymous with professional achievement when considering invitations for membership. Yet while the desire to give back was the foundation of TheLA25’s story, exactly how and where wouldn’t immediately come into focus.

“Our first year we supported the Roundhouse Aquarium,” Amy notes. “We donated $1,000, and we were so proud and excited.” Still, they wanted to expand their reach. TheLA25 was looking for a way to support kids locally, as well as in the surrounding communities.

“Meeting with local artists and business owners, we discovered how much everyone really cared about art education for our children.”

“Collectively we found a common interest in arts education,” Amy says. Research quickly revealed the lack of art programs available to some of the South Bay’s youth. “We were shocked to find that Hermosa Beach didn’t have a music program. The only arts education they received was Young at Art—once a month—and that was completely supported by either the Education Foundation or the local PTA.”

TheLA25 members felt strongly about the value of arts education and its longstanding impact on students. “I’m a science person by nature, but I think the art part of my brain definitely comes into work in my office all the time,” points out Amy, who is a local orthodontist.

With their sights on a common goal, TheLA25 established The LA25 Foundation for the Arts. The aim of the nonprofit, volunteer-based organization was to support arts education where it was lacking. Through private funding and corporate sponsorships, The LA25 Foundation for the Arts continued to expand their reach and exceed expectations.

The primary source of funding, however, came from the foundation’s annual art auction, ART310. With art donations from local artists including Bo Bridges, Tricia Strickfaden, Brian Kingston, Brent Broza, Al Satterwhite and Holly Socrates, the event was guaranteed to create a buzz—selling out every year. Included in the auction was at least one collaborative piece of artwork created by the children and one or more of the professional artists.

With funds coming in, TheLA25 team was eager to put the money to work. “The first grant was awarded in 2013 to the Redondo Beach Unified School District to send every second and third grade student to visit LACMA for the day,” notes LA25’s director of giving, Jennifer Buchsbaum. This grant alone offered an experience that benefited nearly 1,400 students in 2013 and 2014.

In 2015 The LA25 Foundation for the Arts sent every fourth and fifth grader in Hermosa Beach to the Grammy Museum. “We funded the string instrument program at El Segundo High School and supported multiple Hermosa Beach youth music programs and their Young at Art Program,” Amy adds.

In addition to supporting arts programs and experiences, The LA25 Foundation for the Arts believes there is real value in spreading awareness. Room 19, a production of Hollywood Shorts and TheLA25, is a documentary showcasing the value of arts education for one third grade class at Tulita Elementary School in Redondo Beach over the span of a year.

TheLA25 was making a difference, and it inspired more people to get involved. Jennifer’s initial connection to LA25 was as a guest at one of their annual ART310 events.

“I loved the event and people behind the cause, so when they asked if I was able to help in 2017 there was no hesitation to say yes,” she says. “As the director of giving, I guided the organization’s reach beyond the Beach Cities and into some surrounding neighborhoods that have a significant need for funding arts education.”

“Once we were established in the South Bay, the more we wanted to extend our reach,” Amy says. Jennifer began by reaching out to LAUSD’s Southern District office, and the contact was welcomed.

“Many of the LAUSD’s arts and music education programs have been suffering from massive budget cuts, and they desperately need the financial aid to keep these educational programs alive,” Jennifer explains. “The money from the 2017 ART310 event funded 25 different programs from Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Gardena, San Pedro, Wilmington, Hawthorne, Lawndale and Los Angeles.”

The scope of what they’ve been able to achieve has been truly meaningful for the team, even surpassing many of their initial goals. “I think it exceeded our expectations,” Amy says. “We had no idea how far our reach would be. Meeting with local artists and business owners, we discovered how much everyone really cared about art education for our children.”

The growth of the foundation has been fulfilling for everyone involved. Current board members Amy Gimlen, Lori Ford, Jennifer Buchsbaum, Eric Pritz, Chris Yuhl and Christopher Salling have donated countless hours of their time and heartfelt dedication to the cause. “Working with the schools and nonprofits for this grant program was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life,” Jennifer says. “Each principal, program director or administrator was overcome with gratitude for LA25’s support.”

And while they are grateful to have been a part of this incredible journey, TheLA25 is saying farewell after giving their time and dedication over the past decade. “It’s been amazing, and we’re happy it’s ending on such a positive note,” Amy says.

“I’m disappointed we will not be continuing The LA25 Foundation, but I know that our impact over the years has been tremendous and will continue for years to come,” says Jennifer.

The foundation as an entity may have come to an end, but the spirit of giving and the devotion to arts education has not. By connecting with the South Bay Artist Collective and sharing resources, The LA25 Foundation continues to make a lasting impact.

“Overall LA25 has awarded over $155,000 to various schools and nonprofits in the South Bay to help pay for everything from classroom art supplies, a sousaphone for Banning High School’s Mighty Marching Pilots band, and field trips to LACMA and the Grammy Museum,” Jennifer says.

TheLA25 sought to make a lasting impact in their community, and that’s exactly what they did.

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