A case study of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, in a Richmond, CA building refurbished with LISC investment, uncovers multifaceted returns for the surrounding community: young people are reaping the benefits of arts instruction imbued with the values of mutual respect and social justice. And the renovated center, coupled with expanded cultural programming and public improvements nearby, has laid the groundwork for commercial renewal along an adjacent corridor.
The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond California has a mission to engage “youth and young adults in imagining and creating new worlds for themselves and new visions for their communities through the inspiration and discipline of rigorous training in world performance traditions.” In the 2016–17 school year, the Center involved 5,500 participants in its nationally-recognized programs, including year-round courses, private instruction, music, dance and theater instruction at 20 local K–8 public schools, and an intensive tuition-free Young Artist Diploma Program. Youth performances drew nearly 30,000 audience members to a variety of community venues.
On walls throughout the Center, placards reading “Deep Roots Wide World” remind students of their charge: Forge deep roots in their own communities. Respect the many cultures that make up Richmond and the broader world. The Center’s arts programming aims not to launch students into artistic careers, although some have taken that path, but to build individual character and strengthen communities through instruction imbued with values of mutual respect, multiculturalism, and social justice.
In 2012, the Center opened its newly renovated home in the Winters Building, an historical structure situated on a downtown commercial corridor that has seen better days. The upgrade supported a dramatic expansion of the Center’s youth work, which reaches deep into the low-income neighborhoods of Richmond, a city with a population of about 110,000. In addition, the revitalized building, together with nearby public improvements, may lay the groundwork for commercial revitalization along the corridor.
In April of 2017, researchers visited the East Bay Center and conducted interviews with staff, parents, and community partners to explore the social and economic impacts the Winters Building renovation and the Center itself have produced.
A reflective report on LISC creative placemaking projects in four cities shows how community development intertwined with arts and culture can uplift neighborhoods, and bring excitement, income, pride and inspiration to the people involved.