White House will showcase school arts program and feature Los Angeles students


Grammy-winning bluesman Keb’ Mo’ will join young performers from California and other states at the White House on Wednesday to showcase a program that installs artists as mentors in low-performing schools.

The students are participants in Turnaround Arts, an initiative that tries to introduce young people to art, dance, theater and music.

Among those scheduled to perform in a talent show are students from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Los Angeles.


First Lady Michelle Obama, who will host the gathering, aims to trumpet an expansion of the Turnaround Arts program, her top aide, Tina Tchen, told reporters Tuesday in a conference call.

The program is on track to expand next fall to reach 45,000 students in 68 schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, officials said.

Tchen said amazing things happen when arts are encouraged in schools hit by “low test scores, rampant disciplinary problems, high teacher turnover rate and low parent engagement.”

Without arts education, “we are all missing out on [students’] potential, and may even be missing out on the next Lin-Manuel Miranda,” said Tchen, referring to the creator and star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Turnaround Arts has attracted such mentors as ballerina Misty Copeland, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, singer Paula Abdul and actors Elizabeth Banks and Tim Robbins.

Abdul, Robbins and several other entertainers are expected to appear at the White House event Wednesday.


Turnaround Arts, which was created by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, will partner with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington as its expands, said Deborah Rutter, the president of the center.