KCRW’s Young Creators Project wants to give young artists a serious platform

Interview by Chery Glaser, Written by Andrea Domanick

A 7th grader at Larchmont Charter School gears up for the Young Creators Project with his photography class. Photo taken by Alisa Ignateko and Tobias Orilonise, courtesy of Mike Brennan/Larchmont Charter School.

Los Angeles is a city with a rich arts and cultural scene, not only because of its entertainment industry, but thanks in large part to its local community of young artists, musicians, poets and storytellers. This spring, KCRW is amplifying the voices of young LA-based creatives and empowering them to share their work with the launch of the Young Creators Project

The three month-long program invites LA creatives under the age of 21 to submit their work to KCRW, with a focus on music in March, poetry and storytelling in April, and visual art in May. Throughout the program, KCRW will host virtual Ask Me Anything events — open to anyone — with established LA-based creators, who’ll be on hand to answer big questions and share insight from their experience in LA’s creative scene. Entrants will also be invited to attend our virtual Group Critiques to watch selected submissions receive critical feedback from LA’s top tastemakers. At the end of each submission period, KCRW will feature selections across our channels, including our airwaves, socials, newsletters, website app, and live at the Young Creators showcase in June.

“There are plenty of great programs in LA that are specifically geared towards helping young artists grow, but the key difference with KCRW is that we have this incredible, powerful microphone that is amplified across Southern California daily,” says KCRW events producer Liv Surnow, who helped spearhead the project.  

A 7th grade student at Larchmont Charter School poses with a Young Creators Project flier for her photography class. Photo taken by Lynn Kirkpatrick, courtesy of Mike Brennan/Larchmont Charter School.

While doing research for the program, Surnow and their team spoke with scores of teenagers, who expressed that having platforms like the Young Creators Project helps them build confidence and take their identity as artists seriously. 

Poet and filmmaker Gillian Chamberlin at California School of the Arts San Gabriel Valley received an award through a national arts program for a film she created that wound up receiving serious attention, including a feature in Pasadena Weekly. Thanks to that program, Chamberlin realized that her work could be more than just a school assignment.

“That was the first time I'd ever really publicly been like, ‘I'm a filmmaker, I'm a writer,’” Chamberlin says. “I went into the film thinking [only] my class would see it … The fact that now so many people have seen it, and are so supportive of me, I thought that was insane. My neighbor ran across the street yesterday, and I never talked to him. And he was like, I saw your film … I showed it to my wife. I loved it.’ And I was like, “Oh my god, so people care.’”

KCRW’s Adria Kloke interviews high school student Gillian Chamberlin about how youth arts programs have impacted her as a filmmaker. Photo by Melanie Makaiwi. 

For many teenagers, like high school student Riley Pickenpaugh, making creative work is a necessary practice to channel emotional energy and provide an outlet during a vivid and tumultuous period in life. 

“I don't do what I do for money, largely because I work on hand-me-down equipment — if there's a low price, there's not really an incentive to make money back,” says Pickenpaugh, who also attends California School of the Arts San Gabriel Valley. “But I'm mostly using it as an outlet for my emotions and stuff, because hey, I'm a teenager — I've got a lot of them.”

Submissions to KCRW’sYoung Creators Project can be sent directly through KCRW.com/youngcreators. The March music submission period will feature an AMA with KCRW Program Director of Music Anne Litt and Morning Becomes Eclectic co-host Anthony Valadez alongside music industry pros including Brett Gurewitz (Owner of Epitaph, guitarist of Bad Religion), Josh Berman at Really Happening Management (Flying Lotus, Thundercat, The Cinematic Orchestra, Brainfeeder Records), and Parker Glenn at United Talent Agency (Arca, FKA Twigs, Polo & Pan, Dorian Electra). The group critique for submitting musicians who want to receive feedback will feature a panel of LA tastemakers including KCRW DJ Chris Dourdias, MBE co-host Novena Carmel, Cedric LeMoyne at InnerGame Management (Warpaint, jennylee, Wild Belle), and KamranV (Art Technologist, Producer, Bedrock.LA co-founder).

KCRW’s Adria Kloke interviews high school student Riley Pickenpaugh about the importance of creating art as a young person. Photo by Melanie Makaiwi.