Founded in 1989 by Bob Bates and Irwin Jaeger, Inner-City Arts was created to provide arts education at a time when the Los Angeles Unified School District had eliminated most of its arts programs due to budget cuts.
Holding studios, classrooms and performance space, with parking on the rooftop of one of the buildings, ICA provides arts instruction to students from 30 elementary schools, three middle schools and four high schools. Many of the kids it serves live in the neighborhood, others come from families that are chronically homeless.
The ICA job was the first substantial commission Michael Maltzan landed after leaving Frank Gehry’s office to start his own practice.
On the initial phase of the nonprofit’s building campaign, which was completed in 1994, Maltzan teamed up with Marmol Radziner and Associates to turn an old auto repair shop into a high-ceilinged suite of classrooms and studios while adding a new ceramics building and small outbuilding. The new construction includes a wedge-shaped library, a black box theater, office space for the staff and an expanded ceramics wing.
Maltzan, who worked pro bono on the project, approached it from the beginning as a kind of urban planning. After the first phase of construction, as ICA worked to acquire adjacent parcels of land, he prepared not one but two master plans for the organization. The rhythm and ultimately the personality of the finished product is drawn largely from the way you move through it from sidewalk to garden to studio and back again. Each of the new buildings is pulled or crisply folded back at one or all of its corners. A pair of towers, with an ICA logo running vertically, allow it to be seen from several blocks away.