SPOTLIGHT ON L.A.: At Leimert Park gallery, it’s all about Art + Practice

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

LEIMERT PARK — Art + Practice is a gallery with a purpose.

Something significant is going on there. It’s a mixture of art and social change that has the potential to change lives.

While it provides free access to museum-curated contemporary art, the community arts center has also proven to be more than an artistic pretty face.

Art + Practice was founded in 2014 by artist Mark Bradford, philanthropist and collector Eileen Harris Norton, and social activist Allan DiCastro, who wanted to support a local population in need.

The founders were committed to ensuring the organization contributed to the social good in Leimert Park.

When they learned that Los Angeles County had one of the highest concentrations of foster youth in the nation (18,000 to 20,000) and that they lived in zip codes near Leimert Park, the founders determined that Art + Practice would lend its energy and resources to supporting transition-age foster youth.

The mission of the venue is to support the needs of local foster youth (ages 18-24) and provide free access to museum-curated contemporary art.

In 2016, the organization collaborated with First Place for Youth. The group’s My First Place program provides transition-age foster youth with the most basic foundation of stability — a safe place to call home.

“Since our founding, we have expanded our mission to also support the educational needs of children and families experiencing forced migration worldwide,” said Sophia Belsheim, director of Art + Practice.

Belsheim said while the gallery’s foster youth and refugee-related programming is not open to the public, the exhibition space and public program space represent the public spaces on its campus, and are located along Degnan Boulevard.

First Place for Youth, an organization that provides social services to Los Angeles’s foster youth population is headquartered on Art + Practice’s campus.

Art + Practice’s exhibition space is programmed by the California African American Museum, which organizes exhibitions that align with the museum’s curatorial vision.

The space, which champions artists of color, includes a front gallery visible from the street, a large gallery at the front of the space with a skylight, and a back gallery for exhibiting video and sculpture works.

Throughout the year, the facility hosts public programs dedicated to inspiring and addressing the needs of transition-aged foster youth living in the area,

including film screenings, special events, exhibition walkthroughs, and lectures. All contemporary art programs are free and open to the public.

Prior to its five-year collaboration with CAAM, Art + Practice strategically partnered with museum institutions to organize free museum-curated exhibitions in South Los Angeles.

Past museum collaborators have included UCLA’s Hammer Museum, the Frist Art Museum, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The vision for the exhibition space is for the community to experience museum-class contemporary art in their own neighborhood. The goal is to make contemporary art, organized by museums, accessible to South Los Angeles so that residents don’t have to travel outside their community to see museum-class art.

I recently spoke to the director of Art + Practice about the work the company is doing in Leimert Park.

DD: What do you hope every visitor takes away from their visit?

A+P: We hope that each visitor enjoys their time at A+P, and views contemporary art that inspires them. We also want each visitor to learn about what’s happening at CAAM’s Exposition Park location, including exhibitions and public programs.

DD: Talk about the collaboration with CAAM. What do both organizations get out of this partnership?

A+P: CAAM at A+P is a five-year collaboration (2022-2026) that brings CAAM-organized shows to A+P’s exhibition space, and develops a hub for CAAM to incubate new programming. In return, A+P dedicates financial and staff resources to CAAM’s vision in support of the museum’s residency in Leimert Park.

A+P is honored to be in collaboration with CAAM, an institution with a nearly 50-year history. Together we are modeling different ways of supporting the community and advocating for the community. We hope that together we create a space where folks can see themselves reflected and valued in their own neighborhood.

DD: What kind of public programming are you planning surrounding the Helen Cammock exhibition?

A+P: We are finalizing public programs for the “Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul” exhibition at A+P. We are planning exhibition tours, artist talks, and book readings.

DD: You are in a long-term collaboration with nonprofit social service provider First Place for Youth. Describe that collaboration.

A+P: A+P has been in collaboration with First Place for Youth since 2016. As part of that collaboration, A+P provides First Place with free office and classroom space on our campus. Here, First Place provides access to housing, education, and employment support for our local transition-age foster youth (ages 18-24).

To support that work, A+P teams up with First Place to fund a $100,000 education scholars program for First Place’s young adults; organizes roundtable discussions welcoming leaders in their field of expertise to mentor our foster youth; organizes job shadowing opportunities on our campus and within our contemporary art programs; and plans events for First Place’s foster youth to travel to local businesses to learn about their work, goals and educational pathways.

Education is central to A+P’s vision. It lays the framework for how A+P works with First Place to help foster youth build the foundational skills they need to succeed.

DD: As part of your collaboration, A+P funds a $100,000 scholars program for First Place’s foster youth to decrease any barriers they might face in pursuing their educational goals. How many foster youths have been helped through the program — and in what way exactly?

A+P: The A+P Scholars program is designed to decrease any barriers that young people might face in pursuing their educational goals. Since 2019, A+P has funded over 100 scholarships to foster youth in First Place’s program. Funding has gone to cover child care costs, transportation, purchasing school supplies, paying for tuition costs and more.

DD: Why is it important for Art + Practice to collaborate with PILAglobal, (a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality early childhood education to refugee and displaced children and families worldwide)?

A+P: A+P is coming up on its 10th year in Leimert Park in 2024. As we approach our 10th anniversary, we wanted to expand our mission in support of education by entering into a two-year collaboration with the nonprofit PILAglobal. Like PILAglobal, we believe that access to quality education is a human right. PILAglobal’s educational model recognizes that the success of that work begins with teachers.

Currently, we are working together to provide educational support to children and families experiencing global forced migration and poverty worldwide. A+P funds teachers’ salaries and supports PILAglobal’s efforts in outreach, brand awareness, and fundraising. A+P joins PILAglobal in the nonprofit’s mission to advance equal access to education in Europe, Africa, and the U.S.-Mexico border.

DD: Why should someone visit Art + Practice?

A+P: Someone should visit A+P to experience the incredible programming organized by CAAM. All contemporary art programming is also free!

DD: Describe the significance of being located in Leimert Park.

A+P: A+P was established out of Mark Bradford’s former artist studio, originally his mother’s hair salon, Foxye Hair, along Leimert Boulevard. Mark grew up in Leimert Park, so the idea to establish a nonprofit with Allan DiCastro and Eileen Harris Norton, in his home neighborhood, made great sense to them. Leimert Park is an incredibly dynamic neighborhood, located in the heart of Los Angeles, with many great businesses and individuals contributing to its positive impact on the community. We are just one layer within Leimert Park that folks can experience, enjoy and learn from.

Art + Practice is located at 3401 W. 43rd Place, Leimert Park. Phone: (323) 337- 6887. Online:

“Spotlight on L.A.” is a feature profiling little known places within the city. To propose a location for “Spotlight on L.A.,” send an email to

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at