ArtCenter Inspires Youth for 21st Century Arts Careers

ArtCenter instructor Gail Howland snapped this shot of her digital photography class, part of ArtCenter’s ACX Teen Program.

This summer, as in many years past, ArtCenter College of Design received a grant from the Rowe & Gayle Giesen Trust, a fund of Pasadena Community Foundation that supports arts education for youth. The Giesen award came with an extra surprise: An additional $15,000 to support two exciting new programs at Pasadena High School’s App Academy and at local nonprofit organization STEAM:CODERS.

Giesen funding has traditionally supported scholarships for the ACX Kids and ACX Teens extension programs, which give young people the opportunity to participate in innovative classes like Designing Cars, Wearable Art, Animation, and Comic Book Illustration. ArtCenter will leverage part of its 2022 Giesen funding to sustain scholarships and increase socio-economic and racial-ethnic representation in the classes.

Seeding Youth Programs for Real-World Design

This year, the Giesen Trust Grant cycle provided an opportunity for organizations to apply for one larger grant that could help expand the reach of an existing program or support a new project. ArtCenter was selected to receive this additional funding and will use it to seed two programs – launching in spring 2023 — that prepare Pasadena teens for 21st century arts careers. At STEAM:CODERS, up to 40 students will enroll in a course that focuses on the conceptual component of video game design. At Pasadena High School, the funding will be used to create an expansion of IxD @ The App Academy that will teach human-centered interaction design to 120+ aspiring software designers. The courses fulfill an important component of the Giesen Trust’s mission – exposing local youth to teaching artists’ creativity, innovation, and deep experience.

A student and instructor review work in an ArtCenter’s ACX class, part of the extension program that the Rowe & Gayle Giesen Trust has supported for several years. Photo credit: Juan Posada.

Residencies Strengthen Outreach and Deepen Community Connections
Andrew Kaiser, ArtCenter’s Director of Foundation and Government Relations, says he likes to think of ArtCenter’s programs at local schools and nonprofits as “residencies” because they serve as an important extension of the ACX programs held on ArtCenter’s campus. “We want everybody to feel like ArtCenter is their place to grow creatively. If we can bring ArtCenter instructors into schools and meet students where they’re at, in a comfortable setting with their classmates, that can be an easier introduction.” ArtCenter Outreach Manager C.C. Ybarra agrees. “Our hope is that when local students get connected to our teachers and have a fun, transformative experience, they’ll become interested in pursuing more with us.”

Giesen funding will help ArtCenter deepen what has historically been a strong connection between extension classes and its degree programs. Students exposed to ArtCenter in high school often pursue further education at the institution. Kaiser notes that nearly 30% of recent graduating class were alumni of various extension programs, and three out of their last six valedictorians had studied in extension.

“We’re an international institution,” Kaiser says, “and we really believe in thinking globally but acting locally. Partnerships like the kind that the Giesen Trust is supporting enables us to have Pasadena as a testing ground for how art and design can be used to solve problems that are experienced everywhere.”

Learn more about the Rowe & Gayle Giesen Trust: Visit the fund page or watch a video.