Today we’d like to introduce you to Thomas Coston.
Thomas, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always been interested in the arts and have been writing for many years. It was almost 30 years ago that I met other individuals from the Pasadena area and we decided to launch an organization that would involve the participation of artists throughout Los Angeles. Our nonprofit, Light Bringer Project, began small, producing local performing arts events and exhibits, and grew over the years. In 1997 we expanded to include youth development with an arts program known as Cultural Passport. It partnered with the library system and introduced creative professionals to young people from underserved schools. The program won the California League of Cities Helen Putnam Award of Excellence for Public-Private Partnership. Since then we have grown to deliver four innovative arts education programs to over 1,500 diverse students in ten public schools throughout the County.
We are also producers of major events, including the Pasadena Chalk Festival, LitFest Pasadena and Doo Dah Parade. We attract total audiences of well over one hundred thousand people. All of our events are offered free-of-charge to the public. I have been really fortunate to be part of this process. It has been a most rewarding journey watching young people take hold of opportunities and see their dreams and aspirations become real. They are the future of the cultural life of Los Angeles, after all. Personally, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow by practicing servant leadership having participated on several nonprofit boards of directors. I am also chair of Room 13 International, a worldwide network of creative studios driven by young artists! All of it is about learning together!!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, every journey like this comes with its challenges. As an arts organization funding is very difficult. We have had to come up with really innovative solutions. To sustain a nonprofit organization for the arts that’s community-based you have to be very entrepreneurial. There is always learning involved – but that’s the [art that also makes it exciting and worthwhile!
Please tell us about Light Bringer Project.
Light Bringer Project provides unique arts and learning opportunities for those of all ages and backgrounds. We do this by delivering:
• Innovative Arts Education Programs
• Public Art Events and Cultural Activities
• Partnerships with Schools, Industry, and Community
Our Vision is to become an invaluable contributor to the cultural fabric of the greater community, and a leader in creating pathways into higher education and creative disciplines for young people.
The organization began as an oral history project, documenting the contributions of artists and arts supporters to the local environment, including the development of our cultural institutions. Early on, Light Bringer began producing small visual, media and performing arts events at local venues. Eventually, the organization began producing larger-scale special events and, in 1997, turned its attention to youth development and public education. At that time, we engaged in a partnership with our public library system known as Cultural Passport. Young people visited the library to dialogue with creative professionals and were exposed to multiple career pathways. They received specially-designed “young adult” library cards which entitled them to free admission for themselves and their family members at our leading cultural institutions. The program received the Helen Putnam Award of Excellence for Public-Private Partnership from the California League of Cities.
Current programs offered by Light Bringer Project are Literature for Life, a reading promotion program; Expressing Feelings Through Art, a prevention and visual arts and literacy program; Room 13, which provides arts practice at public school sites; and L.A. Futures, a communication arts, work-based learning program. Each of our four programs serves low-income, highly diverse student populations and each are designed to help students in the following areas: personal development through arts practice, communications, and leadership training improved academic performance and school engagement, mapping career pathways in creative disciplines, self-expression, and prevention. Overarching goals are to incorporate the four C’s, which are considered hallmarks of 21st-century learning. They are Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Sitting in my bedroom with my grandmother’s old typewriter and making up projects and businesses. It was like I was embarking on my own self-guided learning. I feel like the development of our nonprofit organization is an extension of all this early idea-making. I was excited everyday to get up and create something new!
- Address: 99 So Raymond Avenue
- Website: www.lightbringerproject.org
- Phone: 6265901134
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: #lightbringerproject
- Facebook: Light Bringer Project
- Twitter: lightbringerp
Brian Biery, photographer – left top photo of LitFest Pasadena, which I executive produce for Light Bringer Project, my nonprofit. It is participated in by over 200 authors. Kat Ward, photographer – right top photo, which I executive produce for my nonprofit Light Bringer Project. It’s participated in by over 600 visual artists from all over Southern California and attended by over 80,000! Rosalind Helfand, photographer – A classroom shot of Literature for Life program, delivered by my nonprofit Light Bringer Project. Depicted is Adolfo Guzman, journalist for public radio.