What does a 16-year-old theater student know about power? What can a seventh grade dance student teach us about hope?

As we learned at this fall’s “10 Questions: Reckoning,” an awful lot.

As the world struggles to cope with a pandemic and the United States grapples with its embedded racism and inequality, this fall the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture presented “10 Questions: Reckoning,” the third iteration of its hybrid public program/academic class that brings together leading minds from across the university for interdisciplinary discussions about some of life’s essential questions.

Seeking to extend the reach and impact of this year’s program deeper into the community, the “10 Questions” team forged a partnership with UCLA’s Visual and Performing Arts Education, or VAPAE, program to engage middle and high school students from public schools across the city.

Students from five participating schools, which hailed from one end of L.A. (Venice and Marina del Rey) to the other (Koreatown, Los Feliz and East L.A.), generated their own classroom conversations and created artwork in response to one of the 10 questions, handpicked for consideration by their respective teachers. The five schools responded to their questions by creating work in one of five art forms: visual arts, theater, dance, design/media arts and music. Working in close collaboration with Kevin Kane, the director of VAPAE, and VAPAE teaching artists, each cohort of students was then invited into the virtual classroom, where their work was featured as an integral part of the public program on Monday evenings.

Building on the vibrant conversations taking place amongst participating UCLA faculty, each week one or more of the enrolled UCLA students would join the middle and high school students in their classrooms to discuss the works they had created and to further the dialogue about the questions at hand.

“I can think of no better way to truly consider the import of these ideas than inviting a younger generation of artists to participate, engaging with university students and professors as they make their own work, from their own experience, in response to these essential questions,” Kane said. “After all, these young folks are the very ones that are not only grappling with these questions as part of this project, but who will actualize their own possibilities in order to shape our collective futures.”

Engaging these young creative minds in a university-level course and exposing them to the rich possibilities of a college education added an especially meaningful dimension to “10 Questions” this fall. The program was able to tangibly build bridges not only across UCLA, but also between the university and the communities we serve, making the education we offer more visible and more accessible.

“What is hope?”

Marina del Rey Middle School and Performing Arts Magnet Company Dancers, Grades 7 and 8, Dance Composition Course

“There is nothing more powerful than the freedom to create. We use dance as a language for inspiring others, challenging perspectives and sharing stories of hope. My hope is to ignite a sense of self-discovery within each dancer, so they grow in curiosity, courage and confidence. Finding a voice through art is a pivotal moment for our young dancers. They commit to the importance of staying engaged with the process, while growing in passion. Just as art inspires human emotion, it can impact social and political action. The opportunity to hope is a powerful catalyst for change. It is also a powerful tool for self-preservation in an unprecedented time of social isolation. Marina del Rey Middle School Dance Company will dance a collection of movement stories, sharing our hope for ourselves and our world.” — Lindsey Farris, instructor

Watch the rest of the videos on the UCLA Arts website, covering the topics:

  • “What is justice?” by UCLA Community School/AP art students
  • “What is power?” by Los Angeles County High School for the Arts/10th grade Shakespeare class
  • “What is resilience?” by Venice High School Media, Arts and Technology Academy
  • “What is love?” by John Marshall High School songwriting composition class