February 19, 2019

City Hearts Kicks Off 30th Anniversary—Big Time



City Hearts Kicks Off 30th Anniversary—Big Time

Sherry and Bob Jason, founders of City Hearts, celebrate its 30th anniversary.

It’s been more than 30 years since Sherry Jason watched a young prodigy playing Mozart by ear on a battered piano at Los Angeles’ Central Juvenile Hall—just before he was to be incarcerated for murder. She couldn’t let go of that image—and years later Sherry and Bob Jason started City Hearts: Kids Say Yes to the Arts in a small studio in downtown Los Angeles.

Now, 30 years and 35,000 students later, more than 1200 students attend 54 classes throughout L.A. County’s most impoverished areas each week. For 30 years, it’s been all about dance, theater, photography and more—each “art” giving children an alternative—before a life is wasted.

The Jasons’ story was recently celebrated by Thierry Sanchez, who is the driving force behind the international non-profit organization, Talent For Humanity. Sanchez and editor Patrick Gaffney brought together stories of seven people from very different parts of the world who believe one person can make a difference with the publication of “Talent For Humanity: Stories of Creativity, Compassion and Courage to Inspire You on Your Journey” (on sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local bookstores).

While the printed story about the Jasons in this new book is poignant, what really hits home is the video (talentforhumanity.org/talent/sherry-and-bob-jason ), for it shows the effort, commitment and results of their 30-year journey.

“We are extremely proud of our involvement in this book and Talent’s Human Spirit Award,” says Sherry Jason. “It takes tremendous effort and a path of caring about others, but one person can make a difference. It takes an individual doing extraordinary things without concern for personal gain.”

This year’s Shakespeare Challenge, set for May 30 at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, is yet another way to celebrate City Hearts’ Anniversary and the children the organization has reached. This year, City Hearts expects 64 Challenge participants: children from Compton, Pacoima and Boyle Heights.

At the Challenge, students do not compete against each other, but challenge themselves with presentations of various monologues and scenes. On hand to give comments on each performance this year will be guest Judges: Diana Burbano, Jonathan Cake, Gale Caswell, Inara George, Graco Hernandez and John Sandoval.

“We are grateful to all the members of this panel, but especially proud of having Graco and John with us again,” says Jason. “They are perfect examples of what City Hearts: Kids Say Yes to the Arts is all about.

“We met John when he was ‘sentenced’ to our program 20 years ago. He learned to love school, became a City Hearts mentor, then an Assistant Teacher. He worked tirelessly to graduate from high school and university and has been a dedicated member of our Board of Directors for eight years.

“Graco, who began with City Hearts’ classes at age 11, won first place in our inaugural Shakespeare Challenge. This year he will be a judge again. He will be graduating high school in June and attend UC Irvine’s Theater Arts Department in the fall.”

Also on hand at Challenge will be teachers Charles Maceo, Eric Stein and Yvonne Senat for Shakespeare; Karen Furno, Gwendolyn Oliver and Claudia Donovan for Dance; Calvin Banks for World Music and Guitar as well as Raul Vega, Katie Dalsemer and Brian Nieman for photography. Dance, Music and Shakespeare performances will be presented in the afternoon after the morning Challenge and student photography will be on exhibit throughout the day.

City Hearts: Kids Say Yes to the Arts is also excited about another event to be held as part of this 30th Anniversary year. “We’ve just had word that The Leica Gallery in Los Angeles has agreed to host Fresh Focus 2015, our yearly photography auction fundraiser. The event will be held on November 1, with more details available later.

“It’s the icing on the cake,” says Sherry. “We are so pleased that Leica has recognized the life-transforming work we do with children who would never have the vital experience of quality arts education without our efforts. With Leica’s support, this year’s Fresh Focus promises to be an exceptional event.”

For more information about Shakespeare Challenge on May 30, and Fresh Focus on November 1, contact the City Hearts office: (310) 455-2898.