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Grants bolster Burbank arts education

Amount given to Burbank teachers is largest ever issued by growing foundation.

April 27, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Burbank Unified teachers received their largest amount ever in grants from the Burbank Arts for All Foundation. Above, an exhibit at John Muir Middle School.
Burbank Unified teachers received their largest amount… (Photo by Amy Opoka )

The Burbank Arts for All Foundation is following one banner year with another, announcing a new wave of grants totaling $27,250 in support of arts education.

The sum is the largest ever issued to Burbank Unified teachers in a single grant cycle, and will impact more than 5,000 students during the next 12 months, said board co-chair Alexandra Helfrich. It also pushes the six-year-old foundation's total contributions to local arts education past the $150,000 mark.

“The reason we are able to give more … than ever before is because we are seeing more and more community support,” Helfrich said. “The more community support we have from our business partners, the more we are able to give back to the schools.”

The foundation operates two grant cycles, one in the fall and one in the spring, during which time teachers and administrators can apply for money to support a specific arts-related project.

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Among the grants from the most recent cycle was $3,500 awarded to build a media arts program, and eventually open a media arts lab, at Muir Middle School.

“It is going to allow us the opportunity to provide our teaching staff with the professional development we need so we can implement a media program,” Muir Middle School Principal John Paramo said.

Burbank Arts for All was founded in 2006 with the mission of keeping the arts a prominent feature of a Burbank Unified education. The end goal is to groom a new generation of creative thinkers and decision makers, Helfrich said.

“When you engage a student creatively, you excite them, you make them want to be present,” Helfrich said. “They are better listeners, they are better participants. They have a point of connection.”

The visibility of the foundation is growing, said Trena Pitchsford, director of development.

On Friday, the foundation hosted its first fundraising gala, she said. Its endowment currently stands at about $160,000, but officials hope to grow it to $10 million in the next decade.

“It makes good fiscal sense, it ensures the health of the organization,” Pitchsford said.

“But beyond that, it allows the foundation to continue to give. That is what we are all about — making sure the arts are part of these kids' core curriculum.”

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