Design Entrepreneurship Class Virtually Redesigns Central LA Performance Academy

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What the most recent iteration of Art and Art History’s course Design Entrepreneurship lacked in in-person experience, it more than made up for it in innovation and content. Students were able to gain tangible and real-world experience while working virtually with White Hall Arts Academy, a performance training center in Central Los Angeles. The undergraduate art students re-envisioned the interior design of the academy’s main lobby to create iconic spaces for media. The students’ redesign plan also included a new dance hall, new logo, and fundraising plan.

“Our goal as a team was to imagine and design the rooms at White Hall in a new, innovative and attractive way for current and future students taking classes there,” said junior studio arts major, Hanna Rosenbaum, who is concentrating in multimedia arts and is in the M School. “We wanted to make the rooms fun for the young students there, but also something that would have a sophistication that would allow the space to cater to the varying age ranges of students.”

As the course was entirely online, students had to adapt and take on more responsibilities than in past years, wearing many hats throughout the process. Tanisha Hall, Founder of White Hall Arts Academy, and her team were able to mentor groups of LMU students through weekly Zoom calls where they would provide guidance and feedback. Tanisha and her team also provided photos of their space and their vision, since the students couldn’t physically visit the performance academy. ‘

“The most challenging part of the class was having to redesign a physical space virtually,” said junior Lorenzo Lizardi, who is double majoring in studio arts with an emphasis in graphic design, and psychology. “Due to the pandemic, we never actually got to see the place in-person that we were designing, so that made the design process quite difficult.”

The class took on unexpected meaning both for the students and the academy, as it coincided with the civil rights movement happening across the United States this past summer. “The Black Lives Matter movement was very active while we collaborated with the White Hall Arts Academy,” said Saeri Cho Dobson, professor of graphic design and chair of studio arts. “It was a great learning opportunity for us to work with the founder, who is an African American female entrepreneur who also has a profound appreciation of the arts, offering children of the South LA area affordable music lessons, rentals, and other resources. Through Black Lives Matter and Tanisha, the students had a valuable opportunity to meaningfully confront modern racial inequity and other issues that are prevalent today.”

Through their interactions with the client, the art students gained a valuable understanding of the various aspects of design work, including budgeting, planning, designing, collaboration, and researching in order to deliver a final prototype to Tanisha and her team. “A major takeaway for me was learning that sometimes you must design what the client might not expect,” said Rosenbaum. “It’s about coming up with new ideas that combine innovation and practicality that are attractive to the target audience and customer.”

This project was not only a fruitful experience for the students, but it was also rewarding for Tanisha and her team, who were delighted with the student design ideas for their space at White Hall Arts Academy. “The most rewarding part of us was the growth we saw in the students throughout the process,” explained Hall. “From the first day to their final presentation, the growth was spectacular. One of our groups really struggled early on, so I started working with them very closely. All I can say about their final presentation is ‘wow!’. They really stepped up to the plate and what they delivered was amazing. I honestly believe in the power of conversation and this experience was proof of that.”