When Herb Alpert and Paul Cummins met at a school function in Santa Monica, the two men probably didn’t realize that their conversation would lead to arts education for 25,000 students across the state each week.
Twenty-five years after their chance encounter, though, that’s exactly what has transpired.
What started as an attempt to improve programming for local children turned into P.S. ARTS, which offers instruction in visual and performing arts to youngsters in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district and beyond.
Alpert, who remains one of the biggest supporters of P.S. ARTS, is celebrating the nonprofit group’s 25-year anniversary with a concert Sept. 10 at Moss Theater on the campus of New Roads School in Santa Monica.
“Herb wanted to do something to recognize the organization,” said Mariel Lacson, external affairs associate for P.S. ARTS.
Alpert, an accomplished musician, composer and recording industry executive, will perform alongside his wife, Lani Hall, as part of an hour-long show. Proceeds from the event, which also includes a post-concert reception, will benefit the group he helped create.
The event is one of several major fundraisers for P.S. ARTS, which will host a festival at Santa Monica Airport in November and an adult-oriented party in the spring. The organization also applies for grants and receives donations from individuals and corporate partners.
Since its inception at Broadway Elementary School, an L.A. Unified campus in Venice, P.S. ARTS has grown throughout Los Angeles County and now brings arts education to other parts of California, including Avenal and Kettleman City.
The organization has worked with Santa Monica students for 15 years, first at the local school district’s Title I sites and, in the last three years, at all of the elementary schools in SMMUSD. Money raised through the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s most recent annual campaign is covering more than $600,000 in services through P.S. ARTS.
Even as education officials emphasize the importance of science and technology, Lacson said, children need creative outlets in their academic environments.
“They do show measured improvement when they have the arts,” she said. “There’s a lot of joy in the arts. In addition to all the academic measures, it’s important for kids to have fun and express themselves.”
P.S. ARTS works with educators at individual schools to customize programming in music, dance, theater and visual arts depending on their priorities. The organization provides the appropriate supplies and software, and its approximately 80 instructors are professional artists with teaching experience who are given full-time salaries and benefits.
“We don’t have a scripted curriculum,” she said. “They’re all going to be different. And we allow our artists to teach to our strengths.”
It’s a series of programs that might not have materialized without Alpert, who came across Cummins during a visit to Crossroads School. Cummins later founded New Roads, the site of the upcoming concert.
“Paul didn’t know who [Alpert] was at the time,” Lacson said.
But he obviously does now.
To purchase concert tickets, or for more information, visit psarts.org/benefitconcert.