LONG BEACH - In response to the devastating and ongoing budget cuts in arts education across the state, the Museum of Latin American Art has launched a grass-roots campaign in hopes of making it easier for schools to provide education-based field trips to their students.
MOLAA on the Move, with the help of Long Beach and surrounding communities, raised $25,000 toward the purchase of a museum bus that will provide free transportation to students in not only Long Beach, but throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.
MOLAA CEO and President Stuart Ashman, who led the effort, said arts education is vital for students. He said studies have shown that students who have art education tend to do better in all other subjects, including math and science.
"Over the past year, many teachers told us that the cost of bus transportation is the barrier that prevents them from bringing their classes to the museum," he said. "It seemed to me that if we could raise the money to purchase our own bus, we could provide our educational school tours and art workshop program to many more students."
Ashman said the museum, located at 628 Alamitos Ave., raised the initial $25,000 through an online event fundraiser, at which point the museum reached out to Hyundai with three proposals that would positively impact the community.
Hyundai, Ashman said, loved the concept of MOLAA on the Move and said the initiative "demonstrates where the heart of the community is and that is it about serving the community."
Hyundai Motor America announced last week that it would match the funds raised by the museum and donated $25,000 toward the purchase of a bus and the first year of operation costs.
"We are very grateful that Hyundai Motor America pitched in and helped make this dream a reality," Ashman said. "This bus will provide so many students, who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity, a chance to visit the museum and learn more about the arts.
Geraldine Walkup, a teacher at Jefferson Leadership Academy in Long Beach, said she has seen the power a museum visit has on students.
"Budget cutbacks have resulted in fewer real-life experiences, such as field trips and assemblies for our students," she said. "Throughout the years MOLAA has provided many opportunities for our students through Sunday workshops, art contests and guest speakers, but offering transportation is a game changer."
Walkup has been an art educator for 30 years and said MOLAA on the Move will change the lives of many students.
"This is a teacher's dream, an educator's dream," she said. "Viewing a piece of art adds a dimension that students can never experience from viewing art in a book or through technology."
MOLAA is the only museum in the United States exclusively dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art.
Last year, MOLAA served 12,000 students. But Ashman said with the addition of the bus, the museum will be able to serve between 17,000 and 19,000 students each year.
"This mission of this museum is simple," Ashman said. "It is about serving the community and helping to create a generation of future adults who appreciate the arts."
He said the museum is shopping for a bus and hopes to make the final purchase by the end of the week. He said the goal is to have the bus picking up students by the start of February.
The bus will be classified as a SPAB, Special People Activity Bus, allowing the museum to serve not only students and schools, but also senior citizens and other community groups, Ashman said.
"It is wonderful to see this dream become a reality," he said. "Schools can now get their students out of the classroom and into a museum to take advantage of free tours and education opportunities that have been taken from them over the past years due to the dire financial situation schools are facing."
Ashman said the community can still get involved and help support the project through monetary donations on the museum's website, www.molaa.com.
"We have enough money to purchase a bus and keep it operating for one year," he said. "But donations will be needed down the line to keep the bus operational for years to come."