4C Lab prepares young artists to create social change

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LOS ANGELES — When Christopher Jackson and Wayne Brady take the stage at the Ford on Saturday, they’ll share it with a group of young artists who are learning to use their talents to create change. The powerhouse performers both serve on the creative advisory board of the nonprofit 4C Lab, which was co-founded by self-described “artivist” Marissa Herrera.

“Art is part of our resistance and resilience,” she told a group of young dancers during a recent rehearsal.

A third-generation Chicana born and raised in Los Angeles, Herrera has spent more than two decades working in the entertainment industry. Growing up, her family had no money for formal training, but she says she got her start as a dancer thanks to mentors who took her under their wing.

“I made a commitment that I wanted to be able to pave this path to give these same opportunities to other young people,” she explained. “And that’s why 4C Lab exists.”

The non-profit organization is designed for creative visionaries, as it calls them – kids between the ages of 14 and 20 who have a passion for the arts and a desire to make a difference in their communities. In fact, community is one of the four Cs along with creating, communicating and collaborating.

“They want their art to have a message,” Herrera said of the young people on the program. “They want to be a voice in their community to talk about the things they face every day that are difficult.”

Things like family separation, racial injustice and for CSUN student Julia Curiel, an issue that is never far from her mind.

“Something that has been very important to me is gun violence,” she said. “Especially as a student, fear of gun violence.”

East LA’s Curiel and Ari Savannah Munoz are both passionate about dance and say 4C Lab has helped them grow.

“A lot of young people feel speechless, but art is a universal language,” Munoz said. “It’s a way of communicating feelings and thoughts that we all understand.”

In addition to giving young people a voice, Herrera says art also gives adults the opportunity to listen. She hopes Saturday’s audience will watch the show and see why the arts are important in the lives of young people.

Looking around the room, she sees more than dancers. She says she sees leaders – not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today.

“I see courage. I see perseverance. I see succeeding against all odds,” Herrera explained. “We don’t know if we’ll solve the world’s problems overnight, but we’re committed to moving the needle.”

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