One of Hollywood's favorite charities, P.S. Arts, which runs after-school arts programs in public schools, celebrated its 20th anniversary on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at West Hollywood's Sunset Tower Hotel. The organization recruits, hires and trains art teacher to work in schools and develops arts curricula.
Among those in attendance were Modern Family's Julie Bowen, actress Lisa Kudrow (who sits on the board of the organization), Entourage's Perrey Reeves and Cowboys and Aliens' Abigail Spencer. The night was hosted by jeweler David Yurman, who showcased his latest jewelry and timepiece collections.
In the spirit of the evening, The Hollywood Reporter asked a couple of the group’s supporters what their favorite art projects were when they were kids.
Bowen's favorite? "We made these sock dolls and I wanted to make mine African-American and I think our art teacher kind of looked at me for a second like, 'Okay!' and she let me do it and I love her for that. I still remember the experience of getting to make that doll and I still love that doll and I still have it," she said.
The actress has been a supporter of P.S. Arts for about five years since attending a charity auction of artwork created by children in the program. "We bought a piece called Kitty on a Cloud. It’s astounding. There was one called Crack House that was literally a house cut in half. It was so upsetting. No nine-year-old should know what a crack house is, let alone draw one. We really really wanted Crack House but we didn't get it. Kitty On a Cloud we did get and it’s still one of our favorite things. It's beautiful and I hope that kid right now is in art school. It's amazing."
Art programming, continued Bowen, is not something that kids can count on these days in public schools. "You have to raise money for it and put it in schools now. Not everybody thinks history class is the greatest thing that ever existed. Some kids need other ways to express themselves. But I also get that there are budget cuts and the economy is awful. We need organizations like P.S. Arts that are going to go the extra mile to do work like this."
The actress added that art has been a window into the mind of one of her own young children. "One of our sons came home the other day with a stick figure he had drawn. It was hard to understand because it was a stick figure with this one stick hanging off of its neck. I said, 'What's that?' and he said, 'It's a tie, because he might want to go to a party.' That was a little glimpse into my son's mind, into how he sees things, more than any conversation we had had up to that point. So I think art is a great way to get to know your kid too."
For Kudrow, her favorite arts memory involved music. "I remember I loved the music part of our arts program. I went out and I made my parents get me an auto-harp for the holidays for Hanukkah. I was a little cheap one and I learned how to play songs on it," she said.
Too much present-day education, believes Kudrow, is focused on standardized testing. "Well, there are no jobs where you have to be really good at taking standardized tests. What we've seen is that kids who are exposed to arts program benefit tremendously. Their attendance rates go up. Their academic performance goes up."
And what does Kudrow think about Coach Sue Sylvester’s attempts on Glee to abolish arts funding? "It's a joke on Glee, but what is really happening is horrible as is how willing people seem to be to get rid of arts funding. Being creative needs to be exercised as much as being able to compute things."