Architect Frank Gehry Leads $2 Million Investment in Arts Program

Architect Frank Gehry, co-founder of Turnaround Arts: California, engages first grade students in the creative process.

Earlier this month, Turnaround Arts: California announced that it will add 10 schools to its statewide network, bringing its total number of elementary and middle schools served to 27 across 20 districts. This expansion is made possible by a $1 million gift from renowned architect Frank Gehry, whose donation has been matched by a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. Their contributions, in part, enable the program’s most significant expansion since 2014, when Gehry and arts education advocate Malissa Shriver co-founded the California affiliate of the Washington-based, national program.

Turnaround Arts: California will now reach schools serving over 17,000 K-8 students from historically marginalized communities, using the arts in schools to narrow the opportunity gap, increase student and community engagement, and improve campus culture and climate. Founded as a White House initiative under the leadership of former First Lady Michelle Obama, the program is now run nationally by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The new Turnaround Arts: California partner schools span the state’s diverse rural, suburban, and urban communities, including three schools along the Los Angeles River, as part of the first phase of a project in which Gehry aims to increase cultural, environmental, and educational opportunities in communities across the southern region of the river.

Architect Frank Gehry, co-founder of Turnaround Arts: California, engages first grade students in the creative process.

Frank Gehry said, “Seeing the strength and creativity in our Turnaround Arts: California students gives me hope for our future and fuels my own inspiration. Over the last forty years, I’ve spent time with kids in the classroom using architecture and art to get them engaged, focus their attention, and even introduce mathematics, civics, and other subjects that they might not have otherwise been receptive to. This inspired me to partner with Malissa Shriver on Turnaround Arts: California in order to create the same opportunities for the California students who need it the most. Separately, I have been working on the Los Angeles River, and through this work, I have discovered the great need for this program in the districts closest to the river, especially south of the city of Los Angeles. With this in mind, I have pledged to bring our program to ten schools along the Los Angeles River over the next five years. I am very happy to announce the first three of these schools today.”

Malissa Shriver, President of Turnaround Arts: California, said, “We have the great privilege of partnering with these new, vibrant school communities across the state in using the arts to help students overcome obstacles and find their authentic voices as creators and scholars. We continue to believe that no achievement gaps exist where opportunity lives.”