Making room for creativity: Adult art classes at Oxy Arts

Oxy Arts
Outside of Oxy Arts in Los Angeles, CA. March 9, 2023. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

As part of the course Community Engagement in Education, Occidental students create relationships with community partners and participate in a service learning project. For their project, Jamie Martinez (senior) said they wanted to work with Oxy Arts, a public art space that works to connect Occidental and the Northeast LA (NELA) community, to continue to develop the reciprocal relationship between Oxy Arts, the college and the surrounding communities.

“What I wanted to do was create a series of free adult art education courses in a variety of mediums. And I wanted not to center Occidental in doing so,” Martinez said. “Each class will be taught by a different artist who’s based in Highland Park. The whole point is that it’s grounded in the community.”

Oxy Arts
Front desk at Oxy Arts in Los Angeles, CA. March 9, 2023. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

Meldia Yesayan, director of Oxy Arts, said she thinks it’s wonderful to see students taking initiative to create engagement opportunities with the broader NELA community. Yesayan said it is particularly exciting to see students giving back and expanding on the experience and knowledge they have gained at Occidental.

“There are so few, if any, free art classes for adults. It’s a population that is incredibly underserved in the arts education community,” Yesayan said. “Art can be a portal to expression in ways we often don’t imagine, and may never discover otherwise. We have a lot to learn from the way artists navigate the world.”

Martinez said they are excited to work with Oxy Arts to make art more accessible to adults in the NELA community, part of which involves providing the resources to create art. Even after they graduate, Martinez said the classes will continue to run until at least the end of May. There is no set start date, but Martinez said they hope to get the classes up and running soon.

“One thing that I think is really important about this program is that it’s not just going to be held at Oxy Arts, because there are certain connotations about involvement from students. And this isn’t a program that’s catering towards Occidental students,” Martinez said. “It’s for people in the community who don’t already have access to taking an art class. We’ll be holding classes at the Highland Park Senior Center and the Highland Park Recreation Center and are trying to get some teaching artists who can teach in Spanish so that we can really make this tangibly impactful.”

Oxy Arts
Frankie Fleming, manager of education and community engagement, at Oxy Arts in Los Angeles, CA. March 9, 2023. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

Frankie Fleming, the manager of education and community engagement at Oxy Arts, said she is excited about the potential impact this project will have on members of the community who have not previously been able to regularly access art classes.

“I think in the same ways that we think about it for the youth that we work with, there are so many important life skills and self regulation skills, as well as social-emotional learning skills that our practice can offer to adults,” Fleming said. “For adults, there’s not as much room for play and exploratory time. My hope with this is that this can open up some of that time for folks.”

Fleming said in addition to gaining applicable life skills, making art together can allow people to find community.

“It is just about people being in space together. When we’ve done workshops here, there have been such incredible connections that happen where people will realize that they live near each other or that they know someone in common or that they just really resonate with something that someone else said,” Fleming said. “I think art-making really lends itself to the kind of community-building and connection that comes from letting go of the anxiety that can come from being in a space with people we don’t know. It allows for dialogue and space for new relationships to form as well.”

Contact Eliza Kirk at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here