Case Study: Front & Center in Culver City

Advocacy Team (if applicable): 

Juana Esquivel, Journalism Intern with Arts for LA




Juana Esquivel writes about how collaboration between schools and nonprofit organizations brings arts education to students in Culver City and Santa Monica-Malibu.




In an economic recession, we are all forced to make adjustments.  Several school districts in Southern California have joined forces with local businesses and organizations to keep arts education thriving in schools despite the hard economic times. 

One of them is the Culver City Unified School District which for the past four years has been working with Front and Center Theater Collaborative, a partnership between the Center Theatre Group, the Actors Gang and other local performing arts organizations to provide high-quality theatre education. 

“It’s not really about the money, it’s about the service,” said Heather Moses, coordinator of Front and Center.  Moses said the collaborative’s purpose is to keep theater in K-12 schools district-wide in Culver City.  Free entrance to selected performances at the Kirk Douglas Theatre is just one of the ways Culver City students are exposed to theatre as an outcome of the collaborative.

The collaborative allows the Center Theatre Group’s (CTG) Target Young Audiences Program and Family Program to join forces in order to provide a theatre experience for the children.  As part of the collaborative, the Culver City High School Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (AVPA) will be taking part in theater spring project workshops. 

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is another Southern California school district that is collaborating with local resources to build a strong arts education program despite hard economic times.

Tom Whaley, visual and performing arts coordinator for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District said partnerships have been developed with some of the local organizations to provide theater training. 

The opportunity to attend the Santa Monica Playhouse for free and have a Question and Answer session with one of the featured artists is just one of the partnerships the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District with the local community.

“We have to find a way to get it (arts education),” he said.

Another outcome of the partnership is that children at John Adams Middle School write their own theater plays and they are acted by professional actors.

Whaley said this project is in its third year and it is possible through an Annenberg grant.  “(In) times of shrinking budgets, it (partnerships) is a way to bring standard based arts education,” Whaley said.

Moses said the Front and Center Collaborative is a “model that has legs” and could be used in other subject areas inside classrooms such science “because all schools are hurting.” 

She said that if she had to give any advice to other groups trying to build partnerships it would be to find “those organizations, companies that are passionate, that are going to buy into the idea.”

Moses added the collaborative is “equity that has all schools getting the same (service).”


Front and Center:

  • Culver City Unified School District’s Learning Community
  • The Actor’s Gang
  • Center Theater Group
  • We Tell Stories
  • Young Storyteller’s Foundation
  • The Culver City Education Foundation
  • City of Culver City Cultural Affairs Department
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment


Additional support provided by:

  • Carol and James Collins Foundation
  • Playa Vista
  • The Drown Foundation
  • Culver City PTA/Booster Clubs



  • Brode Stage
  • New West Symphony
  • Santa Monica Playhouse
  • Edgeman Theater Group
  • Museum of Art
  • Santa Monica Rep
  • Virginia Avenue Project
  • PS Arts
  • Stairway of the Stars