Laura Inks began her teaching career in Las Vegas, Nevada to implement, a formal art curriculum based on Discipline Based Arts Education (DBAE). Inks became Clark County’s premier arts educator receiving awards, presenting curriculum integration techniques to large numbers of classroom teachers and traveling around the State to advocate for DBAE.

This first teaching opportunity allow Inks to open a number of new elementary schools in Las Vegas. While teaching art in a low income neighborhood school, she began to dabble into art therapy for youngsters with intense family dysfunctions. Inks created opportunities for these children to have outlets of expression through visual and performance art. Through art, children could have a sense of pride and accomplishment and Inks would host art festivals at the end of the school year to show and highlight the artistic creations of every student in the school. Five hundred children would have a reason to invite their families and friends to share in their accomplishments. Inks saw students grow and their self esteem blossom with empowerment.

In 1991, Inks started a family and moved to Santa Barbara where she has been an arts educator for nearly twenty years. As she saw the arts diminishing in the schools system, Inks methodically took action and opened an art center called ARTS ALIVE! Creativity Center. Inks developed classes, camps and workshops for kids of all ages in creative and performing arts. As she realized many kids could not afford to sign up for classes, Inks helped to create the Arts Mentorship Program, a non-profit organization, to raise money for scholarships in hopes of art being the medium to level the playing field. Many youth benefited and Inks saw the lives of families improve from their experiences at ARTS ALIVE!

During this time she met and began to support a group of teenagers making graffiti art. Inks found the medium to be fresh and exciting and to the heart of what today’s youth is trying to communicate about. She would produce events where kids could make art and music in a sanctioned environment, where their friends and families could come and see and celebrate their creativity as a legitimate art form. In helping them to build resumes rather than rap sheets, many of these artists can now be found showing their work both in Santa Barbara and in the L.A. art scene.

Another benefit to embracing their work was a reduction in the amount of graffiti in town as artists began to put their art on canvas’, apparel and salable products. Inks became curious about gangs and tagging and earned my “Gang Certificate” from the National Juvenile Justice Conference in Atlanta. For a time, Inks worked for a non-profit called Collaborative Communities Foundation, implementing gang intervention and prevention programs, and learning about Latino familial and community systems. Inks was able to garner lots of community support for the project spearheading a day long conference bringing together both interested parties with the affected youth and their families. She became a natural connector between the fragile population and potential community resources.

The hallmark of her activities were communicating, collaborating and influencing behavioral change for the better. As she collected experiences, she also collected business cards, creating a far reaching network of like minded individuals, who wanted to reach out to the disenfranchised community of young people who were “at risk” for delinquent behavior. The work was most satisfying if not well paid. Inks is currently the Director of Education for the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts at the historic Granada Theater. She create programs to engage youth in performing arts activities including attending performances as school groups, classes and workshops in writing and performing and opportunities for youth to meet and be mentored by successful individuals in the performing arts industry, including actors, writers, directors, musicians and producers.