About Us


The mission of CityLife is to bring together young people (7th through 12th graders) from diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds in order to provide exposure to and experiences with the Arts, culture, history and politics of Los Angeles; to use the Arts as the tool for exploration and mastery of Downtown and the development of civic engagement; and to help them develop into adults who work together to improve the quality of life in their communities.


Our premise is that the quality of life for residents of a large city hinges upon effective relationships among diverse groups of people. In order for people to engage in these effective relationships as adults, they must first experience respectful and successful relationships as children and youth. In order for them to become active and involved citizens as adults, they must first participate in the process of civic engagement as youth.

We believe that young people learn best through strong, positive relationships first with adults and later with each other. Adults inspire, encourage, introduce, guide, facilitate and help. As good “teachers” they open doors and foster new interests; support the development of knowledge and skills; provide moral and ethical leadership; help young people understand boundaries and limitations. They enable teens to develop a sense of trust and mutual respect, which in turn, allows them to enter into positive relationships with peers.

These successful relationships also enable young people to participate in a broad range of familiar and new activities, work with a wide variety of people including artists, public officials, business and community leaders, and to make sound decisions and choices. As our young people master new skills in the Arts and other activities, they develop confidence in their ability to confront and succeed in meeting new challenges. Simultaneously, as they enjoy significant relationships with adults and peers, they learn to trust their own judgment, which in turn, builds confidence in their ability to work together with others to solve problems.


We practice, and help participants to develop habits of heart and mind—eight habits that we believe are important to use throughout life. They form the basis for learning new things, understanding new and different customs and ideas, evaluating choices and opinions, and living together in communities.

The Habit of Convention
The ability to acknowledge accepted standards in any area in order to be understood and to understand others.

The Habit of Connection
The ability to look for patterns and ways that things fit together in order to utilize diverse material to form new solutions.

The Habit of Evidence
The ability to bring together relevant information, judge the credibility of sources, and find out for oneself.

The Habit of Perspective
The ability to address questions from multiple viewpoints and to use a variety of ways to solve problems.

The Habit of Collaboration
The ability to work effectively with others, accepting and giving appropriate assistance.

The Habit of Appreciation
The ability to acknowledge appropriately sources of support and guidance.

The Habit of Ethical Behavior
The ability to understand how personal values influence behavior and to live one’s life according to ethical principles.

The Habit of Service to the Common Good
The ability to recognize the effects of one’s actions upon others, coupled with the desire to make the community a better place for all.


At CityLife we believe that the arts should be experienced within the context of everyday life. It does not seem at all incongruous to us to meet with a deputy mayor, practice dramatic sketches for a performance, attend a concert of operatic arias, have lunch and talk with opera singers, talk politics, go swimming and play a little basketball, all in the same day. By design, the program includes activities planned well in advance and leaves time for spontaneous events and wonderful surprises. Our goals lie in three main areas of participant development.

The Arts. Los Angeles has a commitment to free public art resulting in a Downtown environment filled with sculptures, murals, music, gardens, buildings, fountains, and our jewel, the Central Library. There are also museums, theaters, concert halls, art districts, and a school of performing arts. As CityLife students explore this rich world, they are building the foundation upon which they will develop into adults who will be both active creators and appreciators of art. At CityLife participants:

  • create, observe and discuss art and architecture
  • participate in workshops and attend performances of music, opera, theatre, dance
  • learn about the philosophic and practical aspects of public art
  • develop understanding of the relationship between the arts and everyday lives of people and artists
  • explore what art and the arts tell us about our history and who we are as human beings
  • engage with artists in formal and informal workshops and discussions

Diversity. Using Downtown Los Angeles as our classroom, students experience first hand the similarities and differences among the various ethnic and cultural groups that make up Our City. They:

  • develop relationships with peers and staff in an integrated group
  • examine origins of stereotypes–how they affect attitudes and behavior
  • explore ethnic histories and contributions to Los Angeles
  • develop an appreciation of personal and family histories

Leadership and Civic Engagement. We believe that a prerequisite to leadership is the notion of potential and possibilities–the capacity to imagine and to dream, to see that things may not be as they appear, nor necessarily remain as they are. At CityLife students have opportunities to:

  • develop attitudes that encourage dreams, possibilities and ideals for a positive future, and figure out how to plan strategies and develop skills in order to make them come true
  • develop an understanding of the functions of different roles within the group; learn when to assume the leadership role and when to adopt a support role; and have opportunities to practice both
  • discover that public government can be accessible and responsive to citizens, and how public policy decisions are made
  • explore the history and policy issues of public art in Los Angeles, in order to empower participants to become advocates for the arts
  • explore the history and public policy issues of urban planning in Los Angeles, in order to empower participants to develop solutions to urban challenges and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods, communities and the city as a whole
  • present a Project, along with performances and an exhibition of art, at the Culmination Program

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