Recognizing Creative Voice  in

Los Angeles County High Schools


Expressing Feelings Through Art is an arts and literacy prevention program delivered to public high school students of L.A. County. Begun in 1982, the program is a partnership of Light Bringer Project, and Mental Health America of Los Angeles County, which is dedicated to service and education for mental health recovery and wellness. Expressing Feelings Through Art (EFTA) is highly valued by faculty participants and serves approximately 600 students per year.

In the course of the program, students in 9th through 12th grades are challenged to create art pieces that tell stories that hold personal meanings for them. Topics run the gamut of subject matter and emotional tone and are often as moving as they are original. The students must also engage in an exercise of writing that sheds light on their visual imagery, provoking a thoughtful articulation of the stories they were artistically driven to tell.

A standards-based syllabus and instructional guidebook is also provided to each teacher. The curriculum, itself, is designed to broaden the students’ understanding of traditional and contemporary artmaking techniques, and to help strengthen their creative voices. For many of the students who find artmaking to be cathartic, this mentored self-exploration is very powerful. At year’s end, a jury of community artists and writers give awards and scholarships to outstanding students.

The Annual EFTA Exhibition and Awards Receptions have been held throughout Los Angeles to provide easy access to all the students and families of L.A. County. These locations include: The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles City Hall, Pasadena Central Library, Watts Towers Arts Center, Olvera Street Art Gallery, Beverly Hills City Hall, Otis College of Art and Design, TBWA\Chiat\Day Advertising Agency, Polytechnic High School, and the Judson Studios. The public exhibition has currently found its home at Art Center College of Design’s South Campus in Pasadena. 

We believe that EFTA has contributed greatly to the students’ self-esteem, and has gone a long way to build their visual and communication skills. Perhaps, most important, it gives them a positive outlet through which they can tell us what matters to them most in their own words and images.

If you are a high school art teacher in Los Angeles County and would like to enter your students’ work, please contact us for the Entry Form and Guidelines before the April deadline. 

EFTA is produced by Light Bringer Project. The program is funded in part by the W.M. Keck Foundation.