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Artistic visions in unexpected places

  • Alternative to Jasmin Ostrander, 10, slips into costume in preparation for the No Limits Comedy Hour at the Pasadena Ice House.
    Jasmin Ostrander, 10, slips into costume in preparation for the No Limits Comedy Hour at the Pasadena Ice House.
  • Alternative to Genesis Duran, 9, and Jasmin Ostrander, 10, rehearse their jokes on stage.
    Genesis Duran, 9, and Jasmin Ostrander, 10, rehearse their jokes on stage.
  • Alternative to Oswin Valdez, 9, impersonates Bob Hope during his stand-up debut.
    Oswin Valdez, 9, impersonates Bob Hope during his stand-up debut.
  • Alternative to Jasmin Ostrander, Genesis Duran and Ivan Marquez, 14, wait in the green room for their turn in the spotlight.
    Jasmin Ostrander, Genesis Duran and Ivan Marquez, 14, wait in the green room for their turn in the spotlight.
  • Alternative to Michael Nieto, 4, impersonates George Burns.
    Michael Nieto, 4, impersonates George Burns.
  • Alternative to Michael Nieto reaches out for a high-five after his first performance.
    Michael Nieto reaches out for a high-five after his first performance.
  • Alternative to Family and friends ask for autographs upon the conclusion of the comedy show.
    Family and friends ask for autographs upon the conclusion of the comedy show.
  • Alternative to Day laborer Juan Martin Alvarado warms up with the jarana before a fandango class.
    Day laborer Juan Martin Alvarado warms up with the jarana before a fandango class.
  • Alternative to Carlos Gutierrez shares his knowledge of the jarana with fellow student Alicia Moran, 60.
    Carlos Gutierrez shares his knowledge of the jarana with fellow student Alicia Moran, 60.
  • Alternative to Gabriel Cruz, 47, listens to instructions from his fandango teacher.
    Gabriel Cruz, 47, listens to instructions from his fandango teacher.
  • Alternative to A day laborer writes original lyrics based on his life.
    A day laborer writes original lyrics based on his life.
  • Alternative to The class uses jaranas made by the fandango instructor.
    The class uses jaranas made by the fandango instructor.
  • Alternative to Gabriel hopes to write enough original lyrics to record an album.
    Gabriel hopes to write enough original lyrics to record an album.
  • Alternative to Volunteer Young Mi helps artist Hari Deva, 69, during a book-binding workshop.  Deva is now in housing but was homeless for several months. “I love the program. It’s a good place to socialize and work.”
    Volunteer Young Mi helps artist Hari Deva, 69, during a book-binding workshop. Deva is now in housing but was homeless for several months. “I love the program. It’s a good place to socialize and work.”
  • Alternative to Skid row residents can enter the LAMP Art Studio and learn various art forms, including illustration.
    Skid row residents can enter the LAMP Art Studio and learn various art forms, including illustration.
  • Alternative to Volunteer Young Mi, and students Hari Deva and Rita Barker build a book.
    Volunteer Young Mi, and students Hari Deva and Rita Barker build a book.
  • Alternative to Rachel Cowles receives a kiss from her dog Popcorn before beginning a painting.
    Rachel Cowles receives a kiss from her dog Popcorn before beginning a painting.
  • Alternative to An artist identified as “Blazing Shadows” sketches in the studio.
    An artist identified as “Blazing Shadows” sketches in the studio.
  • Alternative to  An undocumented homeless man battling drug addiction says art helps his mental state.
    An undocumented homeless man battling drug addiction says art helps his mental state.

Deaf schoolchildren doing standup comedy? Day laborers writing and performing fandango songs? Skid Row residents learning the crafts of bookbinding and illustration?

These creative initiatives may not meet anyone’s definition of traditional arts programming—and for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, that’s exactly the point.

Under the county’s new Community Impact Arts Grant program, the commission in April awarded $500,000 to 51 organizations serving young people, the disabled, veterans, the homeless, and others, while focusing on issues ranging from the environment to immigrants’ rights.

While some of the projects are still in development, others already are flourishing. This photo gallery goes behind the scenes of three of them and shows that you don’t need to be a professional to create art that’s straight from the heart.