For nearly 20 years, the Armory's mission was rooted in the idea of transformation — "to transform lives and communities through creating, teaching, and presenting the arts." When the Armory adopted Cultural Equity and Inclusion policies three years ago under the leadership of new Executive Director Leslie A. Ito, it became evident this well-intentioned phrase hadn't aged well. In May of 2022, the Armory's board of directors officially adopted a new mission and vision statement, the result of a months-long collaboration between members of the staff and board. Unlike its predecessor, these new mission and vision statements are rooted in care, creativity, equity, and justice:
The mission of Armory Center for the Arts is to nurture our community and its young people by creating, learning, and presenting art to advance equity and social justice.
We envision joyful, healthy, and equitable communities shaped by imagination, creativity, and diverse voices.
"I think that creativity starts with the agency to question and imagine change," observes Board Member Alice Fung, who co-chairs the Armory's strategic planning committee. "Art engagement can provide the entry point. Making, learning, and presenting art are reciprocal experiences that allows for that inquiry and imagination."
When asked why it was important to revisit the organization's mission after nearly 20 years, Executive Director Leslie A. Ito explains that “a static statement cannot be an organization's guiding principle. Businesses are driven by profit. Nonprofits are driven by their mission, which is why missions must be revisited."
Ito says the Armory's new mission will be the sieve to filter their work through for the next several years. It was also a crucial next step for the Armory after adopting its Cultural Equity and Inclusion policies. Ito states, "many arts organizations across LA County are engaging in work towards diversity and inclusion. At the Armory, we have integrated these values into our organizational DNA."
Ito points out that this is work the Armory has engaged with for years, from free art classes in parks and recreation centers to its ongoing commitment to bring standards-based art classes to local Title 1 schools. More recently, this work included classes with teens in the juvenile justice system, as well as artists residencies in collaboration with NAACP Pasadena and the Pasadena Community Job Center that build bridges to help unify Pasadena's African American and Latinx communities. In this regard, Ito believes the Armory’s new mission "gives us something to hold ourselves accountable to. We understand this is a process, and it will take time, courage, persistence, and commitment. This is a journey we are ready for."