Foundation Spotlight:  Mad Street Arts
Foundation Spotlight: Mad Street Arts

An article from the Press Enterprise in Riverside CA.

Working under the umbrella of viaShalom, a nonprofit community development organization, Mad Street Arts is working to help the community of Casa Blanca in Riverside share its story and find empowerment through the arts.

The group began as the vision of Drew Ward, who is the arts director for viaShalom’s Common Good program and the Theater Director at Ramona High School in Riverside. Gathering 17 other accomplished artists in the Riverside area, most of whom have ties to Casa Blanca, Ward organized the group to focus on community-based arts projects that involved people of under-resourced places.

Once Mad Street Arts is invited into a neighborhood, they collaborate with the residents and local organizations through personal engagement, advocacy and arts education. Ward states that their goal is to produce work with neighborhood residents that reflects the cultural richness, beauty and dignity of these people and their place. Their current focus is Casa Blanca.

“Our interest is not to bring art to Casa Blanca,” says Ward. “Our interest is to find the art in Casa Blanca. We want Casa Blanca to tell its own story.”

Currently, The Mad Street Gallery holds quarterly exhibits. The program also offers arts classes and held its first classes this spring, teaching residents theater, poetry, photography and other disciplines the artists within the collaborative could share. However, Ward points out that the group feels that there is power in art beyond its typical application and beyond the walls of a museum or a gallery.

“All art forms serve to create a voice for the artist,” says Ward. “When you are dealing with an under-resourced and marginalized community, that is a very powerful thing.”

Although Mad Street Arts only began its work eight months ago, this year’s work has already culminated into a free day of arts that was held at the Casa Blanca Library. Dia de las Artes included children’s arts activities, including a bike decorating workshop that was followed by a bike parade. There were also exhibits of art featuring Casa Blanca and portraits of individuals that the community embraces as mentors. All of the art shared was unique to the community and its people. For example, one of the artists was inspired by a wedding dress found at a garage sale. After listening to the seller’s stories, the artist purchased the dress and painted her portrait on it.

Mad Street Arts received support from a Community Impact Grant through The Community Foundation. They also received support from Riverside Public Library and Riverside Parks & Recreation and the Riverside Police Foundation. The group hopes that their work is just beginning. Ward says that Mad Street Arts expectation is that Dia De Las Artes will be held again next year and that community engagement will grow.

An article from the Press Enterprise.

The organization might also get a boost from the Casa Blanca Community Center at Villegas Park, which has been closed for renovations and is expected to be reopened in November. The Community Center has offered to house the art that is created through of Dia de las Artes. While the event was successful, Ward admits that it has been challenging to get more of the community involved and to get children to attend classes. “My expectation is that this year was a handshake with the neighborhood,” says Ward. “We know them a little better and they know us a little better and we expect a lot more Casa Blanca engagement. This work is so full of possibilities.”

To find out more about Mad Street Arts or to get involved, visit or call 951-264-2444.

Contact the writer: 951-241-7777

Posted by Debbie Wright