By the time Tasha was 14, she had been in and out of nine detention centers. She started running away from her abusive home in South Los Angeles two years before and it was clear she didn’t want to go back.
Inside a detention center one day, Tasha was matched with a writer who bonded with her and taught her how to write a “Moesha” television script. Tasha loved it so much that she decided she wanted to pursue a career in the film and television industry.
With the help of mentors years later, including the writer who first taught her how to write a script, Tasha received a scholarship from Warner Brothers. With that money, she went on to attend the University of Southern California’s Film School Program and later completed a year of law school in Chicago .
From her early years as a troubled kid, Tasha has gone from being a runaway teenager to a college graduate, an author of three books, a licensed real-estate agent, a paid script writer, a traveling standup comedian and a documentary filmmaker.
And it’s all thanks to Create Now, the nonprofit that helped Tasha find positive outlets through writing and the arts during a dark time in her life.
And since 1994, Create Now has transformed the lives of other at-risk youth like Tasha through arts education.
“We offer eight programs to at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles and Orange County,” said Jill Gurr, the nonprofit’s founder and chief executive director.
The organization offers programs in music, fashion design and digital media, and the visual, performing, culinary and literary arts.
Its most unique program, called Cultural Journeys, organizes outings for youth to concerts, plays, museums, sporting events and much more. Often, those cultural expeditions are the first time a child has attended a live performance or event, Gurr said, which is really exciting for them.
The art programs are offered to thousands of children all over the city who face life challenges, be it poverty, abuse or homelessness. And Create Now reaches children in need in several ways.
The first matches one of its 110 volunteers to a child in need.
“We have networks with 165 youth agencies like shelters, schools, rehab and detention centers, where we set up different types of arts programs and life skills programs,” Gurr said.
The second is inside the classroom. Nonprofit volunteers go into schools with a high percentage of low-income families, where they offer anything from one-hour workshops to more long-term ones that last from 12 to 16 weeks. These Title 1 schools, as they are called, often don’t have the financial resources to offer students arts education, Gurr said.
The third is inside communities. “We organize arts festivals and community events in disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Gurr said.
In August, the organization will host an arts festival at Venice Hope Park in downtown L.A. that will feature “an open mic and prizes, arts and crafts and face painting.”
And in the historically underserved South L.A., Create Now is working on instituting a writing program in the fall at John Muir Middle School.
It is also in that neighborhood where Gurr envisions the future of the organization. She said that she and everyone at Create Now dreams of opening an art center in South L.A., where they hope to continue transforming the lives of more at-risk children like Tasha once was.
CEO: Jill Gurr
Years in operation: 22
Number of employees: 4 full-time, 1 part-time
Annual budget: about $400,000
Location: 1611 S. Hope St., Los Angeles, 90015